How to have a successful career and manage a permanent illness

woman with chronic illness
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Most people would take the day off sick from work if they felt the way I feel on a good day. On a bad day, they would be in A&E.

Working when you are sick can be hard but imagine how it would be if you had a debilitating illness like Sickle Cell. An illness where your energy levels are never up to normal standards, can trigger a crisis at any time and lose a day, even a month for a much-needed blood transfusion. For us girls, our time of the month is particularly difficult. This is the reality of Placida Acheru, a leading business coach. Here are her tips on how you can manage a successful career whilst being ill.

Working is not just about money. It’s about contributing to something bigger than yourself. It’s about passion and it’s often about purpose. When you have a chronic long term illness, like chronic asthma, sickle cell, and others, it can knock your confidence and self-worth. It is very possible to feel un-employable, but you shouldn’t, and it is possible to have a successful career whilst managing your illness by following these tips:

Be honest with your employer

One of the worst things that you can do is try to hide your illness. Trying to hide can make life more stressful for you, in a time where you need support. There are certain types of mental illness that are classed as a disability, and employers cannot discriminate against you if you fall into this category.

Speaking up means that you can get the adequate support that you need at work, and the right employer will be willing to put things in place to support you.

Be kind to yourself

As people, we are prone to self condemnation, and being angry with yourself when you have an illness is counterproductive. You did not ask to be ill, so stop beating yourself up about it. Taking care of yourself emotionally, as well as physically, is imperative to maintaining a successful career.

You must learn to identify where thoughts and emotions are coming from, and deal with them accordingly.

Create a work timetable

Are there certain days when your illness is worse than others? For example, does it get worse in the winter time? If your illness is somewhat predictable, try to create a schedule or a timetable around it, but allow some margin to make adjustments where you need to.

Creating a timetable builds structure, which can be useful when you are managing an illness. On a day to day level, you might find that you are more productive at certain times during the day. Some employers have flexible working which can be particularly helpful if you are forging a career whilst managing an illness.

Rest and find your style

Give yourself a mental and emotional rest. Find what works for you. It might be a simple as taking a short walk at regular intervals, stretching to allow oxygen intake or anything else that calms your nerves. Study your body and avoid any triggers.

For me, a well-ventilated room will see me performing more efficiently.

I manage my illness by not accepting that it makes me any different to anyone else. If I feel it slowing me down, I speed up to compensate.

By keeping my self-belief and attitude strong, I will not let it keep me in bed feeling sorry for myself. My illness does not define me.

I have found that young people with Sickle Cell are very dependent on pain suppressors like Morphine. I have found that although it is painful, I can take milder pain suppressors and go for a gentle walk in the fresh air which distracts me. When I get back to my desk, I feel refreshed and the crisis has left me.

About the author

Placida Acheru is a business coach, and she is also the author of a book called Love Unboxed. You can see more information about the book here.

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