Career vs health….

Written by on February 18th, 2014 – 2 Comments

I’ve thought a lot about this particular blog and this topic has been weighing on my mind for a while as I’ve struggled to balance life with MS and my career.  I’m hoping someone can relate?  Living and managing MS as high functioning individual is a bit like a double-edged sword.   You seem Ok to everyone else in the world, but you still have a lot to manage behind the scenes for which most people don’t account for career and life-wise.  It’s like living in the grey between a disability and MS-free life.  Sometimes it requires more energy and time than one would think or acknowledge……

I experienced MS symptoms for 10.5 months before diagnosis and from my understanding of the diagnosis process this is somewhat short.  During this period in my life, I commenced a graduate degree.  Looking back, I was experiencing a range of issues most notably extreme feeling of tiredness loomed and minor cognitive issues that I couldn’t shake.  I felt unmotivated despite knowing and deciding that this was my passion and I was going to go forth and conquer my field in science.  It feels like an excuse even now – those OK but not high marks, the inability to focus on writing, the inability to meet deadlines, the constant forgetfulness, the lack of motivation from feeling tired all the time.   The end result was several missed opportunities most notably for scholarships, what a graduate student needs to survive (all of which have made my life much harder).  Upon diagnosis, I was in survival mode and I was trying so hard to work through it all, which meant specific tasks were dropped for periods of time to accommodate MS.  I managed to succeed at physical “doing” tasks like laboratory work and field research for a period over focused writing tasks; this particular issue (lack of writing) was a deterrent to me.

4 years later, it has all come back full circle.  I’m doing extremely well with my disease in the present due to the efforts I’ve taken to balance my life but my past struggles still feel like excuses and still haunt me although I know they are related to my body saying “I’ve had enough and you need to pay attention”.  I have never and still don’t qualify for “extra help or attention” since I manage well (I asked a few times with negative responses) but I’m managing well because I’ve diverted much time and energy into lifestyle change to ensure that I can deal with this disease (acknowledging and paying attention to my body).  So in some respects I’m not “excelling” as I would like at my graduate degree because I only have so much time and energy with health becoming a priority, and my career is taking 2nd place.   I’ve had to make a choice and I choose my health first but it really sucks (nice way to phrase this) to realise that this disease does and always will impact my career to some extent no matter how much I don’t want this to happen.  Again, it feels like an excuse and presently, I get the feeling others around me think this way too as they tend to forget the times when I struggled and was less efficient at completing tasks.    I plan to be successful and I don’t doubt this about myself, I just need some patience and understanding since it will take me a bit longer get there.  I’m not trying to make excuses I’m just trying to live a balanced life and I acknowledge that my reality is extra time/energy for the inclusion of MS.

2 Responses

  1. kirstimarie says:

    I’m sure we can all relate. It does “suck” to have to make sacrifices for your disease that healthy people don’t even have to consider. It truly isn’t fair. I applaud you for working toward your graduate degree. That is hard work even for the healthiest of people. I recently had to make the difficult decision to stop going to school. I’m halfway through my Bachelor of Education degree, but the workload and stress was just taking too much of a toll, and I wasn’t able to enjoy my life because I was always struggling with the MS.

    We all know that MS is not an excuse, but people who don’t have MS just don’t get it. They seem to think if we are doing well, that means we should be able to take on more. In fact, it’s just the opposite, if we find a balance that allows us to do well, we need to stick with it.

  2. Tracey says:

    Thanks for your comments. Sorry its taken me a while to respond!!! That must’ve been an extremely hard decision to make (just as hard as continuing with your education). How are things going for you now? I hope the stress is reduced so that you can enjoy life and that your MS has calmed down a bit. Thanks, I feel slightly insane with doing my graduate degree even though I love what I do and am committed. I hate being so slow but its the only way I seem to manage things. Finding and figuring out balance is tricky –but I am working on it everyday.