Is Having a Career Still an Option? Consider the Possibilities! By Eve Reddin, CPCC Living with Fibromyalgia can change how you see yourself and how you live your life, but the key phrase here is “how you live your life.” It is undeniable that living with FM may mean reducing or even eliminating some activities, but it does not mean you have to give up everything you enjoy doing and retire from actively participating in your life. Nope. Not even close! You can still create a fulfilling, balanced and abundant life for yourself, including a rewarding and full career if you so choose. It may be necessary for you to make some adjustments, or even make some major changes, but you can still find many ways to be a whole, valuable, functioning human being, with a rewarding occupation. In fact, for those of us with FM, there are many wonderful benefits to having a job, beyond the obvious health insurance and financial rewards. Having an occupation helps you retain a sense of purpose and value. It offers you the opportunity to interact socially, and to participate in interesting, challenging, and intellectually stimulating activities. Knowing there is a structure and a purpose to your day, receiving recognition for your contributions, and feeling useful also prevents keeps you from focusing solely on your pain and limitations! Think of it this way for a moment: You have fibromyalgia, but it doesn’t have to have you. Taking charge of your life and being involved in an occupation keeps FM from owning you, defining you, and changing who you really are! Even taking your health-related limitations and challenges into consideration, there are still many ways you might be able to make adjustments to a career you already have, or to explore the possibilities of finding an entirely new occupation! This might even be an opportunity to create your own business or pursue previously unrealized talents, skills and expertise you might otherwise never have tapped into! It is absolutely possible for you to create a fulfilling, balanced and abundant life for yourself, despite having FM. You can learn to live beyond simply coping. The point is then to find a job that maximizes your interests and talents, and does not aggravate your symptoms, or creates persistent high levels of stress, and allows for regular breaks or rest periods. The need is for a job that has some flexibility built into it. But where do you begin? How do you find and explore the options available to you? While it is entirely possible to accomplish this on your own, I’d like to suggest you consider working with a professional to support you and help guide your search. You are dealing with a life-altering illness here, and a little support will reduce your stress level, facilitate and even expedite the process of finding the right job for you. Occupational therapists, career counselors, and life coaches are trained to help you assess and evaluate what you are capable of, and the impact of various activities on your ability to function. Whether you work with a professional, or do this on your own, it is important not to allow yourself to get overwhelmed by the process. It is important for you to identify your goal, create a plan of action, and break that plan down into manageable steps that won’t overtax you or create undue stress. It won’t do you any good to work nonstop to find the perfect job quickly if once you get it you are too ill to begin it! Begin your search by deciding what you would really, truly want to do. Start with the premise that you don’t have to discard your dreams. It might be possible to follow that dream from a different angle, or restructure it a bit with some health-wise modifications. Allow yourself to be open to possibilities. Give yourself permission to explore without pre-judging whether or not it could work for you. Open your eyes to new fields. Consider the new directions. And tell everyone you come in contact with about your search. Let their ideas flow in. Decide whether working outside your home for from within it would best meet your particular needs. Many employers, particularly of smaller organizations, offer flex-time positions. Some even offer job-share positions, where you and another employee share the same job, but split the responsibilities either by activity or by day. Some employers allow employees to work from a home office, or offer rewarding positions that are either on a part-time or as-needed basis. This is often true with market research, event planning, marketing and advertising positions. There are also many home based careers available that offer you the flexibility of creating a schedule tailored to your needs. Here are a just few to consider: Consulting: With expertise or experience in nearly anything you can become a consultant, working flexible hours of your own choosing. There is a wide open market and a growing need for consulting services, both through corporations and through marketing yourself to individuals. There are even consultants and coaches who consult and mentor people in how to become a consultant! Virtual Assistant: Clerical assistance done from home, on your own schedule. Market research: Whether for a corporation or freelance, this is a fertile area for both full time and part time work. Writing for publications: From resumes to training materials, advertising copy, and organizational newsletters. You can limit your keyboarding to small segments of time, or purchase voice recognition software to do the typing for you! Home Based Sales, or Sales Support: Not all sales jobs require travel and your routine and schedule is up to you. Graphic Design: If you are artistic and creative, there is a never-ending need for brochures, flyers, business cards, etc. Personal Shopper: If you like to shop and have access to the internet, it may surprise you to know you can make a career out of this by marketing your skill to busy professionals! Travel planner: Both for corporations and for individual travel. Direct sales: It’s not just your mother’s Tupperware anymore! According to the World Federation of Direct Selling Associations, there are presently more than 11 million direct sellers in the United States. In fact, there is an association devoted to helping people get started in selling products ranging from arts and craft supplies and gourmet cooking, to health care products and beautiful home decor accessories. (www.mydswa.org .) Online sales: If you have an interest in retail sales, consider opening your own eBay storefront. EBay offers easy training both online and through in person workshops to help you get started, to maximize your sales, and to improve, streamline and sustain a profitable business. It is possible to turn a hobby, or even a shopping habit into a moneymaking business you can run from your own home, on your own schedule. You can sell even items you make yourself to a world wide market, with ease! The key here is to identify and define things that you really enjoy, and then find ways to make them happen! Set realistic goals for yourself and know your own limits, but keep your focus on those things that you are able to do, and be creative in your approach. Acknowledge and deal with any feelings of negativity and don’t let them turn into roadblocks. Get them out of your head, into the open, and ask yourself why you feel that way, and if there is another way to look at the problem before you internalize, personalize, or react in a manner that will restrict your ability to succeed. Most of all, focus on your positives, acknowledge yourself, and celebrate every single thing that you achieve! There are nearly endless possibilities for meaningful and purposeful employment for you to explore, and the possibilities are limited only by your imagination. Above all else, remember this: You may have fibromyalgia, but it doesn’t have you! Eve Reddin is a certified life coach who specializes in working with people whose lives are affected by life-altering illness. Eve is a stroke survivor and has both fibromyalgia and lupus. Her mission is to help others learn how to live richly rewarding lives beyond simply coping. For more information, go to www.abundant-life-coaching.net.