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Chronically Ill in the Workplace

It can be tough trying to balance family, ministry, friends, finances, and life’s other requirements such as working. Some women have the luxury of not having to work for a living, while others must work (perhaps more than one job) to survive and provide. Working a full-time job without medical challenges is hard enough. So, when you add chronic pain to the mix, boy ole’ boy! That’s a different beast. For those who live with chronic pain and have the freedom of not having to work, that is such a blessing! But for the rest of us who do, stay encouraged in the process.

When I first started working post-military, I was a contractor, and I had no idea how much longer I would be able to continue working. For starters, I was a new employee and didn’t want the fact that I was suffering from chronic pain to be detrimental to my employment status. Secondly, I didn’t want my employer to think I was inadequate and incapable of doing my job due to my pain. I remember subliminally asking HR the options, if any, for those working with a disability. I vaguely remember a leave of absence being the alternative, but whatever it was, I didn’t feel comfortable moving forward and bringing light to that part of my life.

I entertained the idea of only working part time, but my pride and lifestyle at that time couldn’t afford that. I was prideful because of the work ethic I was accustomed to. I was used to diligently and faithfully working full time and I didn’t want others to judge me as weak as I received a sense of validation from the level of work I accomplished and the mission while serving in the military. Also, I’m a single mother, and part-time income wouldn’t have been sufficient enough to sustain and provide for my family. So, I just kept pushing and kept working, and I would utilize sick leave as needed. Oh, how I thank God for keeping me through those fourteen months.

I was hired as a government employee a year later, which was right on time—as always (Praise God)! Not only did my new supervisor allow me to telework as needed, but she even provided me with a cell phone for easier and quicker accessibility while working remotely. Man, that helped tremendously! Although my supervisor was super supportive and flexible with my needs while working with chronic pain, I still wanted to ensure we were both properly covered. I was pretty much the only person on my team afforded the option to telework, and I didn’t want to give anyone a reason to assume favoritism. I eventually inquired with HR and EEO about any potential programs in place for government employees with disabilities. To my surprise, by law, the government has a Reasonable Accommodation (RA) program in place for qualified employees with disabilities.

You see, none of this would have happened if I wasn’t open and transparent about my medical challenges. When I was a contractor, I hid my medical conditions out of fear of judgment and because of pride. However, as a government employee, something led me to be a little more open with those in my supervisory chain. I know employees who refuse to openly disclose their disability status because they fear it might be used against them. I am a living testimony that my willingness to disclose helped me with balancing my work and life while living with chronic pain. That was nothing but God!

What helped me to find a balance while working with chronic pain:

1) Letting Go of My Pride:

I had to let go of my pride and accept my new norm. I was no longer in the military (my comfort zone) but in a new working environment where I felt I needed to prove my abilities. However, I was in a transition where I had to adapt to how my medical conditions could impact me in the workplace. I had to learn to accept my work life for what it was and do the best that I could. Change isn’t easy, but we must learn to do the best we can with what we have. God’s grace covers us through all our circumstances. ~Romans 12:3

2) Being Transparent (When Necessary):

If I wasn’t transparent with my second supervisor and didn’t let her know that I have chronic pain, I probably wouldn’t have the RA plan I have in place today. I was grateful for her willingness to provide flexibility, her trust, and her understanding before I even enrolled in the RA program. To God be the glory! Just a few months prior, I was on the brink of thinking I might lose my job, but God came through with a recovery plan. Not only did I get a job with long-term stability, but He also put me in alignment with the right supervisor. ~Ephesians 4:25

My transparency paved a way for me to encourage and help friends/coworkers manage their pain in the workplace. A few have come to me for advice on the process, and I’ve been able to share my positive experience with them. I’m so grateful to have been able to be a blessing, and I pray that this article will bless you, as well. May God continue to use me as a vessel.

My prayer:

God, I thank You for Your grace and favor. I thank You for every woman reading this blog post. I pray that this message will touch and reach those whom You have intended. I pray for their peace, understanding, and health. God, please give them the strength that only You can to be successful in the workplace despite their chronic pain. Please continue to align them with people who are supportive and understand their challenges. Remove any fear of judgment and remove any negative thoughts of inadequacy. Father, please remove any and all things that aren’t of You. God, please use them to show others Your good works. You are in control, oh God! Lord, I thank You for what You’ve done, I thank You for what You’re doing, and I thank You for what You’re going to do. It’s in Jesus’ name that I pray. Amen!

Be blessed…xoxo



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