Tag Archives: change

Chronic Pain and Working…

I have a question for all of you chronic pain sufferers out there… How do you get/keep a job?

For me this has been a struggle.  My migraines have had me switch goals and careers more than once, and has made it very difficult to get a job, and if I’m lucky enough to get a job – keep it.

When I first graduated high school and started university, I had this idea that I was going to be a musician.  I was a semi-decent oboist, and I truly enjoyed making music more than anything else. While this might have been a lofty goal that I probably wouldn’t have achieved to begin with – it was disappointing when my migraines and pain made it physically hurt to play my oboe. It still does, I still have my instruments, even though they cause me pain to play, but I keep them around like a security blanket, maybe one day I’ll be able to make music again.  Anyways, I switched goals, I was going to be a teacher.

I went to teachers college to get my B.Ed after I completed my Fine Arts degree.  I somehow managed to get into one of the toughest programs in the province and I had some great teachers, unfortunately my migraines made the school work difficult. After finishing my degree it took me a year to get hired, and I had a great 2 years working for my local school board.  My migraines were difficult, but I was able to push through. The following year my migraines got worse, and as the schools music teacher, it was difficult to keep up, and to not let my pain get in the way. I ended up having to take a leave of absence for the last month of school, as I was home more than I was at school.

The next year I interviewed at 42 schools before I found a position. My contract with the school board was year to year, so if I hadn’t found a school to hire me, I would have been stuck supply teaching.  It was so hard to find a job, because who wants to hire someone who has a known medical condition that caused them to miss so much work the previous year. Somehow the principal only contacted my first 2 references (from the 2 schools I did amazing at) and never contacted the last school. I thought that I was better and would be able to have a successful year… that did not happen. I ended up missing so much school, it was almost a shock to everyone when I was there. I ended up having to take a sick leave for the last 2.5 months of the year.

After that it became impossible to find a job.  I stayed on with my school board as a supply teacher, but the calls didn’t come that often.

I began working for a friend of my dads. He is a lawyer and required a legal assistant on a temporary basis.  I took that job and found it wasn’t as much a migraine trigger as my job as a teacher (probably because I wasn’t listening to 30 kids play instruments all at the same time) so I decided to change my career goals again and become a paralegal.  I went to a community college and graduated with a paralegal certificate and shortly after did the provinces licensing test and became a licensed paralegal.  Unfortunately I had a lot of difficulty finding a job.  My dads friend no longer required my help, other places I had worked for while I was in school didn’t want to hire me as I had missed work so often due to illness, my references, while good, could always mention my illness/habit for missing work.  Between school  and this past week, I was unemployed for the better part of three years, which put a lot of pressure on my partner, my parents, myself, and my relationship with the same people.

Last week I got hired for a job as a junior legal assistant.  I am over qualified, between my experience as a senior legal assistant, and my education as a paralegal, however they were the only place that would hire me.

The pay isn’t that great, but because I am so over qualified for the position I am not stressed about the work.  I don’t have to talk to clients, or listen to students or parents. I sit in a quiet cubical in a quiet office and do my work.  I’m hoping that this situation works out for me, because if it doesn’t I have no idea what I will do.

I know many people with chronic illnesses/chronic pain go on disability… because my work was few and far between, I never qualified for disability, because in Ontario you need to have worked a certain amount of hours just before, and half the jobs I had didn’t pay into EI.

I have decided to reward myself for working. Every week I go to work every day, I get a prize.  If I go every day next week, I get to buy a lottery ticket. The following week are BINGO scratch cards, followed by a facial, followed by flowers if I go every day this month.

I’m hoping with the incentive of prizes, I’ll be able to work through the pain I will most likely experience in the upcoming weeks.

How does everyone else deal with work and bills? I’m terrified of being in debt and not being able to pay it off because of my illness, so what do you do to keep yourself from getting into debt, paying your bills, and keeping yourself clothed/fed/sheltered?


The Day it all changed

I wonder how many people can remember the exact moment their life changed… Everyone has changes that they go through, puberty, first death in a family, moving out, etc… but I’m talking about the big one. The change that made them who they are today.

For me, it’s easy. It was a Thursday night in my third year of university. I worked for my school as a “peer health educator” it was a great job, I got paid to go to pub night, hang out with my friends, and give out condoms, candy, dental dams, water, and at the same time, when we were at our booth – provide a well lit place for people to wait for a ride, a phone for people to use, and we would make games and activities for everyone to do to show what drinking really does to you. It was possibly one of my favorite jobs ever. On the night this picture was taken though – that’s the night everything changed.

I had always been a healthy kid – with the exception of strep every summer from summer camp, and the “stomach flu” whenever I didn’t do my homework – I was healthy. The night in question was as I said, a Thursday night. It was one of the nights where instead of staying at our booth the whole night, the people I worked with and I decided to head down into the pub, and pass out condoms, candy, water, flashlights, and whistles there. After about 15-20 min of being at the pub I got a really bad headache. I remember telling my co-workers that I had to leave work early because my head hurt, and they joked that I was really going to my boyfriends. I didn’t. I went home, took two Advil and went to bed.

When I woke up Friday morning to get ready for class, I had to call my dad to help me. My head hurt so much I couldn’t move without causing extreme pain. That day was about 11 years ago.

Not much has changed since then, I still have the migraines (and while I have a boyfriend to help me, I still often call my dad for help) Although I no longer work for the university, and I no longer dare go into pubs when they are playing loud music.

That’s the day my life changed, and turned me into who I am now. A semi-hermit, pessimistic “sick person”

Tomorrow I go for my third nerve block (My doctor does them in 6 weeks, the first week is steroid and something similar to lydiocane, the next 5 weeks are just the lydocane type drug) then I have to go to a school I interviewed at today to do a mock lesson. I was super excited that someone might want to hire me again, until I realized it was for music. But fingers crossed that the nerve block works, and I have no problem with my mock lessons and I get the job.

Happy Monday Everyone.

My old “Normal”

I guess in order for you to see how my “normal” disintegrated, you need to know what my normal was.

10-12 years ago…. I was the baby of the family (youngest of four). I had these amazing parents (I still have them… they are awesome) who despite statistics, are still married, and happily so, after over forty years. I was a music major in University, and the principal oboist for 3 different orchestras, 2 through school, and one is one of the premiere youth orchestras in Ontario. I had performed at Carnegie Hall, and other major venues (mostly around Toronto). I had an amazing boyfriend (still do) and I worked for my University as a peer health educator (handing out condoms, candy, water, etc for free at pub nights) and I also worked for a music store. I was a mostly A student, a Kick Ass Auntie, a quirky friend with a very active social life, until everything changed.

I find depending on who you talk to, they will either tell you the exact moment their life took a turn, or they will say it was a gradual change. For me – I can tell you the exact moment my life changed… But that is a story that will wait for another day.

My “magic handful” (AKA gazillions of pills) await me