How Can I Keep Working with A Chronic Illness?

I sometimes describe my chronic illness as a three-year-old child on meth that only I can see.

But as I’m sure many mothers would tell you (even of those whose toddlers are not addicted to meth) you do eventually become immune to constantly being distracted by something whose well-being you are entirely responsible for every moment of the day.

Trying to have a fulfilling career with a chronic disease can feel like an impossible challenge sometimes.

With my illness, I have a whole team of specialists who I need to see and work with on a regular basis.

Getting it all done means that I have no choice but to schedule at least three doctor appointments each week—generally smack-dab in the middle of a busy afternoon of work.  So how do you handle a busy work day with an even busier autonomic nervous system? Here are a few tips I hope will help!


Have The Conversation

You absolutely, 100% have the right to privacy about the details of your disease or disability. You are not legally required to inform your employer about your disease. With that being said, I think you should. Well, let me clarify. I think you should tell the most relevant people the most basic of truths.

You don’t have to go into detail about your irritable bowel disease to your superiors. However, your best chance of getting the accommodations you need to balance your career and your medical needs lies in the hands of your HR representative. By being clear and honest about the realities of your conditions you open the floor for all possible solutions— you also eliminate the burden of secrecy and have an advocate whose job it is to help you communicate effectively with your company.

Communicate Like Your Job Depends On It

Become one with your google calendar. I drag and drop my “Out of Office” bar all over the place throughout the day. It keeps my co-workers up to date on when I’m available to pow-wow and keeps me from panicking that I’m going to be scheduled for a meeting when I have an un-missable doctor’s appointment.

I also downloaded all my team communication apps (like Slack, Zoom, and Skype) to my phone so I never miss a notifcation and when I’m going to an appointment where I know I’ll be out longer than hour I bring along my laptop to catch up on work in waiting rooms.

Even if my disease makes me feel like I’m isolated, I’m always plugging in.

Remember You’re Not Alone

You know what causes unexpected emergencies just like a chronic illness does?


You know what causes people to be late for work just like a bad flare can?

Traffic. Plumbing problems. Flat tires.

You know what causes gaps in resumes just like an extended period of poor health?

Companies unexpectedly laying off employees. Taking care of family members in need. Parental leave. 

Life happens. Chronic illness is a part of that. Don’t worry that you’re the only person in your company to have had an uncontrollable source of stress in your life. Every boss, employee and business owner has their challenges. You don’t have to have a cure to have a career.


What’s your pro-tip for getting through your career with a chronic illness?


Need more advice like this in your life? Preorder “Surviving and Thriving with a Chronic Invisible Illness” here.




15 thoughts on “How Can I Keep Working with A Chronic Illness?

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