Welcome to post number 2 in my Working With Chronic Illness series! I would like to introduce you to Lauren! She totally rocks my socks.
I send out a huge thank you to Lauren for allowing me to interview her & to share her story with all of you!
1-What are your illnesses? I have psoriatic arthritis, hypermobility syndrome, and migraines.
2-What kind of work do you do? I’m a Quality Assurance Analyst working in pharmaceutical advertising. Since most people in the world have no idea what that previous sentence is talking about, at all, I’ll break it down. It’s my job to be Type A. Any and all software, websites, mobile applications, etc that my firm creates for various medications and devices, it’s my job to review them and make sure that they’re 100% perfect. You know when you go to a website and there’s a broken link? It’s my job to stop that from happening. Mobile applications crash, right? It’s my job to figure out how to minimize crashing. It’s stressful and requires late nights, often.
3-Does your work match up to what you have a degree in (if applicable)? Depends on how you look at it. I have a BFA in Photography and a BA in Psychology. I’m working in computer science, so that would be a no, right? But my BFA taught me programming and marketing so working on the production end of advertising is kind of related. At least, it is in my head! And everyone with a degree in psychology is using it so long as they interact with other people. They may deny it but it’s very handy to have a slightly better understanding of human motivation in dealing with conflict resolution or whatever. Umm. Yeah.
4-Are you working because you want to or out of necessity? I work for both reasons. I don’t think I will ever be able to truly quit working, even if I retire. I’m just that kind of person that needs to always be busy. I don’t feel right when I don’t have a To Do list!
But I do this job, with the hellish commute, stress, and long hours, because it’s a great group of people with an excellent salary and some of the most amazing benefits packages out there. Without this job, life would be infinitely more difficult because of health care limitations.
5-How does your work affect your illness & overall health? It’s a weird dichotomy in my life. My commute and the stress of my job definitely harm me. My psoriasis is worse when I’m stressed, I’m more tired because of the long hours, and the commute is not kind to my joints. But if I didn’t work, as I said before, I wouldn’t have this level of heath care. My current insurance is what my husband refers to as the “Cadillac of insurance”. We barely pay out of pocket expenses. I can see any doctor I please at little cost to me. This is huge because of how often I need to see the doctor. It also means I get to pick my doctors by the right criteria – how they treat me – and not by whether or not they take my insurance.
6-If you had the option, would you quit? If I could guarantee the same level of health care and a similar income, I would consider it. But I also know that I would just be changing my field or job location more than actually retiring. I can’t sit still long enough to be fully unemployed. I did that for 6 months in college and hated every minute of my down time because of it.
7-What is the positive benefit of working with chronic illness? Benefits are income, insurance, and having coworkers. I have a place to go where my illness isn’t part of daily conversation. There’s a few people at work who know the extent of my illness. Everyone else knows that sometimes I can’t make it into the office. It’s nice to work here, too, because we work on a couple medications used to treat my illnesses. Included one that I’m currently taking. It means that in general, people here are more knowledgeable about autoimmune disorders than the general public.
I also like to be busy and I like to be challenged. This job definitely keeps me on my toes.
8-What is the negative aspect of working with chronic illness? The stress is really hard on me mentally and physically. I have to miss days at the office because of my health and that doesn’t look good when trying to climb the corporate ladder. My commute is probably the worst part. If I had to change one thing about working, it would be finding a way to work from home or near to home.
When it comes down to it, I think it’s all about balance. This job is probably not the right one for me with chronic illness. But for now I’m getting by. One day, this will be too much. At that point I will need to evaluate what will be right for me. I don’t know that I can ever stop being “busy” – it may mean volunteering over working eventually, though.