Looking For Work With Rheumatoid Arthritis

Even though I am disabled, I have my federal and my provincial disability here in Canada (CPP and PWD) I am allowed to work and make under a certain amount which I have been forced to do, otherwise I’d lose my home or go starving. Between the two disability payments I’m left with not very much after paying rent and basic bills like heat, power, internet. That’s not including other basic necessities like food, clothing, medication, entertainment, emergencies, etc..

I have to work because I have a child to provide for. My son Jacob is growing like a weed.

I have to work because I have an expensive illness that requires treatments, medications, healthy foods and supplements.

I have to work because the loneliness that comes with chronic illness and spending all your days at home is unbearable.

I have to work to keep a roof over my head because the housing crisis in British Columbia has no end in sight. I have lost enough from chronic illness, I do not want to lose my home too. I live where I can access groceries, the gym, my son’s school, transportation

I have to work to afford medicinal cannabis.

There are endless reasons I need more income than what disability supplies.

But how do you do that when you can’t lift more than 50 lbs? Stand for long periods of time? Sit for long periods of time? Pain causes you to lose concentration consistently or fatigue does it. Your schedule is filled with doctor appointments How do you do that when you have a compromised immune system? How do I work when I need to recuperate from basic daily living like taking a shower or preparing a meal? How do I work when I struggle to eat certain hours of the day but desperately need the energy and nutrition from a healthy meal? Living with rheumatoid arthritis is a full time job itself. Disease is a bitch but so am I and I fight back.

Listen to your body. Give it what it needs. Adapt to life now.

I admit writing a resume was a difficult process for me, I’ve had to say goodbye to physical activities I used to excel at and could support myself with. My Perfect Resume was a huge help building that resume.

Putting myself out there to an employer, with all that is wrong with me and especially after my last job before disability took over left me terrified of not being understood and inadequate in their minds.

For Halloween I scared myself by going on my first job interview since rheumatoid arthritis landed me on disability 5 years ago. I wasn’t wearing a costume or hiding the ugly truths about my illness.

I was hired on the spot.

The fact that the person interviewing me googled my story really worked in my favor. He was able to see I wasn’t sitting around doing nothing these last five years. Along with my resume was attached a print out of my blog.

I celebrate the small victories I have made over these last 5 years and how they’ve made mountains of change in me. I celebrate the weight loss I went through to make me healthier and the exercise that has made me stronger plus helps keep inflammation down in my body. I celebrate the 19 and counting medications I have had to try with many different side effects that are as equally horrible as my disease. Finding my biologic actemra was huge. I am celebrating the courage it took me to make that resume and cover letter, send it out and show up to a job interview. I am celebrating putting myself out there as a patient advocate. The research I have involved myself in with Arthritis Research Canada has given me more confidence in my skills and living with Arthritis. Thanks to the flu shot I feel slightly more protected from people’s germs than without.

I am celebrating that I am more than my disability. It might only be one day a week in a hair salon as a receptionist but it’s still a way for me to get out there and use some of the skills I have. So important to adapt when life gives you challenges. I am looking forward to getting out there, one to two days a week because it will be good for my mental health.

I picked days of the week I do not have my son as I will need to save my energy for him. I need to keep days open for the countless doctor appointments and treatments I need. I also need to keep days open to focus on exercise, rest, meal prep, etc.. Living with chronic illness becomes a game of balancing fatigue before you become overwhelmed with all that you have to do. It was a massive leap of faith I took to look into working again.

When I explained to the hair dressers of the salon I live with rheumatoid arthritis I did not have to go too far into details – many of them have family members with RA and a well known RA advocate who runs JointHealth is a client. They were obviously surprised how healthy and young I am but that’s common. Them knowing of my illness and willing to let me explain how it affects me was huge for my comfort level stepping into the work place. I explained that I am disabled, don’t expect me lifting anything heavy and understand I can be forgetful or tired some days, I apologized in advance even though one should never apologize for what they can’t control with themselves.

This starts a new chapter in my life with chronic illness and a way to move forward. Even if I crash and burn I can say I tried.