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Spoonie Retirement Plan – Ending employment due to chronic illness

It’s official, I’ve recently had to stop full-time work because of my chronic illness. It’s the end of the line for full-time employment. And although I’m not happy about leaving my job, I am content with the decision as it is the best thing for me moving forward.

As mentioned in an earlier post I’ve come to a point where I need to make some big decisions about my health, and I need to decide how much longer I can continue being a reliable full-time employee. After 7 years of trying and many false starts, I have to admit defeat. I certainly can’t go on with the work I am currently doing, regardless of how much I enjoy it.

The reason? I cannot reliably guarantee that I can complete a full day of work. I can’t even guarantee I can get myself out the front door in the morning. There are too many variables and unknowns, such as problems with my cognition as well as fatigue. Some days my health can change just due to the weather. I can be good one day then bad the next, but I cannot predict when this will occur and I can’t plan around it.

Everything will be ok though, I’m ready for this.

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Just a quick point before I continue. I am not addressing the financial hardships of having to stop work due to chronic illness in this post. This is obviously a huge stress and a reason people continue to work for as long as they can. I certainly had to consider this when planning how I would cope without employment.

What I want to discuss is the mental health aspects of stopping work.

I’ve stopped work before, and you lose more than just income when you do

Making decisions regarding ending work when living with a chronic illness

My experience with ending employment due to chronic illness

The first time I stopped work I was forced to by my employer. They made me redundant. Apparently, they no longer needed someone in my role. This happened suspiciously close to me being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, and my role was refilled months later. I didn’t put up a fight because I was so sick at the time, as I had just been diagnosed, my energy was focused elsewhere. Everyone around me thought it was probably the best thing for me anyway, so I was convinced just to let it go.

This time my body was the one that called it quits, no one forced me into this decision, so I am much more at peace with the outcome this time. And because I had time to think this over, I have been able to prepare myself mentally as well. I have thought about what I will do with myself now that I’m not working. After all, the reason I went back to work was because I needed it. Not just in the financial sense, although a stable income certainly was welcome. What I needed was something to keep me feeling engaged with life. Something I could contribute my skills and talents and not feel like I was going to waste.

Planning ahead

This time I have a plan, I’m going to have something that I can apply my skills and talents towards. I have this blog, and I am linked in with my local community, and there are projects I can get involved in. I did my research, and I planned ahead.

This would be my advice to anyone who may have to make a similar decision. Create yourself a spoonie retirement plan.

Ask yourself, what will I do? I’m not saying people with a chronic illness have nothing to do, quite the opposite, it’s a full-time job in itself. What I mean is what will you do for yourself for self-fulfillment and self-actualization. These are crucial things to address to keep up good mental health when you are no longer working.

I plan my days and manage my health as if it were a job. I set myself goals, work towards them and reward myself when I’ve reached milestones.

Not working doesn’t mean you can’t be productive or you can’t contribute. Find a volunteer role, find a project or hobby you enjoy doing. Try freelance work or a casual job if you can manage it. Find something that fits in with what you need to do to maintain your health, for me that’s control and flexibility.

You can stay engaged in life without the contractual commitment, pressure and stress full-time employment entails. Then you have the freedom and flexibility you need to look after yourself.

So now I start work on the next chapter, and I’m going to design it so I can get the most personal fulfilment and the best outcomes for my health and wellbeing.

Ms JenY

Authors Note: A huge thank you to my employer and wonderful colleagues. You certainly will be missed. Your support and encouragement made leaving a difficult choice…and that’s a good thing 🙂

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