Earlier this year, I made the difficult decision to leave a career I loved, a career that I lived and breathed, and one, that to me, had become an important part of my identity. What is this career that I am so immensely proud of, I hear you ask? It was Social Work, and when I wasn’t at work, I was reading about it or watching documentaries relevant to Social Work. I probably drove my husband a little bit mad when I selected yet another program related to it, just in case there was a a little nugget of information within it that could support my practice and potentially make life that little bit easier for our client’s and their families.
Even before I became pregnant with my Son, working full time in what could be a stressful and emotionally draining career, without a doubt impacted upon my well-being. Throughout my career, I was given the tools to support me develop my own emotional resilience when faced with the most challenging situations and managing the corresponding administration that these created. However, throw Lupus into the mix and eventually the job itself began take it’s toll; fatigue would kick in and before long I would be knocked sideways with a flare and I would need to take time off sick. Eventually, it was noticeable that after each flare, it took a little bit longer to recover. However, I am very proud and stubborn, and this would transpire in me not wanting to let down the team I was working in by being off sick. As I knew how busy they were, and what the simple added pressure of my cases would provide in additional stress on them. So I would return to work sooner than I should of.
Several times I did contemplate reducing my hours, but I felt I couldn’t justify doing it, even though most weeks I would be crying in pain most evenings and falling asleep before 8.00pm. I was just too proud and didn’t want to let anyone down; my employer or the families I worked with. Ironically, this was the same sentence, I would hear the families share with me themselves during assessments, yet I couldn’t hear my own inner voice screaming at me that something needed to change.
So, lets fast forward to this year, taking the fatigue into account and adding a gorgeously active toddler, Lupus and a career together; and I had an extremely unbalanced situation. Which no matter what way I looked at it, something had to give. The only thing out of these that had any compromise in it was my career and the initial step was to go part-time, and unfortunately, even then it really didn’t make any difference to how I was feeling. As the days I was at home, I was so physically drained, I didn’t have the energy to play with my son and the days I was at work, I was so full of brain fog, I couldn’t remember peoples names, I needed to make so many lists, I was embarrassed. I felt that I was letting people down, I wasn’t being a good advocate for clients and most of all I wasn’t looking after me or my family.
For the first time in a very long time, I knew things had to change, If I carried on, I was going to end up in hospital. Was a career really worth that? Who was going to thank me for that? The client that I kept forgetting their name? Or most importantly, my son?, who due to a career that I was desperate to pursue left me with no energy for him, and that made me feel really sad, guilty and ashamed for getting my priorities wrong in the first place. On this flip side, I also knew that to carry on practicing, would also be unprofessional of me, and against what Social Work stands for.
I still get upset that Lupus has impacted upon my life so much; most days I am at peace with my decision to leave my career and I enjoy the benefits of being able to focus on my son and my health. However, there are days when I feel that my disability has taken over my life, it has stolen my career and to some degree my independence; which I am still learning how to adapt to, but deep down I know I am doing the right thing at this time in my life.
To put my social work hat on just once more, I am lucky that I am able to use the skills I have developed over the years to take moments of reflection to enable me to see what having a disability has given me: it has taught me to be an expert in my own care, it has given me a voice that can challenge consultants and medical professionals when I don’t agree with what they have recorded in consultations or to question decisions, and, I am able to use my experience of completing numerous forms in relation to disabilities to support my own applications for additional support.
I am hopeful that in the future that I may return to Social Work, in what capacity I do not know, but for now it’s time to focus on being healthy for myself and my family.