For the past five years, I’ve been dealing with a variety of health issues that have caused chronic pain, fatigue, and other things that make life exhausting, and make it hard to keep up with my ever-more-demanding job.
I’ve been lucky to find community with a lot of other sick, disabled and/or chronically ill people, and to learn about disability justice, anti-capitalism, and how ableism works to make us all feel like shit. All of this has helped me to shed a lot of the shame I had about not being able to “function” as well as I think I should. Therapy has also helped me relax the intense expectations I have for myself.
All of this has led me to decide to take a medical leave from work to finally focus on resting and taking care of my body. I’m proud of myself for getting to this point.
My doctor is on board, and I have a meeting scheduled with HR, but the thing I’m most anxious about is telling my parents.
They aren’t the type of people to slow down and take breaks; they are deeply caring, but this is likely going to be very alarming for them to hear. I don’t think they understand just how profoundly chronic pain has affected my life, and I know they are going to be worried about what this means for my future and how it will affect my livelihood. I am worried they’re going to be upset, try to talk me out of it, and doubt my decision-making (all things they’ve done before).
Help! I’m terrified to start the conversation and scared I won’t be able to hold steady and explain my reasoning. Any advice?
Thank you, and I hope you’re taking care,
Sick and Tired
Dear Sick and Tired,
One of the more alienating cultural trends to me is the desire to return to childhood. Friends will talk about how they wish they could be a carefree grade-schooler again and I just don’t get the appeal at all. I hated being a child and couldn’t wait to grow up. I was deeply resentful of not being taken seriously, of being talked over or brushed aside by adults, of being told what to do. Obviously, this means I was a horrible little shit and a plague to my parents and for that I do feel some regret but the thing is—I was right.
Adulthood, for all its burdens and obligations and perils, is better. Because amid all of those things, every once in a while, is the chance to come to a conclusion about yourself and your life and then act upon it. Without asking permission first or gaining some kind of consensus, simply because you know it is right.
You don’t need to approach this conversation as though they need to be convinced, they just need to be informed. Pleasing your parents is nice, but you can bear a little disappointment. Truly, it will not kill you if they think you are making a mistake, but continuing to ignore a chronic health issue in order to retain their high esteem of your work ethic very well could. Counter whatever concerns they express about your livelihood with the simple fact that you are doing this in order to live.
Would it be great if you could bring them around on the idea that we should not confer nobility on suffering? Sure! But that doesn’t need to happen right away. They can have doubts about your decision but it is nonetheless yours to make, and if they see you flourishing as a result of it that might go a long way to winning them over to a fuller understanding of what a good life can be.
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