Here is the Guest Post from Rosalind Joffe, THE resource for Professionals with Chronic Illness! She writes about the subject of: How people of different age groups respond to the news of a life before them, living with Chronic Illness. This is fantastic information, and is found in her Book; Women Work and Autoimmune Disease: Keep Working Girlfriend.
How do people respond to living with a disease that is unstable and chronic? Swedish researchers (on young people with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis) found that it takes them time to digest this news and get used to it. It “…. involves complex challenges on coping strategies and adjustment processes”.
I have a hunch that if you’re reading this blog, this isn’t news to you. I’ve seen - - from my own experience, that of my clients and the people whom I interviewed for the book, Women Work and Autoimmune Disease: Keep Working Girlfriend!, -- that how you respond to disease diagnosis is strongly influenced by other life events, such as your job/career and your personal life.
As I described in my book, people who live with illness from a young age (childhood through the teen years) usually respond in one of two ways: either they over correct by severely limiting their hopes and expectations or they draw strength from the experience and clarity about what they are capable of so they can make realistic life and career plans that are likely to succeed.
On the other hand, when disease hits in early adulthood, typically you have completed your training and are building your career. These are also, for women, the prime years for childbearing and raising a family. When you’re adjusting to a new diagnosis or disease symptoms, you generally don’t have much “wiggle room” to explore other options. Too often, balancing family and career doesn’t leave energy, time nor the money to re-tool your career to adjust to your health needs.
Finally, in the middle years, (ages 40 – 55) disease onset can be emotionally tough. You’ve created a life around being a healthy person. You need time to integrate this new information. Most people are usually sufficiently well established in their personal lives and careers and make adjustments without tremendous upheaval. Their children are older and not as physically demanding, marriages are more durable and they’ve built a track record in their career that allows them to step back with more flexibility.
Developing unpredictable and chronic disease isn’t easy at any stage in life, regardless of whatever else you’re dealing with. One thing, however, is for certain. Nothing can prepare you for living with chronic illness. And no matter when onset occurs, you’re going to need time to adjust to this as being a part, although not all, of your life.