How can I Work with a Chronic Illness?

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Last Updated on December 23, 2021 by melissanreynolds

If you have ever asked the question, how can I work with a chronic illness? Or, how can I continue to work with a chronic illness? Then this post is for you.

Having run the gamut of ways to try to continue working with a chronic illness (and, later with children too), I have learned a lot.

After having written a blog post, Ways to Make Money with Fibromyalgia, that was pretty popular, I thought I would follow it up with a full series about ways to make an income with chronic illness.

Let’s be clear here, I am pursuing a reasonable (part-time) income to support my family and my health and this is what my articles are about. This is not about making a fortune or any crazy claims.

In short, I do believe you can work with a chronic illness, but we need some support to do so. In this series I will share my story, spanning many ways of trying to continue making an income to support my family. How we can make traditional employment work for us. Ways to make money online and coaching/teaching when you have a chronic illness.


In the series we will discuss:

These topics are well covered online, but not usually for when you have to contend with a chronic illness as well – that makes things dramatically different.

In this post I am sharing my story, which spans all three topics.

In 2009 I was working full-time in an office job, but barely holding on. The pain, fatigue, insomnia, brain fog and digestive issues were through the roof. I was in my mid twenties.

Trying to make traditional employment work

I did reduce from working 8.30am-5.30pm down to 9am-5pm which helped a little.

Each day was still a slog. This idea had taken hold that if I could reduce my hours slightly I’d experience less symptoms. My doctor at the time told me I’d only be disappointed and have less money.

Now, if I had the coping mechanisms I have now, would it have been better? Heck yes! But I was so burnt out and had no help whatsoever!

Thankfully I didn’t listen to the doctor. In 2010 I moved, with my parents and younger brothers, to a warmer city and reduced my work hours to 27.5 hours per week (Monday to Friday 8.30am-2.30pm). This and the reduced commute made a massive difference.

After my first, second and third child I worked 20 hours across four days (so a Wednesday with the kids). It was difficult, not within my CFIDS rating scale (see here for that). But more in line with my health needs than full time would have been. During this period of time I experimented with contract work and working from home. Contract work meant that I only had to commit to certain positions for a short amount of time, giving me the chance to see how it worked out. Working from home was best suited to me, which I will share more about in the next post.

Venturing into self-employment

Alongside this, I began to experiment with my blog (which I had started in 2013 to share my journey in case it helped others). As an offshoot to this I opened an Etsy store to share the worksheets I had created and used myself.

Affiliate notice: Please note that some of my links are affiliate links and if you make a purchase using my link, I may make a commission at no extra cost to you.

My books Pregnancy and Fibromyalgia and Melissa vs Fibromyalgia: My Journey with Chronic Pain, Fatigue and Insomnia were the culmination of a life goal and made with significant help from my brother. The sales from these started to help cover the costs of the blog. This is when I started to consider one day being able to replace my part-time income.

I also studied life coaching through Transformation Academy to support my blogging work as I was increasingly drawn to more actively helping people than just sharing my story. I’ll share more about this later in this series. But the life coach certifications they offered provided the framework I needed to support the skills I had already been developing. Affiliate notice: I am an affiliate for Transformation Academy, if you purchase a program of theirs using my link, I will make a commission at no extra cost to you. I am sharing my personal experience here and it is not influenced by this relationship.

In 2019, I learnt that you could do yoga teacher training online. I had been recommending yoga and meditation for years on the blog but never found suitable resources to share. It was also a closet dream that I thought I would never realize due to the way they usually structure teacher trainings.

So I enrolled and completed my 200 hours while on my third maternity leave. It was a bit crazy but I was in the best physical shape of my life with all the practice and the break from computer work!

how can i work with chronic illness? my story and tips from someone who has worked with chronic pain and fatigue for over 15 years

Trying to make it all work, and struggling

In 2020, between the three kids and lockdowns, working from home made a massive difference. I was able to start my online yoga studio specifically for chronic pain and fatigue at the same time (with little bits of work here and there). The three things that helped most were eliminating time to commute, having my workspace perfectly set up for my needs, and meditating in my lunch break.

On my fourth (and final) maternity leave, I realised that my online work needs to replace my part-time income because I cannot do it all.

This is where we are now as I share this series. It’s my hope that sharing my experience and learning will help you with your journey. Look out for the next posts.

Tell us: how do you make your income with chronic illness? What helps you?

Do you need help managing your symptoms at work and putting plans in place for after work to make your workdays better? Check this out…

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2 thoughts on “How can I Work with a Chronic Illness?

  1. So interesting to read your story about working when living with chronic illness. I have reduced my work hours and negotiated with work for assistance and other things. I have had bad experiences and good when advocating for myself in the work place. I am now of retiring age, though I did retire early due to increasing illness so a different life stage than you. Many people juggling young children, a busy family, work and chronic illness will be interested to learn how you do it. I’m looking forward to more in this series too. Thank you for joining in at Fibro Blogger Directory each week.

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