I had an extremely difficult time watching my career come to an end. It was the last thing I ever thought would happen, so when it did I took it hard. I did all I could to hide my cognitive problems from others. I fumbled my way through each day knowing that life was changing yet refusing to acknowledge those changes.
As a web programmer, I could meet any challenge thrown at me and beat it. I developed some amazing systems over the years so when Multiple Sclerosis came along and began disrupting those abilities, I didn’t like it one bit. I would try programming but just couldn’t wrap my head around the complexities of the code and get my brain to function.
I struggled with everyday tasks like trying to remember if I had washed my hair while in the shower so I would wash it again just in case, or forgetting I had something in the oven even with a timer set. Who could burn a casserole with a wonderful smell filling the house and a timer set? Me!!! So, to get confused looking at code, the very code I at one time could decipher in my sleep…well, that was devastating.
The day I made the decision to resign, I cried. Not just one tear either. A flood and an ocean of tears. I covered it up well, but my heart was broken. Having to walk away from the life I new and loved made me feel like a failure. It was a tough decision to make too, one that I struggled with for over a year. Do I or don’t I?
I did and I have to say I’m thankful for it. I’m glad that I put my own wellbeing first for once in my life. It’s been close to three years now since I stepped down and I still miss my job. I find myself trying to work with complex code from time to time, but even doing simple tasks with the computer has its difficulties. I’m still smart, I’m still me, I’m still a somebody. My job didn’t define me as a person. I’m just taking a much needed lifelong vacation from it all.
I try to stay focused on the big picture. My career wasn’t who I was. It was only a part of my life. I am so much more than the things I can do (or can’t do)…and so are you. For some reason, we put our identity into things that don’t actually define us.
You aren’t a chef, or a fireman, or a store clerk, or a nurse any more than you are multiple sclerosis or any other ailment. You are an amazing, wonderful, strong, inspiring, brave, courageous person who has a lot to give even in your weakest moments.
I know it’s scary, the unknown.
“How will I? How can I? What about? What’s next?”
I know, it’s terrifying to take a step forward when you can’t even see the road in front of you. But regardless of how you feel, I can tell you with confidence that you aren’t a failure, stupid or broken. You aren’t the disease you live with or the disability you now have. You are a somebody…and being a somebody is the best thing anybody could ever be.