When I dreamed of becoming a Social Worker, I imagined being a therapist way beyond retirement years. I imagined being wrinkled and gray sitting in a rocking chair and providing counseling in a quaint environment. I pictured rows of filled bookshelves, a fireplace, coffee poured, comfortable yet worn, a place that says “you are safe here.” I dreamed of being wise from experience and yet not quick to give advice. I had many dreams, like all people.
But illness at a fairly young age was not apart of this dream. I had not considered that I would get sick, much less, chronically sick. And yet here it is. A chronic illness is one in which there is no cure and yet; it’s not necessarily terminal either. A chronic illness is typically invisible to most people. There is no cane or cast. Many people who have chronic illnesses do not appear ill. And I believe for the most part, that is my case. I will not go into medical diagnoses or symptoms. That is my cross to bare. And I honestly do not want sympathy or apologies. Nor is this a call for that type of attention.
This is rather about understanding, education, and being thankful. Some of my frustrations with having a chronic illness is that I am unable to predict my health and ability to function in my work environment. And thus one day I may feel energetic and productive. And the next day, I may barely be able to move around my home. Obviously this makes for a unpredictable therapist. If I can’t predict how I will function tomorrow, how can I ensure an appointment with a client tomorrow? It causes cancellations, rescheduling, and inconsistency. Which is completely unfair to a client who requires treatment. Because that is the intent of treatment- to be consistent. And yet, when my body fails me, I am unable to be so.
I do know one thing, I am not alone in this area. This is simply a topic that is not discussed amongst therapists. To quote the CDC in 2017,” One in four adults has two or more chronic health conditions.” In fact, the outlook for this issue does not appear to be improving. If anything, it is expected that the significance of chronic illness in Americans will continue to rise over the next 15 years (refer to diagrams).
For various reasons, I have clients that are patient with me or rather my physical health . And this is to thank them. Because it’s beyond kind. I explain in the least descriptive way of what is occurring. I give as much notice as I am able. And whenever I accept a new client, I make sure to discuss this with them. Although I’m realizing that it needs to be a more significant priority. Which is another obvious reason that I’m writing this.