Guest Post from the author of Keep Working, Girlfriend!

For today's post, I'm pleased to welcome Rosalind Joffe, co-author of Women, Work and Autoimmune Disease: Keep Working, Girlfriend! Rosalind is a Chronic Illness Coach, who is devoted to helping others juggle their chronic illness while navigating the pursuit of a career.

Rosalind devotes a chapter in her book to talking about one's chronic illness. Additionally, she has a booklet, Are You Talking, and frequently blogs on the subject. Here, she describes why she gives this topic so much attention and if she thinks that talking about chronic illness is more difficult for women than men.


Why do I focus on the topic of communication? Because it’s what people seem to wonder and worry about.

It’s the first question that reporters pose to me. And in my work with my clients (as a chronic illness career coach), I’ve seen repeatedly that when people can’t talk effectively about what they can and can’t do, they retreat – especially from the workplace.

Retreat isn’t a position of strength. We want to look at how we can make ourselves stronger in the face of this thing that weakens some parts but not all of us, disabling symptoms.

From what I’ve seen there are at least two reasons that talking about chronic illness is difficult.

First, chronic illnesses vary greatly in disease course and pattern. What’s true for one person, isn’t true for another. That means that it’s up to you to explain your experience with this disease and how this affects you.

Secondly, most chronic illness symptoms are invisible. This means that no one knows how you‘re feeling or what you can/ cannot do at any given time. The burden of describing this falls to you.

Either communication challenge can derail even the most confident person. Trying to be concrete, upbeat and self assured when you’ve “lost your game” is tough.

I discuss this in detail and even have a 2 page list of tips in Chapter 5 in my book. You can use the tips as a starting place and conform them to your needs.

I do think that women struggle with speaking about their chronic illness effectively more than men do (though certainly there are exceptions!) I think this is because of the invisible nature of most chronic disease. From client’s stories and my own conversations, I’ve seen that stereotypes about women as “hysterical” or unwilling to work hard persist.

When they have to discuss disabling symptoms, particularly at work, many women fear that they won’t be credible. Regardless of whether it’s true or not, this idea puts them in a defensive posture. It’s difficult to be successful when you’re on the defense.

When you live with chronic illness, you know the communication challenges. It’s a lifelong struggle. Symptoms change as do your circumstances and you can never be completely prepared. But if you master the fundamentals, you’ll be more resilient when you hit a speed bump.

For more on Rosalind and her book, check out my earlier blog post or her website.


Maureen Hayes said…

Great job and good question that you posed to Rosalind. Communication is the key to success in all we do, and it is made harder by chronic illness. Rosalind offers some concrete examples of this and does a great job explaining why being in a defensive posture is so bad for us.

I look forward to the rest of the virtual tour! Thanks for hosting a leg. I am so happy I found your website through this!


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