I found my work purpose in graduate school. Studying counseling for higher education, the time was a blur of internships, coursework, a graduate assistantship and a part-time job. Each hour of the day was scheduled with commitments or homework until midnight each night. I was thriving and loving my work, but I soon noticed trembling fingers, blurry vision, brain fog, nausea and fatigue that no amount of coffee could cure. The next 5 years included referrals to various doctors who could not figure out what was wrong. My symptoms came and went – sometimes worsening in severity until I again found my balance through supplements and self-care. In March 2013, I was bed-ridden for most of the month and was finally diagnosed with Late Stage (or Chronic) Lyme Disease by an integrative health doctor. The Lyme had done quite a number on my system and after a long-term antibiotic treatment and now 4.5 years later, I continue to maintain my health through a careful balance of bacteria fighting and immune supporting supplements.
After graduate school, I found my path as a career counselor in higher education. Now, I work at a small private university where I assist students in their professional development. Working with my students and navigating my health challenges, I fully realized the importance of work-life balance. When my symptoms started, I was adamant to continue to push myself harder and further. I’d like to say that I learned my lesson quick but it took some time. I made myself sicker over the years by putting work first and my health second. At the time of the height of my symptoms, my career was taking off. It made for long work days and stress especially affected my compromised immune system. I ran around frazzled and overwhelmed. While I was working hard, I wasn’t working very smart.
Finally, I made my health a priority. I left work on time to go to yoga. I took Epsom salt baths every night. I tried to schedule my work days intentionally. I talked to my boss, co-workers, family and friends about the steps I was taking and support I needed. I still struggle with relapses occasionally and once again, I remind myself to re-prioritize my health.
Working with college students, I find myself not only guiding students on finding a career path, but how to manage multiple commitments and thus, their stress. We joke about “adulting” and how hard it is – navigating our work, our passions and our lives. This began my interest and research into work wellness and how we can thrive in our professional and personal lives while keeping our sanity. As Gretchen Rubin writes in her book Happier at Home, “Research is me-search.” My journey has inspired me to make wellness a priority while continuing my learning in order to live my best life.