Identity Crisis Caused by RLS

Think about a situation where you met someone new. Not long after exchanging names, you probably told each other what type of work you do.

Now think about a time when you encountered an old friend or classmate. Asking about work usually is the second or third thing talked about, sometimes the first thing. In North America (I can’t speak for other places), work is a major part of one's identity.

If you are employed, you may not be aware of this fact. But if you are unemployed, you could be haunted by this fact.

I hated that I couldn't work

Having been unemployed from 2013 to 2021 due to my multiple diseases, I have had a lot of feelings about how work is so integral to one's identity.

I hated it because it shamed the unemployed and it was a painful reminder that my diseases were robbing me of so much. Even though I had a legitimate reason to be unemployed, I hated that I couldn’t work.

Dealing with the stigma of unemployment

My mom and 2 sisters believed that I was not wanting to work because they thought I was lazy as a kid. The reality was that I was a very fatigued child due to fibromyalgia, restless legs syndrome (RLS), and not sleeping well.

I have had random people tell me that I am worthless because I couldn’t contribute to society as an employed person. I always respond by telling them that I contributed more to society before I got my first period, and it was all volunteer work to boot. I did it because I genuinely wanted to help people and not because I needed a pay cheque.

The role of work in forming our identity

On social media platforms, I have my diseases listed in my bio along with other information about me. I have had people tell me that because I have my diseases listed in my bio, that means that I let my diseases be a part of my identity.

Yet those same people have their job in their bio, and it’s viewed as acceptable because work is allowed to be a major part of one's identity.

Other things besides work are just as important

My RLS is a major reason why I ended up being unemployed for so long and why I need a work-from-home job. I can only be on my feet for 5 minutes in a standing-still position before my RLS takes over. Even if it wasn’t a stationary job and I could walk around, my RLS doesn’t like more than light movement for 15 minutes. It made things challenging trying to find work, and then all of a sudden, it was the reason why I became employed. Life is funny like that.

I ended up having a bit of a crisis of identity due to being unemployed. It took quite a while to realize that work doesn’t need to be a major part of one’s identity, and that other things are just as important, if not more.

Now, I think of myself as someone who helps others, not as someone who is employed. I love my job!

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