Real-Life Tips for Staying Positive When Leaving the Workforce
Making the decision to retire early can often feel like a blow to your psyche. It’s easy to flashback to a moment during a job interview when you’re asked, “Where do you see yourself in five years?”
For Willeke Van Eeckhoutte, her aspirations included studying psychology and climbing the corporate ladder. She also had just started a new relationship, and professionally things were moving along nicely — at least until a multiple sclerosis diagnosis felt like her life plan was derailed.
“No one gets to practice what living with a serious illness is like, so I had to improvise as I went along. There were no magical cards to show me what my five-year plan would become; whether I would still be at work, or whether I would deteriorate more quickly.”
Four years after her diagnosis, fatigue, pain and related periods of sick leave kept growing in time and space. The idea of early retirement started to take hold, as she saw a future where she could not regularly work because of her symptoms. She knew it might be time to leave her job because she refused to be a liability to her colleagues.
“They deserved a colleague who could be there 100 percent,” Willeke said, ‘Not someone who pops in one morning only to be absent again the following day.’ There were many times of doubt—her heart said, ‘You love your job, stay at work,’ but her head knew that retiring was the right choice.
Willeke had to learn to engineer her life around her new reality, one that to this day still consists of hospitals, neurologists, treatment plans and early retirement. “It was not what I had in mind when I emigrated to Ireland, but this was it, and life had to go on. A few weeks of feeling negative turned into many years of positivity.”
So what advice does she have to share with others who have had to change the course of their professional careers because of their MS?
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Mind over matter / Explore your options / Do what suits you and Looking ahead
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