Retiring at 29 wasn’t part of my life plan. Not that I really have a life plan. But, like most people, I assumed I would spend my adult life working and, given my pain and the ever increasing retirement age, I’d have to leave on ill health. But i was expecting that to be in my 50s or so.
But increased levels of pain and fatigue have sped things up. I’ve done all i can to keep working :
- I’ve had numerous access to work assessments and been provided with lots of helpful equipment and taxis to and from work
- I reduced my hours to four days a week
- I tried working at home
- I reduced my hours to three days a week
- I looked at spreading my hours across the week, more days but less hours
- I’ve carefully organised my leave to ensure I got regular time off
- I tried to get the employer to understand how their partly inaccessible building made my day so much more difficult
But even then I still couldn’t make it through my three day working week. At the end of a day in work I would get in, collapse into a chair and struggle to give my carers coherent instructions. And I would spend all my none working days recovering from work. And there were parts of my job, such as phone calls to the public, that I wasn’t comfortable doing when I had taken increased pain relief. As well as the physical issues, the mental exhaustion and fog made it hard to think and assess situations as fast as I know I can.
So, in early February I put in my application for retirement and went off sick. It’s taken a lot longer than it should but I finally have a leaving date – 20th may. I will also receive some pension as well, details not yet known, which will help me financially.
I have had numerous people tell me “Ooh, I couldn’t do that.. I’d get bored..” and have come up against medical people who have been less than supportive and haven’t even attempted to understand my circumstances.
An illustation: I saw a pain doctor for the first time a few months back, I normally deal with a lovely woman who is all about maximising quality of life. This guy may have read my notes, but quite probably hadn’t. He asked what medication I was on and I went through it and went on to explain that I was hoping to reduce some of the morphine because I was stopping work. He said “from a pain management point of view we would not recommend this”. I started to justify my decision but he didn’t want to know. He kept repeating his statement, even when I started to cry.
This isn’t an easy decision. It’s not something I’m taking lightly. I haven’t done it on a whim. I have tried all the options available to me and cannot find a workable solution. And this is with the most supportive manager and team that you can imagine. If I can’t do it with them, I can’t do it anywhere.
The other standard reaction is jealousy. Which I find difficult because I don’t want to be doing this. The rest of my life is stretched out in front of me with nothing in it. Literally, I have no plans this year except hospital appointments and a trip to Oxford (this has a lot to do with the door and carer situation but the point is there).
I’ve not worked in three months and, even before that, I knew I needed to be careful because this was a risky time for my mental health. Again, things haven’t been helped by the door opener not being in place making me housebound and not getting all my care hours.
Up until a few months ago I had worked or been studying or both all my life. I worked for my dad (a farmer) from an early age, basically when I could start being helpful; I started working Saturdays as soon as I could (16); I worked full time in the summer holidays when I was in sixth form and uni; I had one painful month job hunting when I left uni and then moved straight from job to job till now. So not working is a HUGE change.
So… what next?
I am hoping to find a course to start in September on writing, craft, humanities… I’ve got lots of interests so should be able to find something to go to for a couple of hours a week. And hopefully I’ll meet other people who aren’t working the traditional 9-5 jobs. Because almost everyone I know is, and that means I can’t see them during the week. I’ve also looked at online courses through futurelearn and coursera.
I already know i need to do something creative most days and I’ve realised I need to do something intellectual on a regular basis so i came up with a list of things I need to keep doing on a daily-ish basis to help me cope with retirement:
- Something creative – art journalling, working on some of my creative projects or wanderlust activities, writing etc
- Something intellectual – a course, a non fiction book, a crossword
- Something outside – when the door is fixed of course…
- Something which helps me check in with myself – tarot, art journal, friday morning check ins (which I keep meaning to blog about)
- Something restful – because I am still ill and still need to look after myself and give myself enough down time
What I would really like is for people to suggest more ideas for these areas and tell me how you cope with being off work, whether its long term sickness, retirement or not having a job.
- engraved carriage clocks, pocket watches etc seem popular retirement gifts – you’re no longer working, you’re probably in your last years, have a time keeping device to count them down…? I do not want a clock or watch for my retirement!