By Krista Kellogg
I think one of the greatest myths of our modern world is that of work-life balance. Does anyone really ever achieve it? To me, it is a ridiculous concept as juxtaposed with the reality of our 24-hour everything environment. Sasquatch with a BlackBerry. It is certainly a myth of the first world, where we have the luxury of choosing our work and relying on the relative comfort of a decent working wage. I think it’s also a uniquely American condition, where it is perfectly normal to spend more time in your working environment than in your home environment and to fill the spaces in between by picking up, dropping off, and driving through. We don’t even have time to spell things out anymore, yet we are supposed to find balance between the boardroom and ballet lessons. This frenetic pace in which we live and work must have an effect on our bodies, minds, and souls. It can’t be good for us. For me, trying to manage a chronic disease under these conditions is like trying to protect a puffball of dandelion seeds in hurricane-force winds.
Managing a chronic disease like psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis takes time and patience, both precious commodities in my life. It also takes a keen understanding of one’s limitations (something we are ingrained to think we shouldn’t have). Just do it! Make it happen! Be all you can be! To combat these modern-day marketing mantras, sometimes I have to talk to myself out loud about my own needs. “Slow down.” “You are in pain.” “It’s ok to rest.” These basic requirements should be elemental, but amongst the din of email alerts, text vibrations, and never-ending deadlines, my voice becomes quieter and quieter, until only crisis (or extreme pain) can avert me from the hamster wheel. Then, I feel guilty for being a sloth. This is no way to live or work.
For me, learning to live with a chronic disease is learning how to take care of myself. There are certain truths about it. These are mine (in no particular order): 1. I have a chronic autoimmune disorder for which there is no cure; 2. If I don’t apply my medications everyday, twice a day, I will flare; 3. If I don’t do my light treatments, I will flare; 4. If I don’t get enough rest, I get stressed; 5. When I am stressed, I flare; 6. If I don’t tell the people around me that I have limitations, they don’t know (this includes bosses, colleagues, husbands and doctors); and 7. Saying “no” is not a crime. It seems simple. It’s not. Try as I might, there are times that I ignore my truths because I am too busy getting ahead, being better, doing more. There are consequences. There are flares.
And then, I have to begin again. Throw away the old maps, retrace the path to my truths and head out to find the ever elusive work-life balance… my life’s work.
Krista Kellogg was elected to the National Psoriasis Foundation Board of Trustees in 2006 and currently holds the position of chair-elect. She is chair of the Board Governance Committee and a member of the Development, Finance and Outreach Committees. She also served as chair of the 2011 National Volunteer Leadership Conference. Krista has palmar-plantar psoriasis. She lives in Miami, Florida, where she is the marketing director at the law firm of Stearns Weaver Miller.