Need to make more money but what path would work with my health needs?
November 25, 2019 5:20 AM   Subscribe

I'm a woman in my late 30s. I’m a chronically ill, highly sensitive person who has multiple sclerosis, PTSD, depression, and anxiety. I need guidance on figuring out a career path reboot that addresses my needs as best and as fast as possible. (Long details inside)

Some background: I’ve never had a traditional career path, mostly jobs for survival purposes while trying to build some kind of career for myself. I was raped at 20, graduated with my BA at 21, and had a breakdown weeks later. I was unable to really function, got into an abusive relationship, got out and my first work aside from patchy freelance gigs was an internship at 29, and then some online community and social media work beginning with the company I interned for. Been working regularly in the decade since that internship, but opportunities for careers to grow into never quite panned out. And now my health is a priority.

My PTSD and general anxiety coupled with my high processing sensitivity means I am a sponge for absorbing energies and well, everything. I’m sensitive to noise, people’s energies (my boss can be high-strung), ringing phones (a past trauma) and I’m always ‘on’ all day, which is exhausting. MS is also a big reason for the fatigue I feel every day. Sometimes I’m falling asleep at work by as early as 11am. I do things to hide it or get through, like eating peppermints, but even if I drag myself through the day, I get in bed once home. It’s frustrating. (This company is too small to require ADA accommodations).

One common factor in all my work in survival jobs (though I wanted to progress in the online community field, but opportunities didn’t quite work out) is that I learn quickly and adapt to the rhythm and language of the job enough to impress. I’ve worked as a content moderator, legal assistant, admin assistant and customer service for a school office and a computer repair shop, writer, editor, and currently work as an all-purpose assistant, B2B customer service, e-commerce, and shipping for a children’s fashion wholesaler. For $1 over minimum wage. I’m highly adaptable and the kind of person people tend to be impressed with for learning everything so quickly and hitting the ground running.

What I’m looking for:
-ability to work from home at least 75% of the time. I worked from home before for about six years. I’m not sure if I could handle a regular commute anymore since my MS symptoms became consistent. I currently walk 15 minutes to/from work.

I’ve also been a freelance writer contributing to a handful of online outlets (many now shut down). I need to be able to meter out my own energy and take rests when the need arises or my fatigue becomes an issue. But I can definitely handle shifts.

- I don’t want to be an assistant or do clerical work or be customer service anymore. I want to use my creativity, my empathy, my desire and skill with connection, helping people understand other people, introductions, the ability to relate to others intuitively. But I’m at a loss. I really need stability. My therapist suggested I try to look into some kind of role adjacent to a helping profession, since I’m very empathetic and want to connect and help, but it would have to be something that doesn’t involve expenses or a lot of schooling. I studied sociology in college as well, so I'm people-oriented and curious. I’m also interested in marketing, but whatever aspect of marketing isn’t rigid with metrics and pressure.

- Looking to make at least 40-60k. If the job comes with a solid health insurance plan I could actually manage (and covers specialty drugs), otherwise I am not sure about risking going above the ACA subsidy cap/cap for pharma assistance.

-I must have good enough, reliable health insurance. I’m willing to use a portion of the salary bump I’m seeking to get me a plan with no to low deductible and comprehensive coverage.

I’m at a loss as to what comes next, but there’s urgency to sort out a goal and get working on it to make it happen as fast as I’m able. So what so you recommend for a chronically ill, empathetic, sensitive woman at the end of her 30s who is looking to build herself a career and find some stability?
posted by Fire to Work & Money (6 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: To add, since I forgot, I'm in the NYC area and don't drive. (I had a startup job for a few months that was from home except for one weekly meeting in Manhattan, so that situation does work too)
posted by Fire at 5:24 AM on November 25, 2019

What about peer support programs through your state mental health or health department? I can't say it would be 40-60k, but it's hard to make that kind of money without an advanced degree unless you go into web development or something.
posted by crunchy potato at 6:30 AM on November 25, 2019 has copywriting and marketing jobs as well as some other jobs that might fit you. They are 100% remote jobs, and many are technical jobs like programming but plenty are not. Also, consider asking this Q at Best of luck!
posted by Bella Donna at 6:46 AM on November 25, 2019 [3 favorites]

Your skill set sounds like you are well-suited to pursue a few options at the same time. For example, you can get a lawyer on a contingency fee basis to determine whether an SSDI claim is an option, which could allow you to have stable income, health insurance, and the opportunity to work part-time. In the meantime, you could also contact New York's Vocational Rehabilitation agency, which may be able to offer you a variety of services, including advocacy for reasonable accommodations and possibly funding for career supports and continuing education.

You may also want to consider free or low-cost legal assistance for disability rights issues, including FMLA and the ADA, as well as relevant state laws that may offer additional protections for employees of smaller-sized employers. There may also be some things you can do with regard to your treatment team, including finding a physiatrist to consult with, at minimum for a work assessment, and possibly for referrals to other providers.

I reference your skill set because being your own legal/administrative assistant/writer can be incredibly valuable for navigating the processes associated with complex medical conditions, Social Security, and Voc Rehab, all of which can require compiling documentation and concise narratives, and helping these institutions help you. IANYL, TINLA.
posted by katra at 11:30 AM on November 25, 2019

A friend of mine is a legal assistant to a small firm that handles medicare claims. She works from home about 50-75% of the time. It pays quite well and she's definitely helping people. The hours can get crazy leading up to a case but the rest of the time its fine. Her office paid for her to get a paralegal degree (license?) too and generally bend over backwards to keep good people. It seems stable enough in that there is a lot of demand for the work. Its technically an assistant but she seems to work independently a lot of the time.

I recommend against writing. I've done copy writing on the side for years and its impossible to make a living at it anymore. Most manufacturing is done overseas now and so is the copy writinf. You can't compete.
posted by fshgrl at 11:38 AM on November 25, 2019 [2 favorites]

Some of your description reminds me of what an engagement or community manager may do. I read about it as a related field but it's not my focus.

The community roundtable, ASAE, #cmgr on Twitter depending on the focus may be some places to find more.
posted by typecloud at 10:43 AM on December 2, 2019

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