When you get diagnosed with something you hope above everything that there’s some magic pill and it will be over in a week, two weeks or a month at most. When you get diagnosed with something life long the shock can be immense. When you get diagnosed with something lifelong like Fibromyalgia you have no idea of the ride you’re in for. Not only is there no magic pill and it’s for life not just for Christmas, you will also have to seek out those that are supportive of your condition. There are certain medical professionals that because there’s no definitive test and as they only deal in absolutes, the fear over takes them, and they decide the best of course of action is to deny its existence. So not only are you suddenly managing a life long condition you have to deal with the scepticism of certain medical professionals to boot.
Fibromyalgia is very much a self-managed illness. Even with supportive medical professionals there is nothing that can be done so following diagnosis, that’s it, you’re out on your own and the best form of support is from those that suffer with the same unforgiving condition.
I was diagnosed many years before I went self-employed. Following a relapse, I helped my husband with the running of his company and the accounts, and this suited me fine as it meant I could choose the hours I worked.
When my husband went back to a “normal” job I had a choice which was clearly defined by the job centre, I could go and find my own job, or I could remain on benefits for the rest of my life. Having experienced the job centre before and the fact they were unable to find work for people with health conditions, I chose that moment that I wanted to still work, and I’d find my own job. They may have given up on me, but I certainly hadn’t given up on myself. I was certainly not ready to put away my pens and laptop and retire gracefully.
I was fortunate when I went self-employed, a very small client I had had whilst working alongside my husband’s company came with me. It was the ideal opportunity and the right time given the current market conditions at that time meant there was a boom of entrepreneurs but a lack of business support professionals to assist them. I could choose my hours, choose my clients, work the part time hours I needed and when the business increased, I could take on associates overseen by me which meant a full-time service dedicated to office and project management, a role I relished and loved. VAVelocity was established.
I kept my condition a secret however. The fear that it would jeopardise my business held me tight. That all changed in 2017. Following a virus that wreaked havoc on my system, I knew the time had come. Keeping it a secret became tiring in itself, the only person I was hurting was me by keeping things quiet My key value is honesty and whilst I always said I’d wait for my funeral to tell people, that I didn’t want to be defined by what my body can and can’t do, in March 2017, I told my friends and clients that I had this condition. Ironically my clients stayed but one or two friends left. I was very lucky by the love and support that was shown in those dark months afterwards.
By keeping it a secret for too long I’d probably been doing an injustice to all who suffer from this terrible cruel and unforgiving disease. Whilst it relapses and remits in severity it is there all the time, but I’ve learnt to handle it. Thems the cards you’re dealt in life. Yes, sometimes I get angry about it, yes sometimes I get upset about it and there are days when it’s all a little too much (I’m human after all) but the people that really know me know my determination and I soldier on.
It has however honed my skills. Because I manage a long-term condition means I can manage many things. My empathic skills are highly attuned which clients appreciate when I can tell that something isn’t right even before they’ve realised themselves. People usually wait to be run over a bus before they think about emergency plans and what happens to their business but mine are already up and running. I work hard on the emergency plans on a regular basis so should I relapse, clients know it’s taken care of. Clients also appreciate that whilst it’s morbid I ensure that they too have a plan B and sometimes even a plan C. Clients also appreciate my determination and my can-do attitude. Let’s face it when you’re left staring down a very dark tunnel there’s not many options left and mine is to ride it out and then come out with a different solution the other side. When client’s business plans fall through for whatever reason be it monetary or some idea that didn’t quite pan out as it should, I am their go to problem solver. Thanks to my condition I don’t just think outside the box, I do away with the box. I also don’t abandon clients when the going gets rough for them. When you’ve been through hell as least you have a road map and that is a big skill to have.
So, it’s not all bad, there’s a lot of positive things you can take away which benefit all my clients. There’s many that don’t get this opportunity with the condition I have, and I am very thankful I can do what I do. It may not be the life I had once imagined but it’s a different version of it, that’s all. Freelancing provides me with the one thing when in relapse I sought, the opportunity to provide value to people’s lives by working at something I love doing. When you threaten to take something away that people love, they fight all the harder and appreciate it all the more.