How I've Found Success as a Spoonie Entreprenuer

I’ve been laying low lately in a few ways and it’s because I was learning some valuable lessons about “spoonie-preneurship,” or the willingness to start and manage a business as someone with a chronic illness (people with chronic illness = spoonies).

In late 2014 I hired a coach because I was sick of burning out and sick of being sick. It became clear in our work together that the best way for me to do work I loved and have the time I needed to take care of myself was to start my own business. I’ve always been entrepreneurial, and I’ve started a lot of things, but I usually got sick before I could see them through. So, I dove into this adventure headfirst but always with some doubt about how I’d be able to make it sustainable. Some of my biggest worries early on were that:

1. I wouldn’t be able to work enough to run a business when a) I spend a lot of time in bed and b) I have to spend 20-30 hours a week on self-care. (I made a spreadsheet and calculated all the time I spend on self-care.)

2. Clients would fire me if I rescheduled them too much.

3. Learning about internet marketing, taxes and business stuff would be frustrating and mean a ton of time looking at a screen, which I hate.

4. People wouldn’t trust me to do business because I get brain fog, lose words and can’t remember things.

At this point, I’m a certified coach. I’ve been coaching for two years, and coaching is my primary source of income. I can’t say whether or not people think I’m smart, but so far no one has fired me for rescheduling. In fact, my clients have been very supportive, and I’ve seen that I can keep the business moving even if I can only work 10 hours some weeks. I do a lot of things differently from how a non-spoonie entrepreneur might. I’ve done some pretty productive writing from my bed, for example, and I rarely work more than three or four hours at a time without a significant break. In sum, I learned that all those fears I had were pretty silly. My number one biggest challenge, it turns out, was my fear – in particular, my fear of not being successful.

Recently, I got a little too stressed about my work, ignored signals from my body to take it easy and ended up in the emergency room with heart attack-like symptoms. All the tests came back normal and I later learned the symptoms could have been Lyme-related or related to a viral upper respiratory infection. I had been extra tired before the incident and on either side of the ER visit, I spent a lot of time in bed and a lot of time crying. I was scared and super sad about being sick again after almost a year of feeling much better. I also felt sure this recurrence of symptoms would lead to the inevitable moment when I’d have to bail on my business.

I see now that this latest health adventure was really just my body – the essence of my being, the universe, or whatever you want to call it – telling me I needed to chill out and take everything down a few notches. Instead of listening to that incredibly useful message, I was listening to my Monkey Mind (the internal dialogue we all experience that’s full of self-doubt, what-ifs, judgment and criticism) like it was my beloved guru. “Oh yeah, this is gonna suck and you’re going to fail, just like all those other times.” As a result, I was stressed and working more than I should have been to prove my Monkey Mind wrong. You can see how well that worked out for me.

We all have patterns and internal conversations like this that contribute to our dis-ease. Becoming a spoonie-prenuer really put my patterns front and center for me. Some amazing coaches and energy healers have helped me see just how clearly the patterns not only hold me back but keep me sick. Seeing that clearly hasn’t always been a party but it has given me the opportunity to choose something different. In my case, I’m regularly seeing scarcity thinking and choosing instead to look for abundance. When I’m not worried about not having enough time or money or health to be successful, I can see so clearly what I do have. Historically, one of my most familiar worries has been that I’ll have to do everything alone, that no one is going to help me. And, as if someone was trying to say, “Oh yeah? Let me show you how wrong you are!” I’ve been showered with support in the last year. An old friend has offered me countless hours of social media marketing advice and even sent me money to sponsor some video content. Someone I met at a support group three years ago called me to offer advice on a new program. My herbalist snuck me in for a last minute appointment last week without charge. Two different business coaches have offered me complimentary access to their programs. Clients old and new have reached out to share how much they’ve been inspired by my work and urge me to keep it up. In choosing to look for evidence of abundance instead of scarcity, I can see that people want to support me in doing this big thing and I need to allow them to do that.

Coaching is a great way to identify and overcome these patterns and it’s a huge part of the work I do, but there are other modalities too. I had great conversations about patterns recently with energy healer Heather Smith and yoga therapist Alex Bauermeister in the first two episodes of Healcast, a series of interview and Q&A sessions with holistic healers on Facebook Live. You can watch the videos here. Some of these modalities may resonate with you.

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Thinkstock photo via jacoblund.

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