This past summer, multiple celebrities facing health challenges went public.
We learned of Selma Blair and Christina Applegate’s journeys with multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune condition affecting the central nervous system. I read commentary, news reports and quotes from these women to learn more about how they were managing these conditions while being successful in their careers.
I was inspired.
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In an essay published in The Guardian extracted from Mean Baby: A Memoir of Growing Up by Selma Blair, she says, “My doctors urged me not to go public. They said people wouldn’t understand my diagnosis. They worried I wouldn’t get work. They said the disease might not progress beyond what I’d already experienced, so why share it? “You’re an actress; your body, your voice, it’s all you have.” But they were wrong; it wasn’t.”
I paused and reflected.
I’m also managing a new potential diagnosis of MS and understanding how it will affect my career. Or, will it? Should I keep quiet? Speak up? What’s next?
I started my writing business on the heels of a 2009 autoimmune condition diagnosis. While growing my business over the past 14 years, I’ve added a few more health issues to the mix. Most of my contacts know about my conditions because they’ve browsed my lifestyle blog before choosing to hire me, and I often write about health topics based on my familiarity with the material. To be blunt, I’ve been hired because of my health issues!
I openly write about managing autoimmunity and chronic illness.
Of course, over the years I’ve changed how I work, what types of projects I take on and how many hours I work to balance my health needs and self-care with earning a living. I think this awareness is a superpower. I believe in this so much, that I’m sharing five reasons I feel having a chronic illness (or four!) makes me an amazing businesswoman. Maybe you see yourself reflected in these words too.
I am awesome at planning and scheduling.
When your level of wellness is always fluctuating, you learn to build flexibility into your days. When a new project comes across my desk, I break it into manageable, bite-size pieces (contacting sources, interviews, research, outlines, drafts, editing, formatting, polishing and submitting) spread over several days.
Then, if/when a health curve ball comes flying my way, I can simply Tetris the task blocks around on my Google Calendar. Why? Because I’ve planned ahead for the inevitable RA flare or MS brain fog.
I always work ahead on projects.
At the start of my autoimmune journey, I tried to structure my work days like what I was used to with past employers. I quickly learned that the always-on, deadline-driven newsroom girl in me was way too stressed out and needed to change things up a bit. Now I simply pad my schedule with extra days to get projects done.
No editor has ever complained about me turning in a project a day or two early (when I didn’t need that built-in buffer).
My empathy nurtures business relationships.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve been chatting with an editor or marketing manager and the conversation has veered away from the project at hand to focus on more basic, core needs. The professional boundaries melt away and the raw reality is that we’re just trying to help our clients and make progress shines.
We support one another. We are helpful. We find solutions.
I create first-person, relatable content.
Sometimes I’m confused why having a health issue is a hush-hush topic. Maybe it’s because it can make others uncomfortable? They’re not sure what to say? Well, I got over that years ago and have been talking publicly about my health challenges for years.
In the past, I was the voice behind the Living Well With Rheumatoid Arthritis column in Everyday Health magazine. I currently share my autoimmune journey on the Cupcakes And Yoga Pants blog.
I use my downtime to sharpen my creativity.
Finally, I take a mindful approach to scheduling my time away from my desk and writing projects. Sure, I social media scroll and binge Netflix with the best of ’em, but I also read books, go for walks, attend yoga regularly, get massages, have a meditation group, play brain games, journal, visit with a mental health therapist, enjoy hobbies, make art and so much more.
All of these activities help me regulate my emotional health, which means I’m more relaxed and creative when it is time to write.
My unique situation is what makes me who I am. I’ve embraced my reality, identified how I needed to evolve and am thriving despite the challenges life throws my way.
I hope you too can reflect on what you need in your career life to do the best work possible and enjoy your journey. It might simply be to slow down and discover what’s truly working for you and what isn’t.
Then, make changes.
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