Tuesday, 11 October 2016

When Life Gives You Lemons... Make Lemonade, or - I can still be successful even though I'm sick!

When you live with chronic illness, especially when first diagnosed, it's hard to imagine how you can cope financially.  Sometimes it's like life has pulled the rug from under you and you can be enveloped by a sense that you are not only unwell, but you are a burden, physically and financially, to your nearest and dearest.  These feelings only exacerbate if your illness means that you can no longer work in a regular capacity.

I felt like this for years, I survived on a government subsidy, trying to pay a mortgage as a single parent (which is an area where I believe sole parents are discriminated against, but that's for another post) and had to leave a job I loved.  Feelings of hopelessness swamped me many, many times. I struggled every single day, borrowing from Peter to pay Paul and relying on my very generous parents to keep us off the streets, quite literally.

It wasn't that I didn't have the ideas to make money, but you generally need to have some funds to get you started, and that's a trap for so many.

Before I go any further, I want to reassure you that I am not trying to sell anything to you or coerce anyone in any way, I just want to share MY story which can hopefully inspire others to do something similar.  I decided to take a plunge, I decided that I would join a direct sales company, in my case Scentsy.

The reason I chose Scentsy is because I LOVE anything that smells amazing, I'm quite literally a perfume addict - something I couldn't afford for the longest time - and so choosing something that I loved meant that it would be much easier for me to sell.  But, I looked further than that, I looked at the team building side of it because I'm very aware that building a team can mean income for life, so I thought, why not?  I grew a team quite rapidly and within 12 months I'd well and truly replaced any income I'd ever earned.  I'm living proof that it can be done, even with a whole gamut of illnesses.

When I've told my story to others they often say things like "Oh but I couldn't do that as I have (insert chronic illness here)" and I hope that I can inspire them in some small way when they know what I am dealing with.  It's a total mouthful and a bit of a head#%$ to get your mind around it all, but I have Dysautonomia which encompasses many things... think of Dys as disfunction, and autonomia as things that happen automatically, now put them together.  I tell people to imagine a switchboard (for ease of understanding, imagine it in the nerve centre of my brain).  Now imagine a whole heap of switches that govern certain 'autonomic' systems within the body such as heat regulation, heart/blood pressure regulation, digestion, allergic responses, etc., etc., etc., and now imagine that those switches are faulty; sometimes they turn off, sometimes they switch on and stick on, sometimes they flip between the two at rapid pace. In a healthy body they work naturally and switch on and off when they should, yeah, but not mine.  So that's the first part - Dysautonomia.

Dysautonomia is is also kind of like an umbrella which I described in another post, and part of what that umbrella consists of means that I also have POTS (postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome) and Ehlers Danlos Syndrome which is a connective tissue disorder that causes me to bruise and dislocate joints really easy, and that my veins are stretchy and makes my heart rate and blood pressure go all over the place... if I squat for example, when I stand up my stretchy veins just enlarge and keep all the blood in my lower extremities and make my poor old ticker work double-time to pump the blood back up - sometimes it's not fast enough and I pass out, this also happens when I'm under fluorescent lighting as my mast cells think I'm being attacked by the big, scary lights and release an overload of histamine which my body doesn't cope with.  My mast cells also cause me to wake up looking like the Elephant Man sometimes when I have angioedema with no known trigger. These illnesses have so many complications and I can't possibly list them all here or risk boring you to death.

I also have Chiari, which quite blatantly means that my brain is coming out of my skull and sits against my spinal column (it's because the connective tissue disorder means that my brain is not being held in place like it should be) and that will require brain surgery at some point in the not too distant future.   I have a genetic mutation called MTHFR which means I can't metabolise LOADS of things, many drugs for pain relief etc., and therefore have a toxic overload in my body and just to top it off, I also have a genetic eye disease called Bietti's Crystalline Dystrophy in which most people are blind by the time they are in their 50s or 60s and I already have a number of the symptoms showing. Just to round it all out, these illnesses combined cause constant and debilitating pain in all parts of my body, extreme tiredness and, at times, depression. Oh and I also have Aspergers - I sure did hit the genetic jackpot! LOL! So, when someone says they can't do it, that's just what they are telling themselves, because if I can, ANYONE can.

Think of what you love, what inspires you, what you can do from home, or with little support from family members or close friends.  What could you do online?  There are so many things you can do, are you creative?

I recently started taking a two hour art class each week (when I'm well enough to attend) and I love it, friends were giving me great feedback on my work and so I decided to create bags with my art on them through a third party and sell them direct.  Many of my pieces are fully digital and I have literally created them on my laptop from a lounge chair. In my first week I've sold over 10.  Now sure this alone would never add up to a regular income, but it can grow, and it can certainly keep the wolf from the door.  I just wish I did this 4 or 5 years ago when I truly needed the money more than I do now.

There are many opportunities for employment online; you could do something like proof reading, creating resumes,  become a person friday for other people's social media presence, the list goes on, BUT I highly recommend looking into direct sales.  You have, in most cases, in-built support systems, an online presence, a personal website, and often groups of other consultants that you can connect with online (all of those things have been vital in my direct sales career, so before you join up, make sure they offer those) and also check what your personal requirements regarding sales may be, and one that you don't have to do in-home parties if you don't want to.

The way I run my Scentsy business (which works for me around my illness) is to keep it really simple and send out baskets of product (a basket party), run online parties, and have all team meetings and trainings on Facebook, etc., and the monthly (in our case three monthly) minimums are easily achievable, so it's something that anyone with a chronic illness can manage.

I was inspired to write this after a couple of comments made to me recently about how I had inspired people and that others in a similar situation could benefit from hearing about it, so if you are like me, or similar, or even if you're not - you CAN make delicious lemonade out of those lemons life gave you - you just have to try.

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