At 7 years old, I was diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis after experiencing extreme, persistent swelling in my knees during a competitive season of dance. At the time, I didn’t have any good understanding of what that meant. RA turned into a disease that is as integrated with my experience of life as is my personality. Many kids grow out of their RA, but mine has continued to follow me throughout my adult life.
Those with chronic illness know that no matter how hard you resist it, eventually you have to accept your different limitations and learn to live inside of those. Sure, you can venture outside of those limitations, but not for long and not without consequence. I think even “healthy” people experience this too though – many of us are unwilling to accept our limitations and so we push and push and push and write checks that our bodies can’t cash. I think most healthy people can make it many decades into their lives before they have to start listening to their bodies. Whereas for the lifetime, chronically ill, we have to grapple with these truths even as a child, but it’s honestly a blessing and here’s why.
The “hustle harder” rhetoric around entrepreneurship is frankly, immature. And it’s understandable. A lot of people in our capitalist-driven society are rewarded when they push past their “limits” consistently and benefit from it. But healthy people burn out. Maybe they acknowledge it and make a career change, but dealing with burnout frequently takes the form of alcoholism, depression, violence, and a lack of passion – a kind of dying inside. The hard burnout that the chronically ill, like myself, experience early on forces us to reckon with hard limits early on. We’ve already come to terms with our limits and are ahead of the game. We can tap into the real keys to success; consistency and patience.
It would be so easy for me to continue this article out of a place of “knowing” and consistently “doing” these things, but my journey to acceptance of my health limits has been a 30-year-long internal slugfest. One way I coped with my complicated home life growing up was by overachieving so hard that I didn’t have to feel anything or face my life. As I became a young adult, I started therapy and other group programs and started on a path of self-discovery and healing. Ten years later into my healing I was aware of my problems but had no desire to face up to my problems without overdoing it. I knew it was a problem but felt powerless to change it.
I would do too much, burnout, get sick, do it again, burnout, get sick, do it again burnout, get sick; and with each time I burned out it hurt a little more – I got a little more sick, my mental health issues flared up harder, it became more and more difficult, physically and emotionally, to bounce back. I FINALLY hit rock bottom and became willing to change; I couldn’t bounce back from this one. I got into therapy (after a break that was far too long) with an AMAZING therapist and worked through some of the toughest stuff in my maladaptive coping strategies and came out on the other side, actually making some real changes. It turns out that I was most afraid of the fear of changing, changing hasn’t actually been that hard, and also doing too much has literally been the ONE THING stopping me from ultimate success in most areas of my life. The struggle with this coping mechanism may not be over, but it’s such a relief to be on the other side.
Consistency and patience, especially in this crowded online space, is paramount to success and I think, the reason why most people don’t succeed in the online game. It’s a paradox; we live in a society that affords instant gratification and at the same time, requires incredible patience and consistency and delayed rewards to be successful in that same space. A lot of us aren’t set up for this mentality, especially millennials and younger, because of the way that we were raised.
But back to my point, the chronically ill have a heads up on this mentality because we’ve been forced to apply these principles to our health already. So if you are chronically ill you’re probably more ready for success in the online space than you realize. I’m very aware that consistency can be a problem for a lot spoonies like myself, but even small-scale consistency can make a huge difference. Daily, pre-scheduled social media posting with honest one-on-one connection can build a huge following! And the online game is perfect for us because we can work extra hard, prewrite, and load up when we are feeling well and then let shit run on automate when we’re not feeling so great.
I know the 8-5 life has consistently left me feeling undervalued, not normal, unreliable, unemployable, and a loser because of my chronic illness(es). Don’t let that baggage follow you into your online business ventures – it doesn’t belong there. The flexibility of this space can work for you, but only if you work within your limits and are willing to play the long game. Which you’ve already been doing for so long. You've got this.