This essay is one of a short series of guest posts exploring the topic of entrepreneurship, and how on top of the usual challenges faced by anyone who starts a small business from scratch, some of us also experience blocks and obstacles arising from mental or physical health difficulties.
How Restorative Journaling Helped My Business to Flourish (Despite Chronic Illness)
Straight talk: I made five figures in 2015. I made five figures in 2014. My household income comprises, in large part, my partner’s income and my small contribution; I do not fully live off of the money that I make as a solopreneur. What running a business does for me, other than providing money for my family, is to give me a sense of autonomy and purpose in the frustrating situation of no longer comprehending what is going on in my body.
What’s up with my body, yo
I live with late-stage Lyme disease and schizoaffective disorder. Both are potentially incapacitating conditions, and do add challenges to the act of running my own show; for example, I offer one-on-one services, but I do so with the caveat that I might be too sick at the time of the call to engage well with the client, and will need to reschedule. Because I’m public about my health conditions, and because the people who are attracted to my work are often also afflicted with some malaise or another, it’s not difficult for me to include parameters for cancellations and rescheduled appointments in my contracts. I refrain from rescheduling as much as possible, but sometimes I am too sick to even consider writing an email, in which case I ask for help in doing so.
Lest I sound too gloomy in describing my life as a freelancer and solopreneur, I assure you that I couldn’t be in a better situation for the challenges that I face. I do set my own schedule – hell, I’m meeting a friend for lunch today. I get to decide whom I want to serve; in my case, that means aspiring or emerging writers who are looking to develop resilience as well as mastery through product creation and limited one-on-one editing and mentoring services. I like the work that I do. It suits me, and I’m good at it.
Restorative journalling is the fuel for my business rockets
Small business ownership may seem to have nothing to do with restorative journaling, but it’s journaling that’s pulled me back from the brink time and time again, with my Self reminding my deepest heart that even as I despair, it may be only temporary. Without the healing that I get from journaling, I am bereft and unable to proceed through the muddle that is the complications of life – and therefore unable to do my work.
A problem that I often face, and that I suspect is faced by others in similar positions, is the spiral down into “what-ifs” and “never going to get betters.” A technique that I teach in my multimedia program, Rawness of Remembering: Restorative Journaling Through Difficult Times, is to write the narrative of your favored outcome as though you were looking at it from far in the future.
For example, if I am lapsing into a bout of fever and illness, I might write: “Esmé was experiencing fever and illness. She was afraid that the sickness would last forever, and that her chronic illness had taken a permanent turn for the worse. Fortunately, she sought succor in contacting her doctor and staying in bed for three days. Ultimately, the illness passed, and she was able to continue with vibrance and enthusiasm.” In doing this, I write my own future; energetically or spiritually speaking, this may have ritualistic properties – at the very least, it gives my brain an alternative to the anxious downward spiral that might otherwise flourish in my brain, making me even more sick than I might otherwise be. And much of the time, the new narrative even comes to pass.
Journaling, once engaged in to some degree, also serves as a bulwark against what I call “phase blindness.” Phase blindness is a term I coined to represent what happens when I am in one state – say, depression – and am wholly unable to remember ever being in another state, or being unable to believe that another state is possible. Recording the joys of my life as a writer and solopreneur creates a document to refer back to when I am genuinely convinced that I will not only never experience joy or happiness again, but have never even experienced joy or happiness in the past. To look at my journal is to see evidence of the fluctuations of my experience. I can see flares of acute illness come and go; I can see the patterns that indicate to me that I’m not necessarily doomed to feel at my worst forever – because I’ve felt at my worst before, and I came out of it then, too.
Looking forward, forward, forward
So I go on, as is my wont. Maybe I’ll make six figures somewhere down the line; but right now I’m just happy to be earning money doing work that feels important, and that can also fit within the limitations of my life right now. Working for myself is a blessing. If this is something that you’re beginning to do, or are thinking of doing, I wish you the best. And perhaps consider keeping a journal – I’ve heard they’re a friendly companion for the challenging, and rewarding, road of entrepreneurship.