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I remember the day very well. It was the day that my doctor told me that I should quit hoping that I would get better. He said that my body was like that of an 80 year old’s and I would never get it back. I’m sure he was still talking as my brain said, “Could this really be true? Was my Chronic Lyme Disease a long drawn out death sentence?” But what actually happened was that Chronic Lyme Disease set me up to succeed in business.
Side note: if you don’t know much about Chronic Lyme Disease it’s easier to describe it as a conglomerate of diseases it is misdiagnosed as like MS or Lupus (which I was misdiagnosed with). I had other diagnoses and symptoms such as fibro, chronic fatigue, arthritis, anxiety, sound sensitivity, food and chemical sensitivities, dementia (they put “cognitive disorder” in my chart because they said I was too young to put dementia), vertigo and lots of brain fog. I also developed aphasia and slight dyslexia. And as an Asian where intelligence is highly regarded, I felt like I didn’t have much worth in this world when my brain started failing me.
Like most people with a chronic illness, I went through a grieving process. I grieved the person I had been and the person I would never become. I tried the acceptance route and being more grateful for what I had — the life I had already lived, but I felt like there was nothing left to look forward to. Then after almost four years of anger, bitterness, trying to appease myself and settling for this life I thought I was destined for, I chose to not believe that doctor anymore.
Who gets to say that you are going to be sick forever?
I started reading books about people who overcame chronic, incurable and terminal illnesses. I began to believe that it was possible for me to get better. Their stories made me see a different outcome for my life. If they could overcome, why couldn’t I? I applied for disability twice and finally got it for a closed timeframe the second time but it took almost 6 years to get it. It’s hard to get because so many doctors and policy-makers don’t believe Lyme is real. They think we are psychosomatic fakers who want attention or are too obsessed with our health. But it was all of this fighting for my rights, fighting to be heard and fighting to be believed that led me to the success in my business. For that, I thank Chronic Lyme Disease and those who crossed my path in my journey.
I’m otherwise unemployable
Because I’m a creative, I always had side hustles in addition to my corporate jobs. I learned so much about sales, marketing and cash flow from those side hustles that I was able to apply to my full-time gig helping entrepreneurs monetize their business book. My parents are also entrepreneurs so it wasn’t odd for me to turn to entrepreneurship when I started getting better.
Because I couldn’t depend on doctors for my treatment, I did a lot of my own research and eventually became a Master Herbalist. I knew that there weren’t any other options and I had to create my own healing. I brought this same stubborn attitude to my business. Chronic Lyme Disease in business means there is no way I can give up. With all the accommodations I would need at a job, I’m otherwise unemployable!
You find out who really supports you
During my hardest days, not too many friends came by to help. They just couldn’t understand. Part of that was my fault. I didn’t want people to see me hurting, so I didn’t go out (I couldn’t anyway). People with chronic illness actually become really good at looking good and hiding pain.
Some of us with Lyme wish that it was called Lyme Cancer so that the world would take it more seriously. I was still put on the list at church to serve in the nursery. I had friends that told me that they had aches and pains too. Others said I just needed to have a positive attitude. Still others said that I was lucky to “get to” lay in bed all day or soak in the bathtub. Little did they realize that just taking a shower took all the spoons I had for the day and I then spent 1.5 hours afterwards recovering. If you don’t know what the spoon theory is, check it out here.
It’s similar in entrepreneurship. When you announce that you’re going to open a business, some people will support you. Some will tell you you’re crazy. Others will completely desert you. I’ve learned to care less about who isn’t supportive and care more about appreciating those who do. I just need a few business besties.
You obsess less with perfection
I felt like I was a mess almost every day with Lyme. It was a struggle to even get to the grocery store or pick my kids up from school. I started to go to the store in my PJ’s (yes, I really did this and I still take my son to school in my PJs)! I didn’t worry about my clothes — in actuality, I decided that I wasn’t worth getting nice clothes for because I was always in bed. I’ve heard coaches tell clients that they have to be all dressed up and “on brand” in order to post anything on social media or do a livestream. I’ve posted everything from going to an event dressed up to PJ Coach Days on the weekends.
I find that this is what’s real for me and what my tribe wants to see. It’s my life and people appreciate the dressed up and no makeup Vickie. The message here is: quit trying to be someone you’re not — just be all of you, no judgement. In entrepreneurship, you can’t worry about being perfect. As the saying goes, “Done is better than perfect.” Just put it out there. Success is really about being willing to fail. Besides, perfection doesn’t exist.
You live each day differently
There are some things that just don’t matter to me as much anymore like people’s opinions (I’m still working on this) or flubbing up. When you have Chronic Lyme Disease in business, you have to conserve your energy and emotions are energy. I don’t want to waste my time or brain power on things that don’t matter in the long run. If it won’t matter in 5 years, it doesn’t matter now.
I hate to waste time on non-essentials. I go to bed each day around 11:00 pm and get up at 8:00 am because I have to guard my sleep. It’s the number one gift I can give myself to stay most functional.
I recently returned from three events 1) Lisa Nichols Speak and Write to Make Millions in San Diego where I helped facilitate three breakout sessions and volunteered 2) Suzanne Evans The Driven Event where I had won a sponsorship booth and 3) Thriving Tribe Regional by invitation of Les Brown Jr. It was a whirlwind 10 days that took me over two weeks to recoup.
Automate as much as possible
People always rave about how much I get done. Why is that? It’s because I don’t bother with things that aren’t going to help me move forward in my business. Plus I’m efficient. Knowing that I was going to need time to recover from the travels I mentioned above, I set all my social media to post through most of May prior to leaving for the trip. What a life saver!
I automate as much as I can (I don’t want to hear you’re not a techie — you can do anything you set your mind to). There is a way to streamline just about anything you do manually. I know what it’s like to be just starting out. A lot of coaches tell people to outsource and delegate things that you don’t want to do. I disagree. Learn what you need to have done and then learn to automate it. Hand off some of your tasks to an intern who can automate for you. I use a GenM intern and you can get a $25 off coupon from the Tools section of my blog.
Experiences and impact mean more
My business provides me a way to create experiences for my family. While it’s important to me to help out with college tuition, or help out with my children’s future weddings, I’m more concerned with having experiences because of the life I squandered away before Lyme and the life I missed out on with Lyme. We were able to go to Paris and this year, I’ll be taking my boys to New York during an event I’m attending.
That’s why the work that I do, helping entrepreneurs to share their stories to create positive change in a struggling world, means so much to me. We create meaning out of the “Why me?!” moments in life. Their books are their legacy — you get to live forever in those words. And I get the blessing of the ripple effect when I help those entrepreneurs make more impact and create meaning for them through sharing their life journeys.
How has this article impacted you? Comment below!
Vickie Gould is a book coach, content marketing strategist, best selling author, and speaker. She believes that everyone has a story to share and a journey orchestrated for their positive growth — and that those experiences should be written in a best selling book.
Vickie helps entrepreneurs to share their stories, self-publish and leverage their own business books, grow their following, create more impact and turn readers into clients through her Easy Writer Program, one-on-one coaching and her free Facebook Group, Write Your Biz Book.