What it’s like Being a Business Owner with a Chronic Illness

“What it’s like Being a Business Owner with a Chronic Illness” By Keisha Greaves

 

My life has been a roller-coaster ride at times much like yours, I’m sure. Expectations, responsibilities, and everyday pressures can take a toll on anyone. Imagine dealing with the normal everyday stress of life while trying to build a business and balance having a chronic illness like Muscular Dystrophy (MD).
When someone without a chronic illness wakes up to the buzz of their second (or maybe third) alarm in the morning, a lot of thoughts may be running through their head.
Is it 7:00AM already? Do I really need to go to work today? Can’t I just lay here for another 10 minutes and still make it to work on time?
My thoughts look at a little different:
Will I be able to get out the bed without falling today?
Will I have the energy to attempt to tackle my to-do list?
How long can I actually work today before I start to experience pain?
That’s what it’s like to wake up with MD. It’s a never-ending round of questions that can alter the flow, productivity and course of my day. Not only does it make everyday life a challenge, it also affects my business.
Will I have the energy to send this email today?
What physical challenge will I face today?
All these questions and more are constantly flowing through my mind, and can seem a little deflating at times, but what good story is absent of any struggles? My villain just happens to be MD, and the hero happens to be me. If you are living with a chronic illness of any type, I want to encourage you to keep pushing forward, especially if you have dreams or are in the process of creating your own business or brand.
Having this passion project gives me the motivation and purpose I need to get up every morning and find a way to get things done. Even if only one or two things get done from my list, I make sure I put what energy I am able to muster into getting those things completed. When I have the strength and opportunity to go out and share my Girls Chronically Rock brand with the world, it gives me a sense of fulfillment and purpose that I wouldn’t be able to achieve if I didn’t fight to get out of the bed every morning.

I won’t let MD stop me from reaching my goals and pursuing my purpose and neither should you.
Here are a few tips I want to share as a business owner with a chronic illness that I hope will encourage those who may be battling the same:
1.
1. Have something that keeps you sane. When I can’t find the strength to do work or when I just need to get my mind off of everyday life, I watch my favorite shows. DVR is the BEST thing to ever happen to me (any Love & Hip Hop or Jane the Virgin fans out there). I get excited to catch up on my favorite series and having this outlet helps me remain balanced and upbeat when not working on my business. Find that one thing you love to watch, play or enjoy that helps you unwind and relax.
2. Have goals for your business that you follow. I have dreams for bigger and better for my business. One day, I d’ love to see the GCR brand in Target and bigger department stores, but that dream isn’t going to happen overnight. I have to continue to plan, evaluate, network and put myself and my brand out there in order to reach the right people and make the right connections. Battling a chronic illness is not knowing what happens next. I am always hoping for the best and having goals to keep my focused on the future are key to growing and developing a business. Make a vision board for your business and look at it every day to inspire you to dream bigger, work harder and aim for the moon (you’ll fall among the stars).
3. Have a Plan for Your Slower Days. I am queen of the to-do list. I’ve been super organized since being a little girl (just ask my mom), and I take pride in having a strategy for what’s next. You have to have a plan A and plan B for the days when you literally can’t make it out of the bed, or if you’re like me, you have leg or back pain that prevents you from sitting up or being in a comfortable working position. Make a plan that can be done in any state you may be in. Your future self will thank you.
4. Know When You Need to Just Rest (and be ok with it). Sometimes, the activities from the day prior can influence the degree of energy I have for the following day. I can’t control what my body wants to do – like anybody, but with a chronic illness it can be even more of a challenge. So, don’t fret about taking an hour, day or two in order to get your strength back. Sometimes, one productive day can get the same results of having a few hours here and there throughout the week. Work a few rest times and even days into your schedule to make it feel less like a day wasted. A day rested is another day of strength gained.
No matter where you stand when it comes to chronic illness or starting a business, you have the ability to pursue your dreams and live your best life. Take these notes, make them your own and remember that chronic illness is just a chapter of your life. There is still so much more left inside of you and so much more to your story. Dream big!

Keisha Headshot wordpress

 

Published by girlschronicallyrock

I was born and raised in Cambridge, Massachusetts. My personality is friendly, strong work ethic, and great professional skills that makes her the hustler she is today. I graduated from Framingham State University with Bachelor’s in Fashion Design and Merchandising, a year after I graduated from Cambridge College with a Master’s degree in Business Management. While earning my degree I gained invaluable experience in the business/financial and Fashion Industry with working at different departments at Cambridge Savings Bank and many merchandising companies such as Motherhood Maternity, Tommy John, Spanx, Echo Design and Fossil Group. While in Framingham State University, I was in the Fashion Club and Black Student Union Club where I was able to meet new people and gain and learn a new experience in both groups with a different diverse of people. I knew I always had a passion for fashion from in middle school and new I wanted to be a Fashion Designer. I looked up to Fashion Designers like Kimora Lee Simmons and Betsey Johnson. I love their unique different styles and just two successful entrepreneurs who are making it in the fashion world and continuing to grow. My dream is to possibly meet both of them one day, even maybe do some business together. At the present time, I am working as a Merchandise Coordinator for Tommy John inside of Macy’s and Nordstrom within the Boston Area. I also owned my own t-shirt line business called Girls Chronically Rock which was inspired by myself because I was diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy back in graduate school so I wanted to make something inspirational, motivating for people who may have a chronic illness like myself or may be battling anything in their life, to let them know that they rock no matter what. With the wonderful work experiences over the years, I am really just an easy-going person where sometimes I love to be at home watching lifetime movies or many of my tv shows that I love to watch on a daily basis. I like spending time with family and friends whether its traveling, going out to eat and going to special events. Through my education and work experience, I have gained the knowledge and skills necessary to excel as a Fashion Designer and Visual Merchandiser. I am both qualified and eager to strive at my business Girls Chronically Rock and continue with dedication, and I know my hard work will pay off and I will reach my goals. I will soon hope to have my t-shirt line sold in department stores such as: local boutique stores, Macy’s, Karmaloop Foot Locker and many more. Here is a little more in depth detail about how I was diagnosed with Limb-Girdle Muscular Dystrophy: I have Limb-Girdle Muscular Dystrophy (MD); I was diagnosed at the age 24. I was born and raised in Cambridge, MA and went to high school in Cambridge. I received my bachelor’s degree in Fashion Design and Merchandising and then furthered my education in getting my Master’s degree in Business. When I first discovered my symptoms of my MD, it was crazy to me because I started to get symptoms around 2009. While in graduate school I began to repeatedly fall, and my leg would just give out on me without notice. I would fall to the ground and not be able to pick myself back up, I would need assistance from someone to lift me up with all their might, because it was something I just wasn’t capable of doing on my own. I also began notice when I tried to reach for certain things in the kitchen cabinets or try to exercise I was unable to lift my right arm up all the way. I kind of just thought to myself maybe I need to go on a diet and lose weight, but in the back of my mind I knew it something more. So I went to see an orthopedic, but I was told that this was more of a neuro-muscular issue, so I then went to see a Neurologist. Once I saw the Neurologist, she then tested me and gave me muscle biopsy, MRI, an EMG and every other test you can think of. So after multiple tests, I was finally diagnosed with Limb-Girdle Muscular Dystrophy. Limb-Girdle is a form of MD that affects the limb of the shoulders all the way down to the legs, which progressively over time eventually gets worse. The first thing I thought was how long am I going to live will I be in a wheelchair soon, and what is my life going to be like from now on. I knew I had to be strong and continue to do what I have to do so I started doing some research on it and read what eating healthy and exercising would help. I joined weight watchers with my cousin and I lost over 36 pounds and I felt great. I’ve able to keep half the weight still off, and I am still determined to lose more. They have multiple types of Limb-Girdle Muscular Dystrophy, and 5 years later my doctor’s are still trying to figure which type I have exactly. The only thing they know at this point is from the types I may have can affect my heart which is why I often have to go get a echo-cardiogram test that tests my heart to make sure everything is ok. Living with Limb-Girdle Muscular dystrophy is still new to me every day. I wake up every day not knowing how my legs are going to feel or what pain I may have when leaving my house. I try to be very careful when walking because I don’t want to fall, because I won’t be able to pick myself back up. Although I am on my feet a lot for work, after a certain amount of hours, my legs start to weaken. I am currently a visual merchandiser at different locations a very popular clothing store. I enjoy my job because it keeps me and my legs active and I enjoy traveling to the different store locations and doing what I love and my part in the fashion industry. I have the wonderful support from my family and friends but at the ending of the day, they have NO IDEA what I go through on daily basis or what I’m feeling. I try to explain to them how my legs feel, but it’s just so hard to explain. I still go out and enjoy my life as normal, but sometimes I always have certain things in the back of my mind. When going out I find myself researching about where I am going first, like does this place have stairs?, does it have an elevator?, do they accommodate handicap people? So all of these things I worry about when I go out and my friends and family have no idea. Living with MD has made me realize how strong I am and knowing I have no choice but to deal with this. I sometimes get stares because people wonder what a young girl like me is doing either walking with a limp, with a cane, or parking in a handicap parking spot. But I don’t mind because they just don’t know me or know what I have. Although my MD has progressed over the years and getting worse, I have learned to except it and make certain changes in to my life such as now walking with a cane in order to keep my balance and helping me not to fall. At this point I am just taking everything day by day and staying strong. But there is one thing I want people to know by reading this quote. "There’s no “cure” or a pill will “fix it”, but at one point I thought it may help. And I thought the same with therapy and food. But it’s my endless support from family and friend that helps. It is hardest thing that I have ever done, and I found myself much stronger for doing it. Never, ever underestimate the power of your desire. If you want to live badly enough, you can live. The greater question, at least for me was: How do I decide I want to live? That is the question I’m still working on?" AS SEEN IN...

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