"Spoonie," if you’re not familiar, is a moniker for folks with chronic pain, illness, or mental illness, who have more limited energy than the average person.
2017 was my seventeenth year being a spoonie. In many ways, it was one of my healthiest years, which was a blessing. I also saw this year that I might have a shot of being pain and disease-free, a gift that many spoonies do not receive.
2017 was also my first year coaching full time. I quit my part-time job, coaching college students, in February. I was able to make the transition, and pay for some medical expenses later in the year, with financial support from my family. I initially felt a lot of shame about asking and accepting that support – like A LOT of shame – even though they were happy to help.
I asked because I’d cleaned out my savings paying for medicine and was operating at 40-60% of the average 32 year old’s energetic capacity. I saw that coaching full time would both help me make more money and spend more time healing but I didn't have the bridge to get there.
Given what I could produce in the limited time I had on top of my part-time job, it could have taken me years to make the transition to coaching full-time. Even though that was just the truth, I kept saying to myself, “I have a degree and lots of privilege. I can work hard. I should be able to make this happen on my own.” And being hard on myself like this didn't make any of it easier.
I see this shame + being hard on the self combo in a lot in my clients too. I think we get swept up in the American rugged individualism narrative and feel like failures when we can't be "successful" on our own, even when we're facing tremendous obstacles that no one could overcome solo.
I eventually found some compassion for myself and, after a lot of coaching, let myself accept the support and follow my dream. I also realized that it’s not uncommon, across cultures, for families to support each other in business ventures and health crises when they can. It's what you do when you love someone and have resources to share.
I wanted to share openly my experience with support, and what I was able to accomplish this year as a result, in case it’s supportive for other folks. Being a business owner with a chronic illness IS challenging. Being an entrepreneur on its own is challenging, particularly the unstable income part. When you throw limited energy, flare-ups, and lots of doctor’s appointments into the mix, it can be a pretty stressful affair. That said, there are huge upsides, namely having control of your schedule and being able to take naps whenever it’s called for. I wrote about the ups and downs of my experience earlier this year in a post called Adventures in Spooniepreneurship.
Making spoonieprenuership work requires mastering the art of conserving energy and asking for and receiving a lot of support. For most of 2017, I didn’t really see a lot of people. I was saving energy (spoons) for my coaching business. I’m grateful for the friends who made it easy for me, who came and cooked for me, took me out to dinner, or were willing to go on walks or yoga dates. Eventually, I was able to branch out and have more fun, which was crucial for my sanity. I did, as you’ll see below, still get to go on some sweet adventures. There were some I didn’t make it to, and I feel okay about that. Sometimes rest is best.
Going over my personal data points for the last year helped me see clearly what I DID accomplish this year. It helped me shift my mindset in a productive way. I had previously been feeling like a failure, focusing my attention on all the things I didn’t do. I definitely set some goals last year that were really unrealistic, i.e. tripling my income and finishing a book draft. Because trying to do that on top of starting a business makes sense?!? I live and learn! It was a great reminder that new projects always, always take way more energy than we anticipate.
When I look at these numbers I think, for year one of a new business, in a year that included six weeks of mold-related homelessness and an unexpected move across the state, I feel pretty stoked about this.
Spoonies can get sh*t done. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
Noelle’s 2017 by the Numbers:
Total clients: 36
Coaching hours: 201
Coaching groups launched: 5
Online workshops: 8
In-person workshops and speaking gigs: 6
Yoga classes taught and subbed: 21
Coaching/yoga/healing/marketing workshops attended: 10
Videos posted: 21
Blog posts published: 26
Pieces in other places: 4
Total income: > $30,000
Doctors appointments: 15
Ondamed treatments: 15
Acupuncture appointments: 14
Chiropractic appointments: 33
Intuitive healing sessions: 20 (This is estimated as many were informal)
Yoga classes attended: too many to count
Voice lessons: 10
Camping Trips: 3
Art Museums Visited: 3
Pirate Museums Visited: 1
Plays seen: 5
Trips to see old friends out of state: 2
Friends visited me from out of state: 2
(Small) Mountains Climbed: 2
Potato varieties grown for the first time: 3