Hello, my friends. It’s been a while since I posted, and I wanted to give you an update—especially since a few of you have written me recently asking if I’m okay.
I’m okay. But just okay. It’s been a rough few months here at ChronicBabe HQ. I’ll tell you about it now, because a big part of the reason I run this project is to show the real side of life with chronic illness, including all of its ups and downs. And I want to fill you in on how this part of my business works, too, because it has bearing on how often I’m able to create new content.
In December 2016 and January 2017, I had an extreme upper respiratory infection that lasted for weeks and sent me to the hospital. It was very scary—struggling to breathe always is, right? Because of that, I missed a lot of fun holiday celebrations and travel. It took me a very long time to recover, and during that time, I was almost completely unable to work. That meant client work fell behind schedule, ChronicBabe projects fell behind schedule, and I spent a lot of time in my PJs… which sounds dreamy but seriously, after a few weeks, a girl just wants to put on a bra and get outside, right?
I think all of us know how hard it is to live with chronic illness, and think it should prepare us for handling acute illness all breezy-like, except it doesn’t. In fact, I kind of resented the acute illness; how DARE I get another illness on top of all the other crap I have to manage day in and day out! Sigh… this is just life. It does help some, but when we’re already sick all the time and we pile on another sickness, it’s really tough.
A beautiful thing is that I rallied for a couple days in there and got married! It was a tiny ceremony with a tiny group of friends, and low-pressure, and just perfect. I’m very lucky I found enough health to enjoy that day.
Quick on the heels of my recovery from acute illness, my mother-in-law became gravely ill. My husband and I drove overnight to be with her and our family, and ended up staying out of town (mostly at the hospital, and then a hospice center) for a couple weeks. She passed away, we held a lovely service, and came home. And I felt completely numb. I’m crying as I write this. I only knew Connie for about seven years, but I saw what an incredible presence she was in the family, and I’m forever grateful to have gotten to know and love her.
Watching my husband, his brother, and the rest of the family grapple with this experience and loss has been intense, to say the least. And sitting with someone for days on end as they slowly die is, well, profoundly life-changing. I believe that her spirit lives on within us all forever, and I will do my best to honor her throughout the rest of my life. And I’m trying my hardest to support my family as they grieve and deal with all of the fallout that comes with losing someone so close. On top of the grieving process, we have a lot of related mundane and bureaucratic tasks ahead of us, which will take time and energy.
Depression and anxiety
Regular readers of ChronicBabe know I already deal with depression and anxiety in my daily life. I’m usually well-managed, but sometimes slip into dips of depression. Well, losing my mother-in-law really threw me down in the pit. My depression has been intense, and it’s been tough some days just to get out of bed, let alone get any work done. Some days I’m lucky if I make it out of my PJs. I’m working with my therapist, and all my healthcare providers are up to speed, and my husband is amazingly supportive, as are my friends. But the reality is, depression is a very real presence in my life now. I have to fight every day to get shit done. I wake up some mornings with extreme anxiety attacks, for no definitive reason (thank goodness for medication and breathing techniques).
I’m doing my best to get it under control, and I’m working with my docs and my support network to do so. Lifestyle modifications help. Warmer weather helps. The start of gardening season really helps. Quilting helps. I’m grasping at every opportunity for fun and support and distraction. The depression action plan is fully in motion.
But meanwhile, there are just days… days when I have a hard time remembering anything, or focusing my mind to work. And that’s extremely difficult.
Economic pressures of balancing advocacy work and client work
And then there’s my economic reality. ChronicBabe does not pay my bills. In fact, most months, I operate at a financial and time deficit in order to keep it operating. It costs money to keep the site running, to host all the content I provide. It takes time and energy and software and camera equipment (and wow, do I need a new laptop) to create and serve up content week after week. I love it—that’s why I’ve been doing it for 12 years—but it sure doesn’t pay the bills. I’m thrilled that my membership program, the Secret Club, is popular and that I’m able to help people through that program. Offering that one paid portion of my work has helped defray the costs of everything else I do that is ChronicBabe.
But my client work is what really pays the bills, so in times like these—when I’m stressed to the max and have very little time or energy for much at all—I have to prioritize client work over my ChronicBabe advocacy work. I wish that weren’t the case, but it just is.
That means, unfortunately, that I haven’t had as much time as I’d like to work on ChronicBabe every day.
The big picture
I get letters, lots of letters. It makes me so happy and lifts me up when y’all write to me.
Folks write me, telling me how much they value ChronicBabe (that means so much to me—thank you!). Some folks write in, asking why I haven’t made an AWAP Wednesday video in a while (I miss it, too, and I can’t wait to get back to making them—thank you!). Some folks wonder why I even have to charge for anything at all (in fact, some folks are total jerks about it, insisting I have no right to charge for any of my services—no thank you!). I welcome all of your letters and feedback. I love knowing how much ChronicBabe means to you. Even the few jerks. (If I’m not pissing off at least a few folks, then I’m not being my most authentic self, right?!)
The reality is this: During this challenging time, I have to prioritize. I want to be able to do more with ChronicBabe, but temporarily, I can’t. That means I won’t be filming AWAP Wednesday videos for at least a couple more weeks. I’ll still be hosting Facebook live videos, and sending newsletters, and spending time on social media. I’ll be finishing my book, which is almost complete—I swear! I’ll keep operating the Secret Club, which is a big project and keeps this entire ChronicBabe enterprise operating.
I want to do more. I wish I could do more. I hope you understand. It literally makes me cry thinking about how much more I want to do with ChronicBabe—if I had the ability (the funding!) it would be my entire business. It is my heart and soul, my life’s work, my calling, and I miss being able to spend hours a day on it. But right now, I simply have to scale back.
I’m not writing this so you can feel sorry for me or my family, or to move you to any type of action. It’s simply time for me to be upfront and honest with you about where I am in this business, and where I hope to be. We’re in this together, you and I. We’re a community.
After many difficult months, things are starting to be on the upswing, and I truly believe that within the next year, ChronicBabe will be my full-time gig—with a bestseller book, a bigger and more bad-ass website, tons of workshops and speaking gigs around the country, and much more. For now, I hope you’ll take advantage of the backlog of more than 120 videos, hundreds of blog posts, and active social media networks I can still offer.
I’m still here.
I’m not going anywhere, I swear. And like I said, things are on the upswing. I hope you’ll be patient and compassionate as I move through this difficult time, just as I try to teach folks to be—and as I try to be with folks who are struggling. Just like you, I have ups and downs. Thanks for being here, and understanding. Your words of encouragement are hugely helpful.
As I gather my energies and prepare for the next phase of ChronicBabe awesomeness, I *am* in the market for fresh ideas for AWAP Wednesday videos. So if you’re moved to share your questions and ideas, please do so here. Thank you!
And thank you for taking the time to read this, and sending love and light to me and my family. Much love, Jenni