Aloe by Vic · Health and Disability

Work life balance! Is this possible with a chronic health condition?

My career started in retail, I really enjoyed it and working in and managing shops helped to support me through university and I gained so many essential life skills from the people and the companies that I worked with. After working in a large department store and having to take time off for health reasons I realised that the company was more interested in money than people and I decided to leave and go into working in restaurants. This wasn’t much of a change, managing people is the same in any role, you just need to learn your products, and I loved working with some amazing people and eating pizza everyday was a huge bonus πŸ˜„. Unfortunately I was struggling with my health again, had to take some time off and came back as a part time waitress and had to work my way up. Once I realised I was never going to get the training role that I wanted I moved to working in a hotel. I thought that this would be more of a 9-5 Mon-Fri type of a job, but I was very wrong! I ended up doing shifts when people were ill, to cover holidays or just to keep staffing costs down. This was really challenging for me health wise, but I loved the job and the people so I kept going until it got to the point that I just didn’t believe in the company anymore. I wanted to work somewhere where I could do more to help people, I loved training and supporting people to develop themselves and get promotions and qualifications, and so I found a job working with the long term unemployed helping them get back into work. I worked with people on sickness benefits and found that one of the main problems was mindset. I found that if I could help someone gain some confidence in themselves and their abilities then they were more likely to see getting back into work as a possibility. We then needed to look at their skills, experience and abilities and find something that would suit them. This could be really challenging as often people on long term sick are unable to go back into previous careers, and it can be really tough to find something that works around new limitations or symptoms of long term health problems, but I loved it! I loved working with my clients, supporting them and seeing them develop themselves, even if they didn’t get back into work seeing some progression was such a big thing for them and me and I felt as if I was helping people. 
Then in 2014 my health began to deteriorate quite rapidly. I started to struggle with my mobility, my pain levels were increasing and my fatigue was becoming really restrictive. Towards the end of the year I was off work for 2 months as I got myself back from being housebound to being able to manage to return to work. This was a challenging process and I was working with doctors, a physio, an occupational therapist and a physchologist to help me to improve my mobility and manage my medication to get on top of my pain levels. After a few months of a phased return to work in my previous management role I moved to admin. This was less stressful for me and I reduced my hours to try and manage things a bit better. This was when I started the think seriously about what I was going to do long term. I missed my previous role, I wasn’t feeling very challenged or valued and I needed to think about how I could support myself financially if my condition continued to deteriorate, or how I could better manage my work life balance, as most of the time I felt as if I was just working and doing nothing else. This had a huge impact on my mental health and I was feeling miserable and knew I needed to look at my career properly. As my mum pointed out I was just expecting the cycle of developing myself, getting a good position, getting sick, taking time off work then returning and having to climb the ladder again. Add in me moving companies when I didn’t agree with their values or feel as if I was working somewhere that valued me and my efforts and you get a scattergun approach to career development that made me feel as if I was stagnating in this cycle and I’d never be able to do better for myself. So I started to think about self employment. I knew that it was a great option for people in similar situations to me as you can choose your own hours, pick who you work with and do something that you are passionate about and that challenges you on your own terms. My previous experience meant that I could have been a cleaner, done management consulting or training of some kind, I don’t have any hidden talents. I’m not crafty or talented enough to create something that people would want to buy, and with my physical limitations I wasn’t going to be able to do something as hard as cleaning, or a consulting job where you had to be in a specific place at a specific time. I’m basically unreliable and physically limited due to my fluctuating health problems. I can rest up for an event and still not be able to go as my body decides that day that it’s not going to work. My energy levels don’t recharge like a battery, they’re unreliable and as someone said to me, who would hire you when you’re off sick more often than you’re at work? So I got the idea of being a life coach. I’m great at coaching, supporting and developing people to see their own potential and I live chatting to and listening to people. I’m empathetic and can motivate and inspire people to challenge and push themselves, so I thought that this was a brilliant idea. I could pick the people that I wanted to work with, and do meetings when I wa well enough. I started looking into it and found that it is a growth industry where you don’t need to have any qualifications and can charge large sums of money for your expertise and advice. This was going to be my new career! I started looking into courses (pretty expensive) looked at the competition (loads of people doing this now) and started trying to figure out how to set myself up and market myself (not a clue!)

During this time I was still working and struggling to manage to have a life as well. My doctor was tying to get my pain meds to the right level and I was fighting pain and fatigue constantly so I didn’t have much time or energy to do anything else, then a friend of mine that I worked with sent me an email asking if I’d like to try some products that she’d just started recommending to people which might help me with my health problems. I emailed her straight back that I wasn’t allowed to take anything at the minute as my doctor wanted to make sure that we got my meds sorted before I started trying other therapies or supplements, but I’d like to talk to her about the business. She used to be a life coach and has similar skills to me, so I thought this might suit me as well. So we met up, she gave me more info about the company and the products and I was hooked! If you’ve not heard of Forever Living it’s a network marketing company that retails Aloe Vera based health and wellbeing products. If you don’t know what network marketing is it means that you work as a team. You do your little bit and introduce other people to the business who do their little bit and you get paid from the company on what your entire team does. This means that you don’t need to sell loads of products, and to get your business to grow you need to help other people. The team works by supporting, coaching and training each other which is what I wanted to do and what I’m good at! I was so excited by this that I started to look into the company and the business. There’s loads of different network marketing companies with new ones starting up all the time, but Forever has been going for over 38 years and is in over 160 countries now which made me feel safe. The team that I’m part of is one of the best in the UK and we have regular online and face to face training sessions from the managers. The support is exactly what I needed. Being self employed is a lonely business, you only have yourself to rely on and if you don’t work, then you don’t get paid. Network marketing doesn’t work like that. I have my own business, I choose my own hours, I work around my health and my life, I do as much or as little as I want and I get paid for that. But once you have a team then you get paid on what everyone does, so I can do planning meetings, training sessions, catch ups and be a motivator from my bed or sofa. I’ve got support from the people around me if I can’t manage an event or a meeting, I get caught up on things through Facebook and online webinars. Having a safety net like this makes being self employed much less scary, and the support is vital for me as I have to work around my body. 

I love what I do now! I love the products, they help me to manage my conditions, as well as helping my friends and family. I feel as if I’m being a benefit to people, and the business opportunity means that I can support and help people who are in similar situations to myself, who have to work around a health condition, family commitments or another job. Being able to earn an income is vital to me for my own self worth. I want to feel as if I am a useful member of society and through this I get to do that. If you think this might work for you, or someone you know then email me at victoriabartle@yahoo.co.uk or contact me through social media for a proper chat about the business, if it could work for you, and if you’d be a good fit for my team.

I don’t think that I’ve got my work/life balance sorted out yet, but I do feel that I am so much closer to getting there than I have ever been before, plus I’m happy with what I’m doing. I’m challenging myself but I’m also supported by a company that has the morals and values that I live by. I love helping people and this makes me happy which is so important! I’d love to hear about your work/life balance journey’s, all hints and tips are always very welcome!

Vic xx

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