2 posts tagged “working with a chronic condition”

Patients at work: Member Nancy on being her own boss

Posted January 10th, 2017 by

We recently launched a blog series about patients who’ve started (or are gearing up to launch) their own businesses, sparking a discussion around how to manage your health without giving up on your career goals.

Say hello to Nancy (@spicerna), who sat down with us to discuss how she finds a balance between living with bipolar I and expressing her creative side through her art. Nancy chatted with us about the kinds of projects she likes to work on, and why it’s important for her to be her own boss: “I need a job where I am the boss every day. There is an unpredictable nature about the illness…not a day that goes by to where I am not making judgment calls to maintain my health.”

Can you tell us a little about yourself and your diagnosis experience?

I have struggled with symptoms of Bipolar I, since I can remember. I really noticed the ups and downs in the teen years. And at age 16, I had my first psychotic break, (1 out of 5 breaks in my life.) I have always been an overachiever and had big dreams and goals for the future but the combination of everything that I needed to succeed broke me. My body and mind couldn’t handle it. There was never a balance of my life. I never took a break I was a workaholic. I slept just 3-4 hours a night most nights. I had as many successes, as I did years of crash and burn.  It was just hard for me to work a mainstream job. I can’t do deadlines very well, stress triggers Mania. I was in complete mania working a full-time job and going to school for 7 years of my life then in a complete depression for 8+ years as I worked each day to recapture my life. Since I had 5 times of extreme psychosis. It wears on your body. I just had to begin plans to do a 180*. I was choosing the path to the most resistant and not enjoying the ride along the way. There were many things that I was doing wrong. I needed the balance, peace of mind; love for myself and to not live in extremes.

I have a certificate in residential planning and I planned on having a career in kitchen and bath design but that is high stress and the 180* was to find that my hobbies and being an artist is more of a goal and where I should be headed now. If I could make that work and market it to make some income. Then I can kill two birds with one stone I could have my success and support myself and take care of my illness at the same time.

I need a job to where I am the boss every day there is an unpredictable nature about the illness there is not a day that goes by to where I am not making judgment calls to maintain my health. I have to take many brain breaks clear my mind. That gets in a way of a full time every day job.  So to work at my own pace is crucial. So I can work around my mind.

How did you first get into making art? What are some of your favorite projects?

I started cross-stitch at age 8 at the same age I would draw in 3rd grade floor plans of my favorite houses that we vacationed at. In high school I took drafting class. I was very into residential homes and design. Through school I loved anything design and art related and at age 12 I determined that would be my life goal, I wanted to get into homes and design the plans for them. Well that idea evolved and now the goal is to be an artist and create art for people’s lives. It took a long time to make that distinction. I guess that is part of the process of the journey.  My cross-stitch was an obsession growing up. I made over 45+ pictures most of them were gift to friends. By working with my hands and heart it was a release to use the needle and thread, very healing. Then after a while after I chased after my career for a while I realized that I wanted to get involved with other mediums so with no money for school I began to teach myself using YouTube for advice other mediums, to illustrate for cards and create paintings. Wherever my ambition will lead. I am interested in paper, wood and fabric. I am defiantly in the experimental stages, working on many different projects to see where that may lead.  Right now, I am drawing and gravitating towards architectural element and gardens.  The sky is the limit.

Where have you been able to sell your art so far? What are your plans for growing a business out of it in the future?

I was making and illustrating some cards for people around me I would go to market and sell my cards just for the experience and wow they sold like hotcakes and had some people pay $10 for one card and there were orders for batches of 12 cards for Christmas and finally I just got warn out with all the work and found better ways to market my cards. I have one idea to sell and make good money buy illustrating my cards then making copy’s at the printers then selling or making silhouettes on the Internet for Cameo cutting machine sell the rights to the company and then when people buy my silhouette on the web I get paid a percentage I liked that idea. All of this is going to take me a long while to manifest I am becoming an expert in my own field so I am gauging down the road. 

How does living with bipolar affect your creative process?

When I am in mania my mind is racing the world it is so much deeper and broader and I have so many ideas. I have so many ideas but there not concrete. On the meds I struggle with similar issues as in mania; plus to focus, concentration, comprehension, low energy. I do think clearer on the meds but the symptoms never go away. It takes much strength to break down and be in the mood to do art so I am surprised when I look over my work and see so much progress.  So maybe once a day do a little bit. It is hard when your mind is choreographing dance songs in my mind and you know how to make that happen but all the details of the work and learning everything to piece that together. I don’t have energy for that. But it goes through my mind. All I know I can do anything I set my mind too there is just isn’t enough time for it all in this lifetime. Sometimes I think that I have the illness to keep me down to earth instead of a balloon flying off into the universe I have so much internal power.

On the flip side, does the process of making art help your manage your health?

Art is passion: it is metaphysical and spiritual. It takes you places. Color, and creating: helps release your mind. It keeps me occupied, during this life we call on earth.  It take’s skill and the process of learning, growing and creating that specific look is a life long job so fascinating to find.

I can manage my health by getting to a place to where I feel at complete peace and feel like I am doing my calling in this world. I feel depressed and moody if I am not doing that. I need Art in my life.

Do you have any advice for others with chronic illnesses who wants to start their own creative businesses?

Do it for fun first for years then add the buying and selling part. That is what I am doing? I feel more prepared to sell my work that way. Do your research about the business end and start with small classes to help you understand the business world. Become and expert first and then the process will be less stress on you. Owning a Business is a risk and you want to do what you can to succeed.

Most of all love you and have some faith. There is power within your heart that is just waiting to break through. Believe in that every moment of every day. Love yourself first and foremost and love others around you. Give to them in increases the harmony. Don’t get trapped in the hole of oppression and burden, get out!! Then you can succeed in all area of life and be ready for your own business.

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Patients at work: Member Ellen on launching her own clothing line

Posted October 25th, 2016 by

PatientsLikeMe members often talk about how they’re more than their diagnosis. They’re patients, but they’re also people, with complex lives, families, hobbies and careers.

Today, we’re kicking off a series of blogs about that last one — working with a chronic condition. We’ll be featuring some enterprising members who have started (or are working on) launching their own businesses, and learning more about how they manage their health and their career goals at the same time.

First up is Ellen (edayan), a member of the bipolar community who designs clothes for curvy women and runs an online dress shop called Tiger Lily. When we caught up with her, she shared about her passion for designing, how living with a mental illness affects her creative process, and her inspiring message to women:

“I want women to feel good about who they are right now so they don’t miss out on living a full life … Life is too short for feeling you’re not good enough.”

 

Tell us a little about yourself. How did you first get into designing clothes?  

I first started sewing clothes for my daughter when she was a baby. She became quite the tomboy and I couldn’t even bribe her to wear the little dresses I designed for her, so I started selling them. I was so happy making clothes for children that I started my own children’s clothing and costume design business, but it was really more like a hobby than a career. The most popular thing I made was a retro boiled wool coat. Each one was different.

Tiger Lily’s message is “Love yourself — Now.” Can you talk a little about this and how you’re trying to inspire women through your clothes?

I gained a lot of weight on psychiatric medications for my bipolar disorder, which I’ve not been able to lose. I was so embarrassed and ashamed that I started hiding out at home. I didn’t want anyone I knew to see me. I didn’t appreciate the fact that I was still beautiful — just different. The world doesn’t treat you nicely if you have a mental illness or if you are not thin. I had two strikes against me, I thought, so I hid. During that time, I lost out on all kinds of important relationships and opportunities. Waiting until you can get yourself skinny isn’t a good reason to lock yourself away. I want women to feel good about who they are right now so they don’t miss out on living a full life. My message is to embrace your body, mind and spirit just the way you are. Life is too short for feeling you’re not good enough.

What’s your creative process like? What are some of your favorite pieces you’ve designed?

I actually like to sketch new designs when I am feeling a bit depressed. The depression slows me down and makes me more careful and practical. So, in a way, depression can be used to my benefit when it’s not too severe. After the depression cycle clears, I go back to the design and infuse it with colors and textures and some fun. Here is a sketch I made of a skirt and top that I constructed with some changes from the original idea. This ensemble will show on the runway in Phoenix Fashion Week in a couple of days! I’m really proud of it. Here are some of my original designs…

What has been the most challenging part of launching your own business, and what’s the most important thing you’ve learned along the way?

The most challenging part of starting my business is keeping the faith even when things don’t happen the way I’d like. I encourage myself to keep going and not get too frustrated with setbacks. Depression can be paralyzing at times. Usually, I can keep working through it, but sometimes I have to cross everything off my list for a couple of days until I’m well enough to function again. Having an online business is great because it’s flexible and I can “crash” when I need to and not lose customers!

The most important thing I’ve learned is to be authentic in everything I do. I don’t pretend to know everything about fashion, life or anything else. I am just me. But that is enough, and my customers want to connect with a real person. I guess the next most important thing is that I have a wonderful family and friends who are there waiting to help. I just have to ask.

You’ve said that designing clothes has been “such a big part of my recovery.” How has your art helped you manage your condition?

Designing and making clothing is fun, but it’s also challenging. It often distracts me from thinking about myself and the fact that I feel really, really bad inside a lot of the time. When I create something beautiful I get such a big thrill. It makes me happy for days. All of me goes into these designs — not just my happiness and imagination, but also my sorrows and tears.

When I get better at designing, I think my personality will become even more evident and people will see who I am in the colors and lines of my work. What I spend my time doing has always felt like the biggest part of my identity. Right now, I am a designer. I am not a mentally ill person, or a patient or a social services case number. I am a woman with talent and skills, and I am using these strengths to be successful. I accept that I experience severe emotional pain — it’s a fact of my life. I do everything I can to minimize that, but being creative isn’t just therapy or a way to “manage my condition.” Designing is a serious business for me — I am banking on it.

What are your future plans for Tiger Lily? Any career goals beyond this?

In the future, I would like more of the inventory in my shop to be my own work. I am especially interested in making one-of-a-kind items. So, I am planning to do more designing and less wholesale buying as time goes forward. I would like to open a brick-and-mortar store someday. I guess I’m trying to prove to myself that I can achieve success with this before investing in rent and utilities and store furniture, etc. I would like to continue donating to organizations that create new opportunities for people in recovery from mental illness and a host of other challenges. I’d like to create a fashion show of my own next year, and to keep developing new design skills.

But honestly, my goals are to grow a more courageous heart, to use my imagination in ways that light up the world, and to go as far as I can with what I’ve been given. I want to do all of these things despite the fact that I have a mental illness.

Do you have any advice for others with chronic illnesses who want to start their own businesses? 

Yes! Aim high. Don’t allow your fears to drown you. Set up all the safety nets you’ll need, but don’t think small because you have limits. You may discover that working hard on a project you believe in gives you energy, improves your mood, and helps you grow. If people tell you that your illness is the reason you can’t accomplish anything, find new people. Keep learning as much as you can and never, ever give up.

 

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