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When I was a girl, I used to walk into walls.

Walls, doors, tables… I’d clip my hips or shoulders walking past anything. I didn’t know where my edges were. There were no clear boundaries.

This made learning to drive a nightmare because I didn’t know where the edges of the car were either, and just as I’d bang into furniture, door frames, people, I’d also hit things with the car too. Why was this? I didn’t know where my body began or ended because I wasn’t in it.

Disassociation is a common response to trauma. Disassociation itself is quite usual, and you’ve probably experienced it. If you’ve ever drifted off in a day dream or had the experience of travelling somewhere familiar and realising you can’t remember the journey, or watching a film, and drifting off so although you’ve been awake you aren’t really sure of the story – that’s dissociation.

There’s a scale of disassociative experiences and the daydream type are quite mild. On the other end are experiences like memory loss, dissociative personality disorder, not recognising your body as your own and so forth. In trauma situations if someone is in a situation they can’t tolerate but can’t physically escape from, they may well escape by disassociation, to check out, mentally when one can’t escape physically.

It can be a terrifying experience, not to know oneself, to drift free of one’s moorings, rootless, without an anchor, without a body, without a home, without a sense of self to come back too. To be severely disassociated can be to live in the storm of one’s thoughts, tempest tossed from one fear spiral to another, without rest or any prospect of it.

For me, the first step in the journey home was to realise that I was experiencing disassociation, and what that meant.

When I told my story, for years it was as though I was telling the story of what had happened to someone else, or an unusually eventful and slightly traumatic play.

I survived, that’s what happened, or that’s the most important part anyway.*

The really interesting bit is what happened when I began reclaiming my body. The disabilities although in depth are not the heart of this tale, they are just the footnotes, I am the adventure story.

I began to reclaim my body slowly, at first unconsciously. Rocking from disassociation to embodiment and back again. Feeling myself, my body, moving from my bones was unfamiliar to me.

I reclaimed my body a piece at a time, inch by inch I returned, fighting to hold onto my ground when triggers moved me to flight. Each day I worked to make my world safe enough that I felt safe to live in it.

But reclaiming my body, my ground and my world was not all a gruelling struggle. I found I healed even further when there was joy.

The first step towards reclaiming came when I was still bed-bound. In the stifling attic of an 18th century townhouse in Berkshire, I lay on the antique French linen sheets which had been my wedding dowry, bought by me, for us. I was so close to leaving my body but I wanted to come back.

This was challenging. It didn’t even feel like me anymore. I couldn’t do anything I used to do, my body seemed only a site for pain and medical investigations.

I couldn’t move, couldn’t wash, but I could and did wear vanilla scented iridescent body glitter every single day. My husband crowned me in a tiny tin tiara and decorated my swollen arms with glitter. I’d lie in the dim room, watching my arms sparkle in the soft light from the roof window.

It felt like me. It felt a little like power and a little like home. A shining beginning.

Decorating our bodies can be a powerful act. A dear late friend of mine reclaimed her body after surgery for ovarian cancer by having her husband paint henna tattoos on her bald head, while she lay healing in her hospital bed. I sent her glitter and bracelets and she sent me scarves and heartfelt letters.

The day I chose blue crutches and a shining sapphire wheelchair as my tools for liberation was another step home.

When I learned how to speak to my doctors as an equal, and build a healing team rather than letting anyone with an interest and a medical degree poke all over me – that changed my world.

Slowly, I learned to embody joy.

It’s an ongoing process, I invite you to join me.


I am guest blogging at EsmeWang.com today on managing disassociation, which will be up soon here.

*Quoted from a short story by Terri of wRFA.com

See the disclaimer here


Building a Resilient Business

Read part 1 here and part 2 here.

Running your own business can be a huge challenge, and sometimes it feels like it’s a PhD in patience and confidence, just entering that arena. Running a business while living with a health challenge can seem like it requires a super-power. But many people are turning to entrepreneurship due to chronic illness. It has lots of positives; you can often work from home, set your own hours, take rests in between tasks and make a living doing what you love.

However adding the pressure of work to a life already struggling with pain and exhaustion can be a powder keg. I have been working with chronic illness for several years and in that time I’ve tried the good, bad and ugly in terms of what helps and what doesn’t. I’d love to share the processes that work for me in living and working with illness.

1. Set Up Systems

When you are living with illness it’s likely that your energy is going to be limited. And so anywhere we can save some energy is going to be very useful. Systems are super for the disabled entrepreneur as they save so much time and energy.

Michelle is of course, The Systems Goddess, and if you do one thing, I really encourage you to implement systems.

What are systems? What do you do in your business that you repeat over and over but rely on memory for?

For example, in my company Healing Boxes, we sell boxes of ethical healing goodies for people with illness. And so we need those goodies in stock. When stocks get low, what happens? We need to:

– Notice those stocks are low

– Make a note to order more

– Find the details of the supplier

– Contact them by email or phone

– With all our wholesale order numbers

– And bank details

– And what size order we need

And all that information needs to be written down somewhere. In working with Michelle I developed flow-charts for my business. So now, when I need to do something, I go to the appropriate flow chart and all the information is there, at hand. It’s simple and saves so much fussing, searching for details, trying to remember things and repeating myself!

2. Adopt a Re-Frame Mindset. Turn your problems into possibilities

Write down everything that you think is holding you back right now. This could be: a day job, debt, can’t get a loan to start up, lack of business knowledge, feeling un-confident, having small children and no time, being ill and unable to work, not thinking your idea is good enough, not having support of people around you and so on.

Next we are going to reframe each of those challenges into a positive. For example:

A day job is an asset because…. you get to set up and launch your business without the financial pressure of making it support you from the beginning, as you already have you day-job income!

Debt is a positive because… it’s making you examine and shift your relationship with money (see resources section for more help and info). Can’t get a loan to start up makes your business better because… you have to re-think what you really need to launch and what you can do without. No loan means you are bootstrapping the business – and running on a shoe-string means no loans to pay back and you turn a profit, and can invest money back into your business to grow it so much sooner.

Lack of business knowledge is useful as it means you don’t have any preconceived ideas or aren’t beginning your business based on incorrect information. You are in a perfect position to seek out the best teachers, mentor and allies and learn as you grow.

Feeling un-confident is an opportunity as it allows you to dive deeply into aspects of business like communication, sales, networking and pitching. These are things many people aren’t good at but just get by with. They are essential to any business and you are about to excel in them.

Having small children and no time may seem like it’s holding you back when actually it’s teaching you to work incredibly effectively. Most people waste much of their time. 20% of their time gives 80% of their results. But they waste 80% of their time on inefficient things and procrastination. If you only have 20% of time and energy to work on your business you learn to be incredibly organised and effective. So imagine how much you’ll achieve when your children are older and you have more time but the same level of amazing efficiency? Anyone who has had to look after small children has to be innovative and deal with crises – and these things can be transferred to business.

Being ill and unable to work…. can hold you back, but it can also be a great training ground. Being ill teaches you negotiation (with doctors), patience (when dealing with the benefits systems), how to fill in forms and deal with bureaucracy, prioritisation (when you are ill and can’t do much you learn to do the most important things first). Managing set backs, taking the long view, (you have to do this when living with chronic illness and the skills are needed in business too). I looked at the skills I had learned from managing chronic fatigue, dealing with medical frustrations and the red tape of the benefits system then used the subsequent patience, time management and negotiation skills to help my clients via coaching and training.

I have very limited energy, but that meant that I could focus what energy I had on the things that were most important to my business, and that in turn streamlined all the work I did.

Not thinking your idea is good enough… is actually a bonus as this means you examine it, question it and re-work and refine it until it’s the best it can be.

Not having support of people around you… forces you to seek out mentors and entrepreneurial communities that will support you!

Now you try… list out your problems and how it can actually be a positive. This mindset can take time to develop but it’s a great tool for any entrepreneur!

3. Practice Batching

In an entrepreneur day, one can be a writer, a marketer, a social media strategist and a PR maven, all before lunch. It’s all necessary but doesn’t necessarily have to happen in this way.

We talk about this in depth in The Phoenix Flight School, my upcoming course for entrepreneurs and wouldbe-preneurs with health challenges.

May I introduce you to the awesomeness of Batching.

In an average week (not that my weeks are average, they are totally awesome) I need to do: administrative tasks, client work, content creation, editing, financial tasks, social media contact and more.

If I am getting ready to say, email a newspaper or blog to see if they’d like to feature my writing, I need to:

– Get into the mindset of what the media want.

– Go through my media folders of sample pitches and successful past pitches.

– Get all the contact details of the blog/magazine/outlet I’m pitching.

– Research the blog/magazine and know just what they want.

– Look in my file of ideas and write a pitch tailored to the outlet.

– Focus on my value and feel energetically ready to collaborate with this outlet.

– Write the email and send it.

Personally, I find all the work around this task much more than just the writing of the email. Once I’m in that space, the writing is swift and flowing. It’s getting into that space that takes the time. So once I’m set up in media mode, I write all my pitches. That’s batching.

I batch together similar tasks and do them together to maximise my time and energy.

Why not try and see what works for you?

Read part 1 here and part 2 here.


Building Resilience in Business

Read part 1 here and part 3 here.

Entrepreneurship is not for the faint hearted. It’s like a Phd in patience and positivity combined. But it’s a journey with unique rewards.

I am a social entrepreneur. I’m living with chronic health challenges. I’m working hard on healing and living the best life I can.

We try to balance our challenges and still be successful. I’ve found that to be able do this, or rather to keep doing this, I have to be resilient.

It’s a requirement.

Factors which make up resilience include: a positive attitude, optimism, the ability to regulate one’s emotions, and the ability to see failure as a form of helpful feedback.

According to the psychologist, Susan Kobasa, there are three main elements that resilient people possess:
Challenge. Commitment. Control.

She further explains:

You can develop resilience in several ways. First, take care to exercise regularly and get enough sleep, so that you can control stress more easily. The stronger you feel physically and emotionally, the easier it is for you to overcome challenges.

Focus on thinking positively, and try to learn from the mistakes you make. Build strong relationships with colleagues and friends, so that you have a support network to fall back on. Also, set specific and achievable personal goals, and work on building your self-confidence.

I had to transform. I couldn’t afford not to be resilient.

I had limited energy and I had to learn to use it wisely. When you can only work an hour or a day a week you need to use it effectively.

Click to tweet: Starting up with a health challenge, I knew from the beginning my business had to go beyond just me.

But this can benefit all of us as entrepreneurs. Learning to be resilient now can make our businesses more effective and avoid future problems from stopping us in our tracks.

How to develop resilience in your life and business? I have 5 key teachings to share with you today to help strengthen your resilience:

1. Crises are powerful windows of opportunity.

A crisis cuts out everything unnecessary and you make decisions you have to make. Crises can be an acceleration moment.

When everything falls apart is when you notice what’s important.

Your business is stripped down to the essentials, which is great because you’ve got rid of all the clutter and you are doing just what you need to do.

Taking care of yourself becomes a priority because if you don’t, there aren’t any reserves to fall back on.

There is such a thing as ‘post traumatic growth’, a breakdown can lead to a breakthrough – if we handle it correctly.

You don’t have to wait for a crisis to happen to take action. Image you are stripping your business back to the basics. What’s essential for maintenance, service and growth? Where do you need to put your energy?

You don’t have to wait for the right time to create change. Now is the perfect time because, truthfully, there will never be a perfect time. Now, when you are too busy, when you don’t have enough money, when the children are too young – now. Because now is when it’s needed and today has power and magic in it.

2. Scalable businesses are more resilient.

When I began my business I could work ½ a day per week. That was it. And so from the beginning I couldn’t waste time on social media, ‘networking’, ‘research’ or other worthy sounding time drains. From the beginning I was aware that, as well as being the greatest asset in my enterprise, I was also the greatest liability.

So we created a business that is scalable and systemised.

What does that mean practically?

Scalable – it means that the business can grow bigger, serve more people and earn more money without me having to do more work. I focus on ways of sharing my words that can reach many people at one time – like speaking here, or The Phoenix Fire Academy.

Think as you build, how can I scale this? How can I make it easier for me? Where am I spending my energy needlessly.

We built our businesses on more than just me, we’ve built them on a message.

If I coach women to escape their limits one on one primarily, if I build the Healing Boxes myself, if my work is based on relationships rather than belief then it can only grow as big as I can.

People believe in the ideas behind the businesses we run – they feel ‘other’ and want to Turn Trailblazer or they believe in offering comfort and support and help. It’s not about me, my story was just the catalyst. This is so much bigger than me now, it’s all of us. Your business is bigger than just you, let people believe in your WHY.

Our business is systemised, what does that look like?

What tasks do you do over and over? What are you doing that you rely on memory for? If you died tomorrow, what would happen to your business, to your enterprise and those you serve?

Put systems into place – take 2 weeks, and during that time write down everything you do as you do it. How do you email suppliers (who are the suppliers, where are their addresses stored, who has access) and what do you say? What do you do next? Write it all down. Create a How-To guide for your business. Hand over tasks that someone else can do. Make space for your own life.

3. Start now, don’t wait for the heart attack.

Take care of you. Balance work time with you time and stick to it. Build your emotional tool kit.

I’d like you to take action on this today.

Pick up a notebook and start noticing your thoughts, make a date in your diary to implement systems, ask someone for help and book a weekend (yes, a whole one) off. Taking care can easily become another thing you want to get to one day. But one day might be too late.

Your energy is capital, not an unlimited resource. It’s fuel that needs preserving. You are a powerful precious limited resource. There will only ever be one you and the change you will make is unique and valuable.

We can’t risk losing you. If we are going to make it we need all of us – so begin to build a resilient life today.

By learning resilience now, I am building stronger businesses, a happier life and changing the world from the inside out. I hope you join me.

Read part 1 here and part 3 here.