Timm Cleasby Photography
Pippa Stacey is a chronic illness blogger known for her honest posts about living with ME (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis), also known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, as well as sharing her passion for theatre. Like me, Pippa works as a freelancer but each and every one of us has a different experience, and therefore different advice to share, so today I’m so excited that Pippa has shared her wisdom with us!
ME/CFS is a neurological condition that can affect multiple systems in the body, Pippa accurately calls it an “energy limiting chronic illness”. Common symptoms can be fatigue, widespread pain, multiple allergies and more, but the condition affects everyone in vastly different ways. “Not everyone with the condition is well enough to work or live independently, but the one thing we all have in common is the need to be mindful and proactive in planning how we use our limited energy”, Pippa shared with me. I think this is something a lot of people living with chronic pain or chronic illness can relate to, constantly needing to manage our energy levels and plan our days accordingly. You can learn more about Pippa’s personal chronic illness story on her blog.
Pippa told me how she had a difficult time finding accessible employment once she graduated from university in 2016, “I knew I needed to work from home with reduced, flexible hours”. She found her way into the charity sector and gained experience in digital marketing and community management roles, but she knew that self employment made the most sense for her.
Like me, Pippa has slowly and carefully increased the amount of self employed hours she works, until she reached a point where she could go completely freelance. “Without careful pacing, I wouldn’t be able to work at all. One of the hardest things I’ve had to learn (and which still frequently trips me up these days!) is the importance of resting before you feel like you really need it”. Pacing is something that we talk about a lot here at the Leva Clinic, and we all know that it’s not always straightforward, but when used in the right way, it can be life changing.
Pippa shared with me how it can sometimes be difficult to strike a balance between being ambitious and still looking after her health. “The world still has a long way to go in recognising the talent and potential in the chronic illness community and developing more robust and genuinely inclusive systems for working, but in the meantime, I’ve realised that I don’t necessarily have to choose between a thriving career or a well-managed health condition. If you’re patient with yourself and brave enough to be honest about your needs, and you learn how to use your energy in the smartest way you can, there is almost always a way of taking tiny steps forward”.
Pippa has found accessible work in the shape of being a freelancer, and working with Astriid, a small charity who support people living with chronic illness to find accessible employment. The charity provides an online platform that matches people with meaningful work based on their talents and ability. They also provide accessible training, work experience, and mentoring too.
Finding accessible work can often be one of the biggest hurdles to face when you live with chronic pain or illness, and I think sometimes just hearing about success stories can really show you what can be possible. It was seeing other people like Pippa succeeding in their career that pushed me to pursue the career I wanted, in a way that suits my chronic pain and life. As Pippa said, it’s all about taking tiny steps forward.