Running a Business with Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia causes me most pain in my neck and shoulder muscles.

It has been a challenging year with my health, a Chronic Pain Condition called Fibromyalgia. Here’s an overview of how business and Fibromyalgia interact originally posted on my website, but may help others to understand why I am focussing on my clients and taking a temporary Social Media break as posted on my Twitter profile.

The Business is Fine Without Me

Before I get into the detail about how my health is these days, it’s important to emphasise that we have put in place, and are putting in place, things in the business so that it can stand on itself without my input. These things include:

  • Web Design Project-Sharing
  • Staff training so they can do anything I do
  • Internal products being developed to provide additional income streams

So we have a fair number of large projects now and coming through — and I am looking to share those with one of the other people in my development team. This is actually better for clients, as issues can be dealt with 6 days a week and someone can be on hand during those times. It can be me, but it doesn’t have to be.

Client confidence can be maintained when they know that the busines as a whole can support them, regardless of which team member they speak to.

What is Fibromyalgia?

The UK National Health Service define fibromyalgia as

…a long-term condition that causes pain all over the body.

That is overly simplistic, but they do go on to say that people with Fibro may also have issues with

  • increased sensitivity to pain
  • fatigue (extreme tiredness)
  • muscle stiffness
  • difficulty sleeping
  • problems with mental processes (known as “fibro-fog”) — such as problems with memory and concentration
  • headaches

and I have problems with all of these aspects.

How I manage my Fibromyalgia Symptoms

I currently try to manage my chronic health condition through a combination of medication and lifestyle changes. At the date of writing, I take the following medication almost daily:

  • Paracetamol and Ibuprofen
  • Omeprazole to protect my stomach, especially from anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Dihydrocodeine
  • Tramadol
  • Methocarbamol (a muscle-relaxant)
  • Nefopam — for when the pain is really bad

As stress can (and does) increase my pain levels I have had to make myself unavailable to work in evenings and weekends and have recently reduced my working week from five to four days.

Fibromyalgia and Business

Having a job, any job, always comes with a certain level of stress. Often branded as ‘positive pressure’, a certain level of stress alongside urgency factors (like deadlines or solving complex problems) can increase productivity in some people. However in my case, adding extra stress or pressure makes my pain worse, reduces my capacity and consequently makes my stress worse. You can see the cycle.

Running your own business (we have 6 fulltimers and one parttimer at the moment) add extra stresses in: cashflow, VAT reporting, paying wages and rent, getting in enough work, managing your reputation. And that’s before I sit down to do actual project work! So here are the main ways I work and manage chronic pain.

Tip 1: Delegation, delegation, delegation

Where another team member has the skills, or with a bit of training can have the skills, then project work is given or shared with them. This helps our web design and development clients know their work is getting done, and they can talk to someone equally, or more, skilled than me.

Tip 2: Segregation, segregation, segregation

Time management is really hard in business! However, a Fibromyalgia-affected brain really struggles to balance multiple demands, where all seem of equal importance. Sam makes sure that I mostly have one meeting a day and that jobs are broken down into manageable chunks. My responsibility is to focus on the task at hand. That means closing social media and e-mails — both of which can be very distracting.

Recuperation, recuperation, recuperation

Although rest and sleep are not refreshing, they are still vital. So I do my best at work during the day and then I switch off ‘work mode’ in evenings and weekends. That does mean I don’t have e-mails on my phone. And for ‘personal projects’ I actually work on a completely separate part of my laptop’s hard drive. Rest is important.

Medication, medication, medication

My prescriptions will always form a part of my ‘coping mechanism’. This means taking tablets an hour or so before I need to either be alert (say, for a meeting) or to be productive. I almost have to pre-empt my pain levels and take tablets in advance, rather than waiting for the pain to get bad again before medicating myself. This can be hit-and-miss, but I mostly get this right.

TL;DR — Business and Fibromyalgia

I have accepted that Fibromyalgia will be a part of my life for the foreseeable future. I also know it is getting worse as time goes on. Summit Web should outlive me, so we are putting things in place so that, if I cannot work in a few years’ time, the team can carry all our projects and marketing campaigns. A combination of time management, pain management and expectation management is what I have in place now to try and keep me working as long as possible.

Originally published at