Julie Ryan: Living well with chronic illness

This week I am extremely excited to introduce Julie Ryan to you, who is living well with chronic illness. For those that don’t know, the Chronic Illness Bloggers Network is the brainchild of Julie, intended to connect bloggers and businesses in the chronic illness community for mutual benefit. Julie also has her own blog called Counting My Spoons.

Introducing Julie

Julie has a few illnesses, the main ones being Fibromyalgia, migraines and Endometriosis. Her symptoms first started in 2008, with Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (or TMJ) which increased her migraine frequency to chronic. Just about the time Julie was getting through treatment for that and doing better, she got hit with the start of Fibromyalgia. It started with a week-long flu-like illness and stabbing eye pain from which she never quite recovered. It worsened, leading to two years of really terrible illness. Julie pretty much spent those two years on the couch, unable to work, not going out and not spending time with friends. She couldn’t stand to be touched.

Luckily nowadays her symptoms of all 3 are largely under control though she still deals with several migraines a month, regular abdominal pain from the Endometriosis and the occasional Fibro flare.

Working for yourself gives you the flexibility you need.

Julie has made huge changes to her life that have led to great improvements. She is working again, in a self-employed capacity, and she went back and finished a degree. Working for herself is the only way she can work. She mentions that she couldn’t manage if she had to work on someone else’s schedule which is a reflection I also make for myself.

Having a chronic health condition means you need the flexibility to be able to set your own hours and break when you need to. If Julie’s having a bad day she shuffles things around to limit how much she has to do and spends that time resting instead.

Financially, she says her health is the biggest expense for her household. Her husband receives a good income and has good health insurance which has been helpful. Also, because she’s been self-employed for most of her life, Julie has been able to create situations where income has always been there even when she was ill.

Balancing your social life is important.

In terms of managing her health from a social perspective, whilst Julie can socialise, she definitely can’t go out every night of the week, or stay out all hours of the night! She has found that lately she can handle staying out later than she used to but she can’t really do that repeatedly. She is still very tentative about making social plans. She tries not to commit to a lot, but rather pencil things in as much as she can so that she has the option to stay home if she needs to without feeling like she’s totally flaking.

She reflects that she spends more time in bed at night than she did before illness or than most people do. She still has limitations in being able to do too much but as long as she keep things in check she does really well.

Diet, exercise and pacing has been enormously helpful.

Diet has been a big contributor in helping to turn her symptoms around and get herself to a better place. In 2012, she started juicing. She also cut out all gluten and tries to avoid most processed foods. In addition to her medication, she also takes a lot of supplements.

She tries to exercise regularly and keeps a regular schedule of getting up and going to bed.

Rest and pacing is hugely important for Julie. She also likes to end the night with a little “me time” – aka, a bath in epsom salts and some quiet time.

I asked Julie in what way her illness has been a good thing. She says lots of ways! Without it, she wouldn’t have started her blog, which led to freelance writing opportunities. Writing is something she would never have considered as a career. She also wouldn’t have started Chronic Illness Bloggers, which lets her use her marketing and sales background to help other bloggers connect with companies who have products and services for those with chronic illness.

Be open to new things.

In terms of advice for others, she says to be open to things. Don’t shut down suggestions just because they sound difficult or like something you don’t want to do. She did that for two years. So many times people suggested food issues as a basis for her illness and so many times she blew them off. When she finally made those changes, she wished so much that she’d listened sooner. She’s not saying that’s the cause for everyone or the fix for everyone, but if you aren’t willing to explore all the options you’ll never find what works.

Thanks for being so candid with your story Julie and providing your advice in what could work for others.

Here’s to many years of better health for you and a whole lot more opportunities to continue to connect with and help people!

The Chronic Illness Bloggers network has been life changing for me so thank you Julie for the opportunity to be a part of it.


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