Celebrating Life Despite Bipolar Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Panic Disorder – A Day In The Life Of Nicole
This week I'm sharing Nicole's story. This incredible warrior lives with multiple chronic illnesses including Bipolar Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder as well as undiagnosed chronic pain and fatigue.
Her interview is part of our ongoing series featuring spoonie warriors from around the world, each highlighting the realities of life with chronic illness and invisible disability and how they celebrate life in spite of it all.
I hope their stories will encourage you and help you to see that whatever you are going through, you are not alone. There is an incredibly supportive community of chronic illness warriors online - and I can't wait to introduce them to you!
Please Note: these posts are meant as a testimony of personal experience and are not to be considered as medical advice. Please do your own research and consult with your doctor before making any changes to your care plan.
Bipolar, Anxiety and Panic Disorders, Interview With Nicole
Tell us a bit about you
I'm Nicole, an entrepreneur living in Ohio. In addition to being a successful virtual assistant, I’m also a spoonie who lives with undiagnosed pain and fatigue along with Bipolar Disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder.
What's your proudest achievement?
After six months of deteriorating health (and an unsupportive employer), I quit my dream job because I couldn’t physically handle it anymore. It was one of the scariest decisions I’ve ever made.
After years of hard work, I finished my master’s degree and had worked my way up the ladder to become executive director of the nonprofit I worked for. I was 30 years old.
Back then, I had a side hustle as a virtual assistant. I managed social media accounts for small businesses and did a bit of copywriting. In those first months of unemployment, I did the only thing I knew to do– I created a work-from-home business from my couch.
As an entrepreneur with chronic illness, my journey hasn’t looked like other people’s. I can’t hustle unless I want to end up in bed for days. It took me three years to SLOWLY increase my working hours until I could manage full-time work. But in spite of it all, I make it work every. single. day. I've never worked so hard for anything or been more proud of what's I'm capable of.
What It's Like Living With Bipolar, Anxiety and Panic Disorders
1. What are your main symptoms?
I battle anxiety every single day along with pain and fatigue. I also experience brain fog, muscle weakness, and dizziness.
2. Briefly describe the process you went through to get your diagnosis.
It's been a challenge to receive a diagnosis for my physical issues because of my Bipolar diagnosis. Many doctors mistakenly believe disorders like Fibromyalgia (which is what I believe is going on) are caused by psychiatric issues so they don't take my pain or fatigue seriously.
3. What did a typical day look like before you fell ill?
I was executive director of a non-profit. I was working 60 hours a week at the office and also working part-time as a virtual assistant. In other words, I was always stressed and didn't sleep much. Looking back, it's no surprise that the burnout I was experiencing triggered my first major flare.
4. What does a typical day look like now?
I work from home and have a really flexible schedule. Even though I work full time, I am able to take the time I need for rest, doctor appointments and all of the other things that come from living with chronic illness.
5. What are some of the helpful adjustments you have made at home or at work?
Everything in my life has changed. I now live with family members because for a long time my mobility and energy level was so bad I couldn't care for myself. I had to leave my dream job and start a new career.
My social life is almost non-existant because I'm not able to get out a lot. I try to make the best of my life the way it is now. I've made amazing friends online who understand what I'm going through.
I've embraced my cane and have created a career that works for me. This isn't the life I thought I would have but I've learned to adjust both my lifestyle and my attitude.
6. How do you celebrate life despite your disability/illness?
I celebrate everyday by showing up just as I am. Even though life looks different, I still make time to do the things I love. I bring my cane when I hang out with friends and family. I'll use my wheelchair on vacation. But I try to do as much as I can... even if I need to adapt along the way. I figure that I'll be in pain wherever I am - I might as well be out and about whenever I can.
7. What do you wish the general public knew about your condition?
Living with Bipolar doesn't always look like the extremes you hear about in the media. Many of us are able to function pretty well with medication and the support of a therapist.
8. What advice would you give somebody who is newly diagnosed?
With both my physical and mental illnesses, I've learned to understand what my body is telling me. When you're just getting sick or diagnosed, you need to take the time to truly observe what your body's cues are and what works to help when you've pushed yourself too far.
9. Where can people go to find out more about your condition?
Honestly, TheMighty.com has been such an amazing resource.
Tell Us About The Resilient VA
When and why did you start your blog?
I've been blogging for years but started my most recent blog in late 2018. I started writing about my journey because so many people I've met have asked me how I make entrepreneurship work as a spoonie.
What do you write about?
I write about how to building a business as a virtual assistant while living with chronic illness.
Which is your favourite blog post and why?
Building a business looks a lot different when you have a chronic illness. These are things I had to learn the hard way, so I'm happy to share them with others in the hope they can learn from my mistakes!
Connect with Nicole
More About Life With Chronic Illness
Let's Stay In Touch
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