[Video] Insights from Chronic Illness and Disability

Hey there, Rising Tiders. Nichole here. Founder and CEO of Nichole Gabrielle & Co., a leadership and culture consulting company that focuses on helping individuals and organizations have the difficult conversations they need to allow their organization and their people to thrive in an equitable, inclusive environment. I am also the Founder and Chief Editor of Melanin + Moxie, a blog and blog community for women of color to stand in their truths, connect with one another and embrace their shine.

Today, I am so excited to be able to share with you some of the insights that I’ve gained through my journey with chronic illnesses and disability in order to help you get through these times so that we can come through stronger and better together.

Lesson One: Feel All The Feels .

The first lesson I’ve learned from dealing with my chronic illnesses and disability is to let yourself feel all the feels. Now, I get it. This sounds crazy. We live in a society where you are supposed to grin and bear it, where you keep your chin up and just soldier on, but I’m encouraging you to take this time to pause and to actually think about how is it that you’re feeling, what are you dealing with, where can you use support, and who can you reach out to for that support. 

Maybe journaling or talking to a friend or meeting with a therapist are the best ways for you to grapple with the things you’re feeling right now. I encourage you to take the time to do that, and when you have done that, to share what you’re feeling with your customers because your customers are likely feeling the same thing as well.

We are all going through this together and we may all be facing different levels of severity of this pandemic, but it doesn’t change that we’re all scared, we all are uncertain of what the future holds, and we all are feeling a large disruption in our everyday lives. So reach out, talk to people, tell them, remind them, that there is a person behind your business and remind them that person has the same struggles that they do.

Lesson Two: Find your people.

Second thing I’ve learned from dealing with chronic illnesses and disability is to find your people. There are people in your life who may have been great for a season of your life and may not be the best to go to in this season. And that’s okay. You are not going to be for everyone and that is okay. Get okay with finding the people who are going to cheer you on. The people who will sit with you through hard things, who will listen to you when things are tough, who will cheer for you when you’re doing great, roll up their sleeves when you need help, find those people and love on those people.

It’s really important that we are celebrating one another during this difficult time, that we are leaning into each other instead of pulling apart, that we are letting go of of the people who can’t understand the struggle we’re going through or can’t understand why we can’t just get over it and move on. It’s hurtful and it’s hard but it’s important to focus your energy on those people who are showing up and who are trying to understand you.

So find your people– Rising Tide groups, Tuesday’s Together groups, Facebook fan groups, book club groups. Those are all great resources to find your people during times when we can’t physically be in person with one another. So reach out, and lean in, and let us support each other through these times.

Lesson Three: Ask for what you need.

The third thing I’ve learned through my struggles with chronic illnesses is to ask for what you need. This one can also be really difficult. We are not taught to speak up for what we need, to ask for help, but it’s really important that we take time to realize that this is not business as usual and we can’t act like it’s business as usual.

In fact, what we need to do is really zero in on the things that are most important. What needs to get done. Not,  “would I love it if my home looked a little bit cleaner?” but what really needs to get done today. And then ask yourself, “What do I need to get those things done?” And it may take adjusting your own expectations. It may take adjusting the expectations of others and saying, ”You know what? I know we thought pre-pandemic that this would be done in a week, but actually it’s going to take a little bit longer and here’s why.” Adjust your expectations and adjust others expectations of you so that you can get more of what you need. Maybe you need more time for a nap. Maybe you need to make sure that you’ve eaten something or that you are recharging your own battery.

One of the things that’s really important to remember during this time is that we have to be able to fill up our cups. There is so much on our plates. There is so much to do and so much that’s uncertain and weighing and you are being pulled in a million different ways. Find time, even if it’s five minutes, to check in with yourself and to do something that helps fill your cup. Maybe that thing that you need is five minutes of meditation, or a shower where your kids don’t bother you for 5 to 10 minutes, or maybe what you need is a cup of tea, and, you know, a good meal. Figure out what you need and ask for it and be open to encouraging others to do the same.

Now, quick caveat is that not everyone is going to be able to give you everything you need when you need it, so it’s really important to make sure that your toolkit of-for filling your cup includes things that you can do for yourself if no one’s around. For me, for example, that means that I have water, my heating pad, my medicines and my phone right by my bed all the time for days that I can’t get out of bed. This way, I can stay connected stay hydrated and take my medicines even if I need to wait to get the help I need.

Lesson Four: Know your worth. Remember your worth.

It is so easy when you’re thrown off your routine to forget what you’re worth, to forget what you bring to the table, to forget why and how you are so valuable, and why and how we need your talents. One of my favorite tricks to try and combat this is to practice affirmations.

When I first started doing this I felt insane, but I have to say that over time it really has helped to come back

and lean on these different affirmations during difficult times. For instance, one of my favorite affirmations is, “I can do hard things.” I will repeat this to myself all day, especially on days when I’m having a really difficult time, either physically or emotionally, and it does help. It’s not the cure-all, but find ways that you can remind yourself. Maybe it’s prayer. Maybe it’s journaling. Maybe it’s putting post-it notes all over your mirror that remind you how incredible you are and of all the incredible things you’ve done. But remind yourself how worthy you are because we need you.

We need you to show up. We I need you to keep shining your light so that we are encouraged to shine ours too and so that we can all, together, get through the other side.

Lesson Five: Carry these lessons forward.

The fifth thing I’ve learned from my chronic illnesses is also a call to action as well as a lesson. Take the things you’ve learned, the things you’ve struggled with the emotions you’ve dealt with and let them change you. Carry them with you even when we do get to the other side because we will get to the other side.

It may not feel like it all the time, but we are making progress. And when we do get through this pandemic,

we need you to show up with the lessons you’ve learned and to share them widely, to keep uplifting the voices of the people who helped you through. Listen to the people who have been dealing with self-isolation because of their disabilities and take their lessons and share them, blast them to the world because there’s no need for those gems to go unheard or ignored any longer.

I implore you to take these lessons and use them to make your business more accessible and more inclusive. Let it change the way you approach your business, way you think about who you can serve and how you can serve because together if we actually listen to the experiences of those around us, the experiences of those who have been marginalized and largely overlooked, and we let those lessons change us then we can be the change the world needs.

Want more content like this? Join the watch parties on The Rising Tide Facebook page and check our Coronavirus Resource Hub for Small Businesses.

Nicole Beiner Powell-Newman

I’m the Founder and CEO of Nichole Gabrielle and Co., a leadership and culture consulting group dedicating to helping have the hard conversations necessary to foster equitable, inclusive environments in our businesses and our communities. I also run Melanin + Moxie, a blog and blog community for women of color. I’m a passionate social justice advocate, foodie, and a (recovering) attorney.

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