on self care as a self employed spoonie

Now that I’ve got the good news out of the way re: making a living as a part-time teacher, part-time freelance artist/writer, it’s time for the bad news:

Managing a freelancing schedule that accommodates for the demands of chronic migraine is HARD. Holy Hannah. Props to all of you #spoonies out there who are making it work.

It’s hard at the best of times to convince myself that I should stop and stretch/sit/lie quietly. It’s much easier to keep plowing away at a project, and another, and another, or flop myself on the couch and watch an episode, and another, and another. The alternative is to notice my shoulders up around my ears and my mind is spinning round and round. It’s just easier to ignore.

It’s even harder to slow down when I’m working for myself because TIME IS MONEY. Surely this is is a capitalist, profit-driven phrase designed to trick over-achievers everywhere out of a chance at relaxation, but as a freelancer, it holds some serious meaning: time that I take for self care is literally time I could be using to do money-making things.

Additionally, the excitement of doing my own thing and seeing the fruits of my labour is enough to tempt me down the path of more-work, no-sleep.

The problem with all this time-is-money crap is that, of course, running myself into the ground while I ignore my body means that neurological pain paths get stronger; the pain attacks become more severe; I become more susceptible to subsequent attacks; and I start to undo all the careful work of digging myself out of the pit of despair in the first place. Us folks with chronic pain can not afford to not take care of ourselves. It’s just not practical. I’ve known this all along, but sometimes it takes a super severe attack to remind me.

self care for spoonies

Transition times are hard for everyone. They’re especially hard when you’ve got limited energy and frequent pain. Old people: I feel you. So I’m not going to beat myself up for feeling the way I do; I’ve known for a long time that this chronic pain thing is a game of two steps forward and one step back, and just because I’m having more pain now than I did a few months ago does not mean I’m not making progress. I’m making life changes that are going to be better in the long run, and that’s going to be tricky no matter what.

My next step forward will involve MANDATORY self-care time. Instead of telling myself oh, I’ll get on the yoga mat after I write 300 more words, I will say, I’ll allow myself to write after a minimum of 30 minutes on the yoga mat. There might need to be chocolate incentives too.

As always, Sarah Mangle’s work offers me the perfect advice, exactly when I need it. This new your paid work is not your value is an important reminder that I should shake that tiny subconscious overlord from my shoulder, and do what’s best for me.

Please check out the most recent fruits of my labour: A collaboration with ultra talented artist Jamie Ashforth in the form of a beautiful art calendar that can be ordered online here migrainebrainstorm/shop, or here jamieashforth.etsy.com.

May your week be migraine-free,



  1. ” running myself into the ground while I ignore my body means that neurological pain paths get stronger.” Thank you for that. I’m battling week #6 of having much less energy than normal and still trying to keep up with my normal desk. It’s just not going to happen. And I need to take care of myself. As a fellow self-employed writer with a chronic illness, I tell this to others all the time. But it’s really hard to practice.

  2. I’m currently in grad school and trying to figure out my career. It’s really encouraging and helpful to hear about your experience!

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