I've been holding off publishing this post for a very long time because it's intensely personal. But I've been unusually AWOL around the web and local meetup groups enough that some people are starting to notice. I'm getting a lot of "where are you? I hope you're ok" messages lately, so I thought I'd fill people in. I've also got a few clients that for sure have noticed a slow down in productivity and deserve an explanation. This post was originally twice as long. No one likes reading epic posts, so I trimmed it to it's current length and may put the other content in follow up posts.
Being a positive thinker, it's taken me a long time to admit this to myself, but I've got Meniere's Disease. It's not life threatening or contagious or anything but it has changed my life considerably.
I started noticing some hearing loss in my early twenties and continued to lose hearing in my right ear to the point it's almost gone. I often get pretty bad tinnitus too, an annoying white noise and ringing in my ear. I used to love singing and playing in bands. My hearing got so bad that I started to have difficulty singing in tune most of the time. I remember being on stage where I was supposed to be singing a duet with a girl. I couldn't find the tune and just stood there silently feeling like an idiot. The last time I sang in public was at a coffee shop. Again, I just couldn't hear the tune correctly in my head and just played instrumentals on my guitar instead. Oh well, I just don't sing in public anymore.
At first the doctors thought I might have a tumor (an immediate family member had a brain tumor removed), but an MRI proved that was not the case.
In the last seven years or so, two or three times a year, I'd get severe vertigo attacks. It totally debilitates me to the point I can't open my eyes without feeling discomfort and cannot stand without falling over. The only thing I can do is lie down in a dark room until the vertigo subsides. The dizzy spells would last one to three hours. I've been in hospital three times because of this.
I was forced to make a career change. I was a truck and construction crane operator and a private pilot with dreams of flying for a living. Needless to say, I can't safely do any of those things anymore. I love web development, so I don't miss the truck driving and crane operating thing one bit. But my heart does ache a little every time I see an airplane flying overhead.
As bad as the dizzy spells are, it's the after effects that bother me the most. For a few weeks after a vertigo attack, I'm in a constant state of nausea, I have 'brain fog' where I have a difficult time focusing on mind intensive tasks and feel very lethargic with no energy whatsoever.
About a month ago, I was downtown meeting a new client for the first time, and a vertigo spell began. An embarrassing first impression. I stumbled out the door and had to crawl to the alley behind a hotel to lie down. I must have looked like a drunken bum. I still don't feel fully recovered.
As I write this, I do worry some existing or potential clients may think, "alright then, we won't be hiring you if we can't depend on you". Perhaps it will negatively affect how potential clients see me, but I believe in full transparency in all my relationships be it professional or personal. I do see light at the end of the tunnel and have a plan for my professional life that I feel really good about. Here it is:
I am no longer a freelancer
I've been trying to get away from the lone freelancer thing for a while now anyways. I don't like being the single point of failure for my clients. I'm no longer rjdempsey consulting, I run the web firm, Katanamite Interactive. I won't work alone, but will work with a team of talented individuals to build large scale web sites.
I'll be looking to hire a few good people to share the work load with. If you're a web designer/developer or business and sales guy with a few spare hours a week, I'm looking for partners, message me.
We'll be extra choosy about the projects we accept
I used to say yes to every project that came along, and happily worked like a mad man to complete them. That's not healthy for anyone. When my work schedule is that jam packed, one vertigo attack and a day of rest would instantly put me catastrophically behind. I've started turning down quite a few jobs and plan on doing only a few projects at a time.
Make my health and well being a priority
There is no known cure for Meniere's disease. There's all sorts of medications and even invasive procedures out there, but many people who suffer from it say that by improving their diet, exercising regularly and keeping stress levels down, they have been able to lessen the occurrence of vertigo attacks or avoid them altogether. I should be caring for my health anyways. So this will be good for me.
I remain optimistic
As I read through what I've just written, I fear I may have painted too grim a picture for myself. It's really not that bad. I really want potential clients to understand I'm not under the effects of Meniere's all the time. The vertigo attacks only happen at the most, three times a year, sometimes only once. It could be a lot worse. There are many people out there with far more debilitating and life threatening illnesses and I feel for them.
So I have to get more help, work smarter not harder, exercise more and eat healthy foods. I was planning on doing that anyways.
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