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#Determination&Disability: Sarah - Crafty By Nature

Girl Tribe Gang’s #Determination&Disability series helps to raise awareness of women with a disability who work for themselves.

The feature is led by GTG’s Disability Champion, Kirsty Meredith, who speaks with women who work for themselves to get the low down on what life is really like running their own business, and living with a disability.

In this blog, Kirsty chats to Sarah from Crafty By Nature and a member of GTG’s Sevenoaks tribe.

KM: Tell us about your disability and how it affects you on a day to day basis.

SB: I live with two chronic conditions: POTS (Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome) and EDS (Ehlers Danlos Syndrome).

EDS is a hypermobility syndrome caused by faulty collagen, resulting in painful joints and nerve issues. POTS affects my whole autonomic nervous system, so regular, every day functions such as breathing, circulation, sleeping and digestion are affected.

The biggest challenge for me lies in the inability to stand for too long, as this causes my circulation to work inefficiently. As a result, my brain doesn’t get sufficient oxygen, which in turn causes my heart to beat abnormally fast, as it’s frantically trying to pump oxygen to the brain. This brings on the feeling of wanting to faint, which often makes me feel pretty awful for the next 24 hours.

For many other POTS sufferers, it does cause them to faint and become prone to constant injury. Travelling by public transport is always a struggle and most notably, standing in queues is often extremely embarrassing, given that I’m close to fainting on most occasions. I would say that fainting in front of the headmaster at my daughter’s new school, was the crème de la crème of all embarrassing situations!

It’s a hidden illness, so most people wouldn’t know if I’m having a bad day or not, but generally, my regular symptoms consist of chronic migraine, insomnia, IBS, a breathing disorder and complete and utter exhaustion.

KM: How does your disability affect you in your business and how do you overcome those challenges?

SB: As I cannot predict how I am going to feel on a day to day basis, I have to be very flexible in my planning. I am still in the beginning stages of creating my new exciting business and I’m keeping my launch date flexible as I have to be mindful that stress will cause my symptoms to flare.

I break up my work into small manageable tasks, where on good days, I will take on the more complex, energetic tasks and on bad days, I will pursue the smaller “quick-win” tasks. If I’m unable to complete the desired workload, my aim is not to become disheartened and on the flip side, if I am particularly productive, it’s a welcome bonus!

I’m also really into self-care. A good diet, lots of water, meditation and lots of sleep make a big difference, especially while I’m trying to launch my business.

Sarah Berthon Girl Tribe Gang

Image Credit: Jane Mucklow Instagram @janemucklowphoto

KM: Tell us about your business and where it all started.

SB: As part of my health plan, I had to completely change my diet and remove all processed foods and replace them with meals made from natural ingredients and I felt so much better for it.

But then I realised that I was still putting a lot of man-made chemicals into my body through the skincare I was using. So I started to look into making my own skincare and eventually did a diploma in formulating natural skincare. My skin has never felt better and I’m really happy to be using products derived from nature on my face and body.

My daughter has really loved helping me make my products and so I decided to launch some make-your-own skin care products and Crafty By Nature was born.

The immediate plan is to sell totally natural make-your-own lip balms and bath bomb kits, where parents get the opportunity to spend quality time with their children making something special. Even when my energy levels are depleted, I can still sit in my kitchen having quality time with my daughter, whilst making lip balms and bath bombs.

I eventually want to launch a skincare range for women, but that will happen when it happens. I don’t want to put too much pressure on myself.

KM: Who is your support network in your business and how have they helped you?

SB: My family have been an enormous support. They have all believed in me and encouraged me from the very beginning. They appreciate that some days might be challenging for me, but they understand the nature of my illness and that is a great comfort.

My family and friends are a great help in trying out my products and giving feedback, it’s a tough job but someone has to do it!

And the Sevenoaks Girl Tribe Gang has been invaluable in giving me the confidence to believe that I can do this, along with meeting some great people and having enjoyable, informative evenings out.

Girl Tribe Gang Sarah Berthon

KM: I believe self-care is really important, particularly if you have a disability as well, how do you manage your own self care?

SB: I really do believe that self-care is incredibly important; in fact, the idea itself has been instrumental in me setting up my own business. I have researched extensively about my conditions and try to do as much as I can to improve my health.

Making sure I listen to my body is really important. If I need to sit down, I sit down, if I need to eat, I eat. I also take care with the type of food I eat, drinking plenty of water and keeping up with some gentle exercise.

I have become a big fan of meditation and mindfulness in the last year and this has been a tremendous help with relaxation and sleep, despite having two young children!

KM: What advice would you give to anyone out there with a disability who is aspiring to work for themselves? 

SB: Go for it! It won’t be easy, but if you truly believe in your business, you can make it happen!

Be kind to yourself and don’t put too much pressure to meet deadlines. If you’re having a bad day, listen to your body and relax when necessary, but just try and keep moving forward.

Even if it takes a while, you’ll get there.

Connect with Sarah

Girl Tribe Gang’s #DeterminationAndDisability feature

In our #DeterminationAndDisability feature, Girl Tribe Gang highlight the stories of incredible women with disabilities who run their own businesses or aspire to quit the 9 – 5.

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