Gemma Ryan

Self-Employed Client – Gemma Ryan

Gemma Ryan

Gemma Ryan is on a mission.

A mission to run a successful business and a will to be independent.

Doing this with a chronic illness, however, throws up all sorts of difficulties that most people wouldn’t even think about.

For Gemma, they’re constant worries and seemed insurmountable, that is, until Michelle Dobson came along offering help with her new Employment Agency: This is Me.


Michelle and Gemma had known each other for around a year and a half through a mutual work client and Michelle was aware of some of Gemma’s struggles.

She suffers from M.E. (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis) also known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome which has a wide array of symptoms that can be different for each sufferer.

The main characteristics are:

Overwhelming fatigue unrelieved by sleep or rest

  • Joint and muscle pain

  • Brain fog

  • Cognitive issues

  • Swollen glands

Along with these major factors, there are also other less common symptoms such as:

  • Sensitivity to light and sound along with a stronger sense of smell

  • Short term memory issues

  • Forgetting words or getting them mixed up

  • Muscle tremors

  • Headaches

  • Depression

  • Dizziness

  • Insomnia

All of this means that Gemma is living in constant pain whilst suffering from never-ending fatigue.

This pain can keep her awake at night which makes her more tired and the fatigue means she can’t recover from the pain.

Add in the brain fog and cognitive issues and it all contributes to a depressive state, which causes more fatigue and more pain. It’s a vicious circle.

Because many people don’t know what M.E. is (or simply don’t believe that it’s an illness at all) means Gemma often feels like she’s having to defend herself which in itself causes more depression.

She had to leave her job and stop working for two and a half years because she was unable to think straight or on many days, even get out of bed.

Gemma’s dream was to become a Forensic Psychologist but unfortunately, the illness has prevented her from taking that route.

Feeling unemployable due to the unpredictability of the M.E. and knowing that she had to do something, Gemma made the decision to become self-employed.

This would mean that she would be her own boss and could work the business around her health needs.

She came up with Office Gem, which offers virtual assistance in social media management, content creation and copywriting

This does serve up its own challenges, however.

On particularly bad days when she’s more exhausted than usual and feeling higher levels of pain, even the smallest thing can become a struggle.

The pressure of working to deadlines can be extremely stressful and working individually means not having anyone to share the load.

Having a support worker has made all the difference.

She feels like a weight has been lifted off her shoulders and she no longer feels alone. Gemma meets her support worker Michelle Wade once a week during which time they review the week gone past, and from that, they determine what needs to be done next.

As a team, they decide on a plan for the following week and work out what support is needed. Between each meeting, they stay in contact by phone and e-mail as much of the support can be provided virtually.

From the moment Michelle came on board Gemma felt instant relief.

Loose ends were able to be tied up in relation to previous clients and she was able to take on a new client, which wouldn’t have been possible otherwise.

Michelle has been able to take on all of the tasks that were being neglected and provides a sounding board to bounce ideas off and a clear mind to help Gemma organise her thoughts.

In the long run, she hopes that this could lead to an expansion in the business by building on the client base.

Gemma did struggle in the beginning with letting go of the reins.

She is a self-professed perfectionist who feels like she’s failed when the illness takes over and tasks become impossible.

Learning to ask for help has been difficult but this is improving as the relationship with her support worker grows.

The ‘This is Me’ Agency has changed Gemma’s life.

Help came just in the nick of time as she was about to give up completely because it all felt impossible.

If there was one piece of advice she could give to anyone contemplating it is simply, ‘go for it’.

There is help out there, you just have to ask for it.

If anyone would like some advice on how to go through the process please get in touch.