Gemma Ryan – 15 Months On

Portrait of Gemma Ryan

It’s fair to say that running a business with a chronic health condition has its problems. So re-inventing yourself and starting a new business in the middle of a global pandemic (with a chronic health condition) probably isn’t the best idea, but that’s exactly what Gemma Ryan did and she couldn’t possibly have done it without the help of her support worker and This is Me (she said that herself, we’re not just blowing our own trumpets!).

As a sufferer of M.E. for the past ten years, Gemma has had to take a few twists and turns to get to where she is now. Finding herself unable to work due to her health she decided to become self-employed so that she could feel useful again and it worked, until it didn’t. By two years in she was feeling overwhelmed, stressed, anxious and having regular flares of her illness which were getting harder and harder to control. Just as Gemma was on the

verge of giving in along came with Michelle with This is Me and the rest is history.

The relief Gemma felt from having her support worker to help run her business was instant. Michelle (there’s two Michelle’s which is a little bit confusing but they’re both lovely so it’s fine) and Gemma got along like a house on fire. Michelle (support worker) was able to instinctively see where she needed help and had the knowledge and the skills to get everything back on track. She was able to help Gemma stay focused on her objectives and,

more importantly, to help her find her real passions.

While loving being self-employed, Gemma was struggling to find the motivation in her work as a VA. It was never something that she did because she loved it, it was just something that she was able to do at all. Independence is important but so is job satisfaction, as she found

out. Michelle was able to see that her heart wasn’t quite in it and because they had built up a fantastic rapport, was able to really question Gemma on what it was she wanted to achieve and find out where her passions were centred.

After a few conversations with Michelle and an intense business planning session in January of this year, Gemma realised that writing and mental health were her passions. So what better way to combine the two than to write about mental health and become a copywriter!

Launching a new business is challenging in the best of times but this time it was made even more so by the addition of a global pandemic and a nationwide lockdown! This meant that all of Gemma and Michelle’s planning sessions had to be done online via Zoom and e-mail. It was made even more difficult because Gemma actually managed to catch the coronavirus

and was out of action for several weeks. Fortunately, Michelle was able to keep everything ticking over during that time, ensuring that when Gemma was able to start working again there would be something to actually go back to! Six months later, she now has a flourishing business doing something that she loves and feels passionate about

Without Michelle (support worker) and Michelle (This is Me) none of this would have been possible. Being self-employed is a lonely thing and being self-employed when you have additional challenges is even more so. Knowing that This is Me and Access to Work are there

means that Gemma can continue to grow her new business and continue to raise her profile and raise awareness for mental health while she’s at it!

Being a part of This is Me has changed Gemma’s life. Having that support has allowed her to do what she loves without worrying that a health issue is going to get in the way. She is able to work and be independent and really get excited for the future! If all that can be done in fifteen months, who knows what the next year will bring!