I accidentally ghosted a client

A reader asks:

I recently took on a freelance web design project at an hourly rate.

However, I ran into some issues that I hadn’t anticipated having to deal with, and my anxiety got the better of me after we had to cancel a meeting a few weeks ago, and I haven’t responded to any communication since then. (I am in treatment for the anxiety.)

I need to respond to my client’s messages of increasing intensity, but I need some advice on what to say about the whole thing when we do meet up. I am not proud of my work (not the actual product, but the whole experience), and I don’t want to sound like I’m making excuses. How do I finish this project up in the classiest way possible in the hope of still preserving at least a friendly rapport with this person? (Also, I do not think I should charge her the full amount of the work that I have done/am going to do.)

I answer this question over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

{ 60 comments… read them below }

  1. Clefairy*

    Ugh, I feel for the OP- the task paralysis that comes with Anxiety/ADHD/etc is SO real, and so impossible for neurotypical folks to understand outside of the “Just do it/stop being lazy” realm. I don’t have advice for the OP, but I have been there, and I know how much it sucks to be in that space. Usually once you can force yourself to rip the bandaid off, it’s not as bad as you built it up to be, and I hope that this is the case here too- I bet it is!

    1. Person from the Resume*

      This is so true! I had one thing I put off for a couple of weeks, that I promised to get to by Friday, and then didn’t work on before or on Friday, thought I might do it over the weekend, and finally ended up doing it this morning. Now I’m relieved b/c I sent the email before the customer could ask again.

      It sucks! It feels scary, but I nearly always feel relief when I get it off my back.

      1. Whyamihere*

        I need to renew my registration. Because of this now I have to go to the dmv to fix it. Thursday I have an appointment with a doctor to start the process to find my diagnosis. I put that off for 4 months

    2. Rachel*

      Two things are true at the same time:

      (1) it sucks to be neurodivergent and encounter task paralysis

      (2) as a client, if I am hiring somebody and they stop communicating with me, I will likely cancel and move on.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        And even if you later find out that there’s a good reason behind the silence, you will choose a consultant/vendor who doesn’t do that. Because the communication is part of the work product.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          The communication is part of the work product.
          This is so true. And in both directions–if a client is bad at giving directions or answering my questions, I am less likely to work with them going forward.

      2. ina*

        I suffer from task paralysis and it has caused me SO much trouble…for no reason. Often the task I am putting off is usually not even challenging — my brain really just refuses to do it, even though I CAN do it and easily if my brain would just…let me.

        However, what I realized from every time was that the timeline can or could be pushed — what people were most annoyed by was the lack of communication and honesty. It only comes off lazy because you radio silenced them and then when you emerge, you have nothing to show as if you were just doing nothing and not dealing with something slightly out of your control. Part of working through this, for me, was finding ways to communicate properly. Okay, I can’t do it…but I need to find a way to make sure the person waiting on me doesn’t suffer in limbo. It’s easy to want sympathy and ultimate understanding for having anxiety but ultimately you have to make it work, as hard as it is. Most people are understanding. The ones that aren’t will always be jerks, product on time or not on time.

    3. Kes*

      Also, having been there, I do find sometimes it helps to remind myself that a) dealing with it right then probably won’t be as bad as you think, and b) dealing with it later will be worse, so it’s better to push through. Feels so much better once it’s not hovering over you anymore.
      Sometimes I also break it down, like ‘at least start writing the email now’. Often I then end up writing the whole thing and then (potentially after a bit more overthinking), send it

      1. Emmy Noether*

        Yes! My way out of these spirals is to pick a really small task, one where I don’t have to communicate with anyone (just find that email, or print out that document,…), and set that as the *only* goal for the day. About 2/3 of the time, making any kind of progress will break the spiral enough that I can use the emotional boost to do the next step also.

  2. Falling Diphthong*

    As a freelancer, I really endorse everything Alison answers. Radio silence makes it so much worse; it’s very important that you hit everything you promised; apologize once, fully, no excuses and then don’t keep coming back to it.

    I’ve also observed this from the employer’s side, where I’m asked if I can take on the radio silent person’s work as the company assumes something terrible must have happened… but they need the project to move forward and after 1-2 weeks of radio silence (with deadlines within those weeks) they just want to figure out how to actually finish this project, which is to get someone else to take over the missing person’s work. The company really would have been so much happier, and understanding, with a quick “My mom just had a heart attack (or “a health emergency has come up”); I need to withdraw and won’t be available for the next month” or “I am so sorry, I realize a week in that I cannot do this work, I can hand over my initial work.”

    The company mostly cares about knowing whether the work is going to appear or not.

    1. Sloanicota*

      I also realized, just personally, that problems of this kind meant I wasn’t well suited to freelancing. The anxiety of every job being as an unknown with no benefit of the doubt was exacerbating to my anxiety (as opposed to having a job where they know you and you can sometimes get some slack based on all your great past performance). Unless you are in a repeat client situation, which I rarely was, there’s no slack for contractors.

      1. Ellie Rose*


        It really sucks when you can’t do the job you’re in because of something like anxiety, but unfortunately, it sucking doesn’t make that less true.

        There are times when reasonable accommodations will make something work out, and there are times when it unfortunately cannot.

      2. Filosofickle*

        It’s so important to know yourself. A lot of things about freelancing don’t work for my ND self. The one that’s the most debilitating for me is following up on leads — I fail to follow up on most referrals and proposals TBH. It’s totally paralyzing. That would point to not being self-employed! And yet, what I gain is more control over how much I work (typically half-time or less) as well as where (home) and for whom (only clients I like). And, yes, I’ve actually been able to do that! The ability to work fewer hours is the accommodation I need most — avoids overwhelm and provides a time cushion to work around bad spots — and freelancing is the only way I’ve figured out to earn a full salary at half time. So I have to deal with the other kinds of anxiety that come with self-employment. It’s a tradeoff.

    2. Dona Florinda*

      Totally agree.

      Also, when you realize that for whatever reason you can’t finish the work, it’s nice to recommend another freelance who can do it. It’s a good way to avoid burning a bridge with the employer while also mantaining a good relationship with peers. (That is, if you have a trusted colleague you can recommend)

  3. Falling Diphthong*

    Two personal freelancer examples of withdrawing from work:
    I was supposed to have a lead role on a project starting in a month, when I got called back in on a mammogram. So for a few weeks I said nothing to the employer, as “whew, it’s not cancer!” was on the table. Once that was off the table, I told the company I couldn’t do the project and why. They were really understanding, wished me the best, etc. No one was angry.

    After my last round of surgery, desperate for normal again, I went back to doing too much too fast, and accidentally wound up overbooked just as my mother had a stroke, from which she would not recover. My body was like “Well if your health goes off another cliff, then you’ll slow down” and I had to withdraw from all my projects. Which was embarrassing and I felt bad, but it was very clear I couldn’t handle this. Again, people were understanding–the main thing, to them, was that I told them what I would and would not get done by what dates so they could make alternate plans.

    While people are more understanding if you have a great excuse like “Well I have cancer and might die” the main thing, for them, is to know what work won’t get done by me. The effort on the company’s part needed to replace me is the same no matter how great or lousy my excuse for backing out of the agreement.

    1. Sangamo Girl*

      I’ve been there too OP and it’s a terrible feeling. My logical brain knows *exactly* what to do, but my anxiety brain just won’t listen. My internal dialog is exactly what so many commenter are saying. “Just do it. Pick up the phone. The longer you wait, the worse it will be.” Alas, logic doesn’t matter when I’m having a bad episode.

      And I have to say, the pandemic made it worse for me. Spending several years afraid I or someone I love could die, didn’t help. I know this is an old letter,but you are in my thoughts OP.

    2. The Person from the Resume*

      I agree.

      I know it’s tricky because the LW probably kept telling herself she’d do it and then reply to the client with “here it is,” but a lot of the time communication about the delay is so much better than radio silence. The uncertainty and inability to adjust the plan is a large part of the frustration.

  4. Seahorse*

    Having been on the client side, please contact them! (Yes, I know this letter is old. It’s a generalized recommendation.) I get that things come up and life gets in the way sometimes, but it’s frustrating to be left hanging.

    Do I keep bugging the vendor? What if they had a major emergency, and I’m being demanding while they’re in the hospital or something? Do I try to find another person to complete the work and risk being financially on the hook for double booking? Will they be offended and make a big fuss if I go with someone else? When do I need to contact people on my end to say my own work will be late?

    A delay with clear communication* is manageable and wouldn’t hurt the relationship for me. Going silent, even with an eventual discount, mostly guarantees I won’t work with someone again. I won’t judge them as a bad human, but I will deem them too unreliable for work purposes. I’m not interested in shaming anyone or watching them shame themselves, but I need the work done. As someone who also struggles with anxiety, I am sympathetic, but I can’t manage that for anyone else, nor do I really want to hear about it in a professional context.

    *You don’t owe a detailed explanation. Just say in some form that something unexpected and unavoidable came up, and then provide an updated timeline or an option to cancel the contract.

    1. Toolate12*

      Agreed with this – in a different (non-freelance) context, I was working with a couple of people in a different division who volunteered to help with a project. I had to get everything on my plate done before I left for two weeks, but didn’t really hear from them. It’s absolutely ok they couldn’t do it – I heard after the fact they both had health issues – I just would have needed to know at an early point to be able to push through myself and get it done on a weekend before I left (was slammed with other projects during that time). As it was, someone else in my division was an angel and helped pick up slack.

      I absolutely don’t bear ill-will towards them – we are friends, they were sick – but I think I’m going to be more careful about my expectations for their contributions and may set up plan Bs in future.

    2. Samwise*

      Yep, just had this situation with a lawyer. Long periods of silence punctuated by an occasional “I’ll get those documents to you end of day today, tomorrow morning at latest!” “I’ll have those to you by Wednesday!” “I’m jumping on it right now, you’ll have it soon!”

      I finally just retained another lawyer. Haven’t heard anything back in response to my “cancel my documents” email. I guess I hope they don’t work on my documents?

    3. Elle Woods*

      I agree wholeheartedly. Silence is not golden cases like these. I’d much rather hear, “Something’s come up and there will be a delay in completing the project” or “I can’t complete this project,” than to be left hanging. I don’t need–or want–a detailed explanation.

  5. sofar*

    We recently hired a freelancer to do some design work. The freelancer went radio silent for a couple weeks and missed deadlines. I reached out and was like, “Hey, I don’t want to pry, but if you can let me know if you can complete this project or not, I’d be grateful. I’ll absolutely take no for an answer. As an alternative, let me know a deadline that would work for you, and we’ll try again.”

    The freelancer responded she was “dealing with some stressful things” and would be grateful for a deadline extension.

    She got it done by that second deadline and we paid her the full, agreed-upon amount.

    But we obviously never worked with her again.

    1. Sloanicota*

      Yeah, it really shouldn’t have been on you the client to manage her and her feelings, but you did it very well. I was a freelancer and it was always my goal to be easier to hand things off to than keeping it in-house, so being low-friction and not needing a lot of guidance or hand-holding was part of my goal / business model … which also meant I really beat myself up when stuff went wrong.

  6. Greg*

    I’ve never had this exact scenario, but I can definitely empathize with the doom cycle of procrastinating on a response, with each delay making it that much more awkward to send the email. What I try to do in those situations is tell myself that the best day to respond is today, and the second best day is tomorrow.

  7. learnedthehardway*

    I would respond asap, and tell the client that you have had a health emergency that has prevented you from being in contact. It’s true. They do NOT need to know the reason. If they think you went hiking, fell down a cliff and were only rescued yesterday, that’s ideal.

    The point is to get back on track, and to not look unreliable. Do acknowledge the inconvenience to the client, and if you cannot do the work, tell them so they can make other arrangements. If you CAN do the work, set some priorities and deadlines for when you will have it done, and communicate these to the client.

    As someone self-employed, who has occasionally had major life events disrupt my work, client communication is very important. The clients who I have prioritized being in touch with – even when my life was a shambles – have been generally accommodating, or able to structure things so that I can be successful for them. The ones that haven’t – thinking pointedly about the ex-client that asked me why I had refused a meeting the day of my mother’s funeral – well, they haven’t been worth holding onto.)

    1. Jaydee, who should take her own advice*

      Adding to this, make sure the timeline you give them is *reasonable.* Overpromising will only make it worse when you realize you can’t perform and will make your anxiety-brain feel inclined to ghost again. Don’t say “oh, I can have that for you by Friday” if you know it will take 25+ hours of work and rely on you hearing back from 3 people, one of whom happens to out of the office this week. Promise it by *next* Friday and then you might be able to pleasantly surprise them by having it done on Wednesday instead.

  8. Researchalatorlady*

    I take a bit of exception to the title here, realizing it is an old and general letter. Ghosting someone accidentally would be if you thought, say, you had been sending them emails and then realized you had a typo in their address and they’d been vanishing into the ether for weeks. Deliberately being nonresponsive to someone’s “messages of increasing intensity” is… ghosting on purpose. That may not be the intent of their feelings toward the client, but I thinj it is fair to see that it is the effect of their behaviour.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      The title gave me pause, too. Accidentally ghosting might be when we had a miscommunication about whether I uploaded the last part of the project. So from my perspective, they haven’t heard from me because I finished the work. Or I thought I had sent that email but apparently got interrupted, or it went to the land of undercover emails that will suddenly pop out in three weeks pretending nothing happened. But I wouldn’t be ignoring emails from them asking about the project status.

      “Accidentally” ≠ “I feel bad about the consequences to you of this thing I am doing.” It’s another example of how not owning the problem makes it worse in the eyes of those affected.

    2. Chairman of the Bored*

      I’m sympathetic to LW’s difficulties, but if a contractor missed a communication deadline and then opted not to respond to my repeated escalating emails I would take a very negative view of them describing that as an “accident”.

    3. Bunny Lake Is Found*

      Yes. I would put this closer to “Had a severe mental block and was basically unable to respond to the communications”– Like ending up in the hospital with appendicitis and just being too stressed to say to someone “Hey, in the hospital.” It’s not that it isn’t understandable, but it isn’t really an accident.

    4. Lexi Vipond*

      This is the second time in a couple of days that someone has taken exception to the title, which I’m 100% sure was written by Alison in each case.

      But accidental presumably in the sense that there was no conscious decision not to reply ever, just going on not replying right now until suddenly it’s been a long time without a reply.

      1. Kes*

        Yeah, I think it’s exactly this – it’s accidental in the sense that they weren’t deliberately like ‘yeah, I think I’ll just ghost them’, it’s more that they don’t feel up to replying today and if they can just get it done tomorrow they can reply then… and then the longer it goes the harder it becomes to break that wall and reply because now it’s a bigger thing.
        Also, the effect is ghosting either way, but intent absolutely determines whether it’s accidental or not. They didn’t have deliberate intent to indefinitely not respond, that’s why it’s accidental, but the effect is still that they ended up ghosting the client.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          I think this is one of the many times when focusing too much on intent is a mistake. (And leads to more delays as OP hopes that maybe they can have a really great update in two days if they just really buckle down tomorrow and… then it doesn’t happen.)

          The main thing the other party needs from you is communication about what is happening–whether you can complete the project at all, and if so on what new deadline. In practice, whether the delay is caused by events no reasonable person could hold against you (e.g. you were unconscious in the hospital) or events totally in your control (e.g. you haven’t gotten off page 3 because you’ve been frozen in an anxiety spiral) doesn’t change what they need to do, which is to reassign the work.

          I think there’s a lot of paralysis in “If I can only somehow turn my delay into a good reason anyone would empathize with, then they will realize I didn’t intend any harm and I won’t get in trouble or damage the relationship” and that is not going to break you out of the loop of putting off communicating. The intent won’t get better if you just wait another week.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            “In your control” isn’t the right phase for the anxiety spiral. What I’m getting at is things that you establish as known knowns of working with you–if you can’t hit deadlines or become uncommunicative, that’s a negative whatever the underlying reason. When you have a past history with the client where these problems didn’t happen, they’re more likely to believe this is a rare one-off.

            Freelancing demands a certain skill set, and if you really struggle with one of those–say you can’t hit self-imposed deadlines for early stages, or you go silent when anxious, or you need a moderate level of in-person human interaction in your day to remain productive–then the job won’t be a good fit for you.

      2. Allonge*

        I think that is just how ghosting works in any context in a lot of cases. Sure, there are occasions when someone goes non-communicative based on a firm decision, but the not today… or today… or today… oops, it’s been two years is very much a thing.

      3. ina*

        I think this is splitting hairs on the definition of an accident. Accident implies a lack of control or conscious desire for that thing to occur. OP knows very clear and well they should be replying, even recognizing the increasing urgency of messages. I think Alison should have titled it as it was “I ghosted a client” – accidentally ghosting, to me, would imply you missed their message(s) completely or the were sent to spam or “I opened the message, got distracted, and totally forgot to reply” something more of this nature. However, OP is getting multiple and registering them as needing a reply…and isn’t. It’s the disconnect between OP’s knowing (and frankly, they’re responsibility to follow up with their client in general anyway) and lack of action. They haven’t forgotten to reply…they just aren’t.

  9. Toolate12*

    I have absolutely experienced this anxiety paralysis before (especially when I was in school) and it used to fill me with incredible shame – in fact, I *still* feel shame about who I was then.

    However, I’m happy to report that it’s gotten better as I’ve gotten older. Things that helped me:
    -> I don’t really care as much as I used to that my work product is perfect or even very good, I just want something *done,* especially if there’s time built in to revise/improve later
    -> first point notwithstanding, I also have more confidence that my work product actually *is* good, or better than what most people could do, even when it’s not totally perfect or complete – I developed this over a few years of experience
    -> while I still care a lot, I care a lot *less* what people think of me and am generally more secure in myself – generally, I work to put myself in situations where I don’t completely *need* just one person – perhaps paradoxically, this helps me navigate those situations where conflict might arise, because I always think in my head “I can just walk away”
    -> I chunk work and set up check-in frameworks early and often where I can. E.g., “take a look at this outline of my future work,” “look at this draft and let’s talk through it,” “let’s set up regular meetings where we commit to have X done,” etc. (this depends on your client actually caring about what you are developing – sometimes this is true, sometimes it’s not)

    1. Toolate12*

      More advice (this may not be for OP’s specific situation, but for anyone experiencing project paralysis, anxiety, and the accompanying shame – I have been there!!):
      -> accountability – at the start of a project, I try little mental games to trick myself into believing everyone is paying attention to what I’m doing (and especially when I’m not doing something I should be doing) while I’m doing the work. This is stuff as small as working at a coffee shop around other people instead of at home (or even coffee shop noises work if I’m at home), working in a room with windows rather than one without, etc. I trick myself into thinking that if a stranger might see my screen they’ll know when I’m screwing around (I know it’s not true but I still believe it a little bit!).
      -> this might be a little maladaptive, but – if you are anxious like me – I channel my anxiety into a kind of half-belief that if I don’t meet my deadlines, it will be a public catastrophe (this is usually not completely true, which a part of me also knows), coupled with a belief that it’s better to have something half-done than something perfect. Usually this pushes me really hard to meet deadlines, including internally set preliminary deadlines

      1. Pajamas on Bananas*

        *-> I don’t really care as much as I used to that my work product is perfect or even very good, I just want something *done,* especially if there’s time built in to revise/improve later*
        * it’s better to have something half-done than something perfect. *

        So for me a great starting point was “Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.”

        It was a bit nebulous, but the thing that fleshed it out for me was GETMO. You GETMO done by doing your tasks Good Enough To Move On.

  10. DrSalty*

    The golden rules for dealing with client-facing mistakes:
    1. Own up to it proactively and apologize
    2. Say what you will do to make it right
    3. Say what you will do to keep it from happening in the future
    4. Follow through with whatever you promised in steps 2-3

    It doesn’t always work, but if you show the client you’re taking it seriously and won’t let it happen again it goes a long way towards restoring your credibility and keeping the relationship.

    Honestly those are good rules for dealing with mistakes in any aspect of life … #1 is hardest part, once you’ve done that the other things come easier.

    1. Somehow_I_Manage*

      The other great thing is that the relief you feel after dealing with it is so good. Even when it goes badly, at least it’s done and you don’t have to waste mental space worrying about it anymore. Once you get into a pattern of doing the right thing, it becomes easier as you build trust with your clients.

      1. DrSalty*

        Yes! Also usually people aren’t mad, they are understanding and willing to work with you. Once you have that experience a few times, it gets easier the next time.

  11. Jess R.*

    As someone who has DEEPLY struggled with this same thing in some side freelance work I do, I’ve found that one of the most helpful things is to have an email template saved as a draft that basically says “I’ve run into a problem, I won’t be able to finish by the deadline, here’s how much more time I anticipate needing.” The shame-procrastination-freeze spiral is still working overtime, but if I can make the hardest task as logistically simple as possible and not even expect myself to form coherent sentences, just fill in dates, then I have a better chance of actually reaching out when the problem happens, not uhhhhhh after the deadline already passed.

  12. Sangamo Girl*

    I’ve been there too OP and it’s a terrible feeling. My logical brain knows *exactly* what to do, but my anxiety brain just won’t listen. My internal dialog is exactly what so many commenter are saying. “Just do it. Pick up the phone. The longer you wait, the worse it will be.” Alas, logic doesn’t matter when I’m having a bad episode.

    And I have to say, the pandemic made it worse for me. Spending several years afraid I or someone I love could die, didn’t help. I know this is an old letter,but you are in my thoughts OP.

    1. Aerin*

      When my symptoms are bad, I get really avoidant about the things I struggle to do. And yeah, I know that it will be better if I just do the thing. I know. I KNOW. Yet when I try specifically to make myself do it, my brain will crash to desktop and I just sit there staring at my hands for a while until I give up and do something else.

      There aren’t really solutions, just strategies you can cycle through as they stop working. One thing I’ve tried to keep in mind is that when it gets really bad, like risking professional consequences bad, it’s usually a sign that I need to talk to my doctor about adjusting my meds because they’re clearly not working.

  13. Beth*

    This kind of thing is exactly why I know I could never cut it as a freelancer. There’s a whole skill set attached to freelancing that’s completely separate from whatever actual service you’re providing: soliciting clients, communicating unwelcome news like delays in a timely and professional way, tracking finances and pestering people for past-due payments, etc. I’ve tried it before and it makes me so anxious and stressed that I struggled even to do the actual services I wanted to offer–the things I was already good at in a less stressful context!

    All of you self-employed readers out there: I hope you know how impressive you are, to both do the job you do AND do all the business management around it.

    1. Aerin*

      Yes, there’s all these people who will tell me “Oh, that thing you do is so cool, you should monetize that!”

      And I just stare at them like “Do you KNOW how many other tasks are involved in that? Any idea the level of output you need to provide to stay competitive? Looked into how competitive the market is? Because… yeah.”

  14. gsa*

    The only thing I read from this letter was anxiety. Quote, “(I am in treatment for anxiety.)”

    I did not read anything else about ADHD or any neuro-type diagnosis.

    Did I miss something in the letter?

    1. Hlao-roo*

      Are you referring to Clefairy’s comment (“the task paralysis that comes with Anxiety/ADHD/etc is SO real”)? I don’t think that Clefairy meant the letter writer had anxiety and ADHD, just that anxiety can lead to task paralysis, ADHD can lead to task paralysis, etc.

  15. gsa*

    All I heard the letter writer mention was anxiety.

    “(I am in treatment for anxiety.)“

    Did I miss something?

  16. Wendy Darling*

    I have absolutely done this, I am SO bad for avoiding answering emails or whatever because I got stuck on something and then avoiding them because I feel awkward about how long it’s been.

    In general one thing that helps me is giving myself permission NOT to provide a perfect explanation for what happened. In general I just go with “So sorry for the delay!” and then launch into the actual business of my response. The truth is most people don’t really care much why you took a while to respond. They’re just glad you responded.

    Maybe like 2% of the time the person will follow up asking what happened and I’ll say something like, I had a health issue and got snowed under for a bit but it’s all cleared up now. (Anxiety is a health issue!) But usually they’re just happy to get back to it.

  17. Somehow_I_Manage*

    This may be too big a hill to climb- but if I found myself in this position, I would opt for a phone call rather than an email (at least as my first attempt to contact my client). I usually find that folks are more understanding over the phone, and it’s also much easier to pivot to the future (“Looking forward, I can offer a deliverable date of X. How does that align with your needs, and how can we work together to get you where you need to be?”). It allows you to show them some love, make it clear that you care, and build a closer relationship. At the end of the day, although our company doesn’t always perform flawlessly, I try to make sure that on a personal level we maintain a good relationship- and that is mostly managed by carefully choosing the right medium to communicate.

  18. HanginThere*

    While I don’t have any help for the immediate situation, I do have a tip for prevention.

    When I am really struggling with anxiety and the idea of emailing someone I haven’t delayed in responding to makes me physically ill, I try splitting up the task. I will draft the email one day, knowing that I don’t have to send it. Then I will review the email the next day after I have had time to sleep on it. The email is usually fine, and the night’s rest means that I have renewed willpower to press the ‘Send’ button, even if I am afraid.

    I also think it’s important in the long term if you are self-employed to treat your anxiety as a true health conditions and consider what ‘accommodations’ you can give yourself. Unfortunately client interactions are going to follow professional norms that are outside of your control, but your way of doing work is within your control. I have other chronic health conditions, and that has meant being prepared to work from a bed during a flareup, integrating short naps into the workday, and other tools that would be far outside the norm if I was still an employee. Basically learning how to say ‘what goals need to be reached and how do I, a person with this body and these limitations, meet them’ rather than trying to pretend you don’t have a health problem and gritting your teeth and trying trying to meet those goals in the exact same way your able-bodied coworkers would.

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