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[52] How to Thrive in the Face of Illness and Injury with Heidi Fahrenbacher

Heidi Fahrenbacher is a ceramicist. She has faced some huge challenges in her business following a fall on some ice outside her studio.

No one knows the stress of facing injury while running a creative business better than Heidi. She makes a living full time from her ceramics so it was a huge deal when she fell and injured herself.

From business success to a painful path to recovery, facing chronic pain and surgery it took Heidi many years to get back on track, and the healing process is still ongoing.

Heidi and I discuss how she stayed positive through some of her hardest days, how she managed her frustration and got her business back on track.

If you have faced illness or injury, are currently on the road to recovery or would like to make sure you are prepared just in case, have a listen to this episode!


Quotes and highlights from this Episode:

  • Heidi’s small business was going very well until in 2011 when she walked out of her studio and fell on some ice, knocking the wind from her. She thought she would be fine but soon noticed a numbness in her foot. She realised then that she had to get some medical advice.
  • It took years before the doctors could find what was causing the pain Heidi was experiencing.
  • Heidi had to undertake hip surgery and it was at that point she had to stop working.
  • After recovering from surgery, 6 months later she started to feel numbness in her foot again and began physical therapy.
  • ‘I was ready to quit ceramics.’ {Heidi}
  • A foot doctor found that the bones in her feet weren’t aligned and were pinching a nerve. Finally she had found the source of the numbness!
  • Heidi finally  was in the healing stages and it came down to waiting patently.
  • ‘That kind of strain and stress can really bring you down.’ {Heidi}
  • Heidi eventually accepted  what was happening and realised she had to be honest with herself.
  • ‘I would go through days when I would throw a pity party for myself.’ {Heidi}
  • Heidi could no longer focus on her social media and marketing and suffered greatly.
  • ‘It is much easier to self promote when you are excited about what you are doing.’ {Heidi}
  • Heidi soon came to the realisation that it was just work and it was time to cut herself some slack.
  • ‘I was surviving instead of thriving.’ {Heidi}
  • It took a year or so to get back into things, changing the way she worked and some of the techniques she uses.
  • The best practical advice Heidi can share with you is to ensure you are insured especially if you live somewhere where there is no free healthcare, figure out how easy your products are to make in the case that you can’t, and try and have an emergency savings account to cover you through the hard times.
  • Emotionally you need to stay positive. Heidi used to use physical exercise to find stress relief but now reads and listens to comedy to ensure she is laughing as often as possible.
  • Having a supportive person and/or community is also very important for you emotions.
  • ‘You can’t give up, you’re going to want to and there are going to be really bad days.’ {Heidi}
  • You can find Heidi at her website, Facebook or Instagram.


Download or Listen to This Episode


(You can also subscribe to the podcast and listen to this episode on iTunes + Stitcher – just search ‘Create & Thrive’.)


Van Den has written 319 posts in this blog.

Jess Van Den is the editor of Create & Thrive, and has been a full-time creative entrepreneur since 2010. She makes eco-conscious, contemporary, handmade sterling silver jewellery under the Epheriell label, and blogs about her jewellery and other beautiful things at You can catch her on twitter @JessVanDen.


Emma Kay

Hi Heidi and Jess, thanks so much for sharing your story. It means a lot to me at the moment because I’m recovering from ankle surgery. The whole thing happened with a sudden fall more than 6 months ago. I’ve used much of the time where I haven’t been able to work for a wage to set up the basics of my business so there has been a positive outcome.

Heidi, I wish you the best for your continued recover.

I live in Australia and I wanted to say: if you can afford health insurance then do it. I was previously ambivalent about whether I actually needed it and ideologically I believe in free universal health care.

However, if I did not have health insurance I would be in a much worse situation. Aside from health insurance, I would also consider personal accident insurance.

I don’t know how long I would have had to wait for surgery if in the public system. The time I did have to wait (a few months) for private impacted on my income and ability to do everything in life for eg driving. I definitely would have had to wait longer in public. I was referred to an excellent (like Heidi) sport surgeon which would not be as good as if was in the public system.

Additionally, some of the services I’ve had to use such as physio are covered to an extent by the public system but I needed more than this, so you get 6 government supported physio sessions but after that I have to take advantage of the private health rebates. And my other health issues that require services are not covered I’ve used up all my public funded.

I wish that our health system was still universal support but I think things have changed now and there is a two tiered system. And I have to say I’m so grateful that I had insurance.

What say you?