Profiles by Blue Badge Co | Ami Hallgarth, AH Jewellery
Ami Hallgarth set up her own business, AH Jewellery, making and selling silver jewellery from home. She also has ME.
Ami Hallgarth turned her debilitating illness into an opportunity for growth and positive change. She set up her own business from home making and selling silver jewellery and is now an accomplished silversmith selling pieces around the world from her online shop www.ahjewellery.shop/ as well as in shops and at craft fairs.
Ami also has M.E., Myalgic encephalomyelitis.
“M.E. is characterised by a range of neurological symptoms and signs, muscle pain with intense physical or mental exhaustion, relapses, and specific cognitive disabilities.” www.meresearch.org.uk
I asked Ami about her journey, from life before ME, developing the illness and unexpectedly becoming an entrepreneur.
Declining Health and Growing Fears
For Ami Hallgarth, developing ME was a slow but complete transformation of all areas of her life.
Ami had been working in gallery education, a job which she genuinely loved when she first became ill with ME. She had a degree in Art and had worked hard to get where she was. Not wanting to leave her employment she continued working for another year, gradually reducing her hours, as work became less and less manageable.
“I clearly remember feeling terrified at the prospect of losing my job due to ill health. I realize now, that I tried to carry on working for much longer than I should have done and this probably hindered my recovery.”
It was time to acknowledge the reality of her condition.
“I was becoming a liability; having to lie down at my desk, fainting, losing the ability to speak”
Ami’s home life suffered too
“I became too ill to leave the house and was bed-bound for months. I was unable to tolerate light, movement or sound. I’ve never felt so low as I did during this time. I’d lost my whole identity, had no income and felt like a massive burden to my family.”
Ami spent more and more time in bed, recovering from work and less and less time playing with her young son who was age 3 at the time.
“I felt like a failure and held a huge amount of guilt around not being able to do as much with my little boy as I wanted to. It was very difficult not to be able to participate in his active life.”
It’s The Little Things
“Having ME really slowed life down for me. It’s a very humbling condition. It made me realise how fragile and fleeting health can be.
I became much more aware of the little things… feeling gratitude for having the strength to make a cup of tea myself…being able to shower after days of lying in bed…walking to the end of the street with my son…all of these things I took for granted before!”
Cooking an evening meal was one of the biggest challenges for me and it was a task I’d spread out over the whole day. I still often collapsed and had seizures around tea-time, from the exertion. I still get a real sense of satisfaction, being able to cook a meal for my family without having to lie down on the sofa every few minutes!”
“Not everyone who needs a blue badge is in a wheelchair!!”
When I was in my wheelchair or using my mobility scooter, I’d feel more justified in parking up in a disabled bay. If I was on foot and looking ‘well’, people often gave me funny looks, like I didn’t deserve to be there. “
I’m much more aware of ‘invisible’ disabilities now and more tolerant towards others”
“Turn To Face The Strange Ch-Ch-Changes”
For some time Ami did not want to accept the changes to her physical ability and the effect on her daily life.
“I felt very frustrated, sad and angry that I was missing out on life. I’d always been a ‘do-er’. It took a long time to adjust to simply ‘being’.”
But that is what she did, adjust. And it is that ability which saw Ami through.
“I was determined to do something to fill the void”
Reframing her situation, Ami was able to recognize the possibilities and positives available to her. She had lost her ability to work, for the time being, but gained an abundance of time.
Having always fancied doing a silversmithing course Ami realized that now was a perfect opportunity to have a go. Taking a positive, creative step forward, Ami enrolled on an evening class at the local college.
“As soon as I got the hang of soldering and managed to cobble together my first ring (which has since snapped!) I was hooked.”
“Being able to indulge my creativity and create beautiful things from scratch, proved to be a real tonic and provided some much-needed relief from the monotonous cycle of chronic illness.”
It was hard work and Ami was often too ill to attend.
“I got behind and almost gave up altogether. I often had to get the tutor to saw and hammer pieces for me, as I didn’t have the strength. I’d often collapse or have seizures.”
Ami stuck with it and invested in tools so she could practice at home at her own pace.
Hard work and dedication paid off as Ami gradually, increased her skillset and began receiving commissions from friends. This led to selling pieces at craft fairs and after a few successful fairs, Ami could see jewellery-making as a potential business and AH Jewellery was born!
“The butterfly must first struggle to strengthen wings for flight.”
Ami never imagined she would be an entrepreneur and was initially terrified of losing her job due to ill health. But now she has learned that it is possible to
“Think of illness as an opportunity for growth. You will come out stronger and wiser.”
That is certainly how Ami has framed her experience to great benefit.
With a host of proactive techniques to encourage and nurture herself, plus the support of her family, Ami made it through the darkest times and found a new way of being.
“I used to have various quotes stuck to my wall, as I spent so much time lying in bed, I needed reminding that there would be life beyond my four bedroom walls.”
“As I was unable to hold a book, audio books provided good escapism for me. I also did a lot of guided meditations, to try and cope with the pain I experienced.”
Ami's advice to others in a similar situation as when she was first diagnosed with ME would be:
Keep the faith. Don’t give up.
The path to recovery is never smooth – dips are inevitable.
Find something that distracts your mind so you’re not focusing on physical symptoms all the time.
Be kind to yourself – learn how to ‘be’, rather than ‘do’.
It’s important to do something each day that brings you joy.
Accept that this is how it is right now, but this too will pass.
Excellent advice, I think we can all benefit from the last three!
Getting in Touch and Where to Buy
A few years into her career as a silversmith Ami is still very much in love with the whole creative process.
“From gathering inspiration from something I might spot in the garden to sketching out designs, rolling out silver, soldering, shaping, hammering and polishing, photographing…I get a lot of pleasure from every step of the process and absolutely LOVE seeing people wear my creations!”
You can find AH Jewellery on Facebook, Twitter Pinterest & Instagram
You can buy her beautiful creations in silver directly from her website:
Ami undertakes commissions and is happy to discuss preferences and details with you.