Imelda Truesdale may have had to retire from her job due to fibromyalgia, but rather than stop her in her tracks, the condition has opened up new doors.
The 38-year-old from Magheralin has been running Happy Day Crafts in Spires Mall in Belfast for eight months and business is booming even though her illness means she could be laid low at any time.
She said: “Two weeks before my 30th birthday I found out I had extreme fibromyalgia.
“I had to retire from my job as a civil servant and had to spend a lot of time in bed.
“I hated being unable to do anything so I started cross stitching cards, but it was taking a very long time. I switched to rubber stamping.”
Imelda explained how her home industry found a home in Spires Mall: “I did some wedding stationery for a couple - Joe Patton and Don Lavery - and they liked it so much they started to cry. You don’t get much better feedback than that. They told me about the space within The Fashion Souk in Spires Mall. They said it would be perfect for my business. I came here on Thursday and started trading on the Monday.”
She added: “It’s good because I don’t have to be here all the time. If I’m not here there will always be someone here to sell my stuff.
“Fibromyalgia is a hard illness to cope with. You’re always in pain, it never really goes away. Then there’s times when you just have a ‘drop’. When it happens to me I lose power in my arms and legs. There’s no warning.
“It gets you very down the way your whole life changes. The craft gave me something to do, something to focus on.”
Imelda is now a mentor for Young Enterprise, having herself been a former student.
She said: “The happiness I get from being a mentor is a new highlight. I’m taking a positive from a negative. My illness has presented me with an opportunity and I’ve taken it.”
Imelda said: “I had an interest in craft as a child.
“My auntie Julie (Whiting) would have taught me how to cross stitch and to do bobbin lacing. It came back to me very quickly.”
She continued: “It’s amazing how much talent there is in Lurgan. You can see this at the Dannan Crafts fair on the first Sunday of every month at Oxford Island.”
All the wedding stationery Imelda makes is unique to the couple who have hired her. She said: “I never do the same design twice. I don’t post the design on Facebook so they are only seen by the couple and their guests.”
Imelda has been married for 11 years and has one daughter Rosie (4).