blogher creators summit

Highlights from the 2018 BlogHer Creators Summit

This past week I had the exciting opportunity to attend the BlogHer Creators Summit. It was two days full of bad ass women, inspirational stories & journeys as well as advice that is applicable to me in both my professional and personal life.

This conference was for informing and inspiring female content creators who are looking to spread their content as well as their personal stories to their audiences.

I attended numerous panels, interviews and breakout sessions that informed & inspired me in two ways: 1) informed me on ways I can better strategize for my blog and social media accounts as I create content for the chronic illness community and 2) inspired me to pursue my passions, to feel confident and that hard work can definitely pay off.

It was an incredible experience and I definitely recommend it! But better yet – in January, there will be a BlogHer Health Conference (woo!!)

Below are some notes on what I took away from specific sessions at this conference, broken up into two categories: Related to Content Creation and Related to Everyday Life

Sessions On Content Creation

“Meet Marie Forleo”

  • Consistency is key and is an underrated trait

“#BrandBallers”

Nitika Chopra (a Chronic Illness Advocate) was on this panel!

  • What companies are looking for in influencers that they want to partner with
    • A storytelling element
    • Does their ethos align with the company’s ethos?
    • Are they a fan of their brand?
    • Do they have authenticity?
  • What influencers should look for in companies they want to partner with
    • A brand that is aligned with what their community needs
    • Figure out how you can best serve your community and find a brand that you can partner with to do exactly that
  • Content creation diversification
    • Control your homebase – build up a really strong blog or one single platform
    • When creating content, ask yourself – will this serve my community and how? If you can’t answer that question, don’t post it
    • Focus on other people when creating, not on yourself

“Visual Storytelling”

  • Important things for creating video content:
    • Make sure the sound is high quality
    • Get nice lighting
    • Consider editing your videos
    • Ask: how does your audience want to be spoken to?
    • What is your voice?
    • What is your unique story to tell?

Sessions on Professional Goals & Personal Life

Some of this will relate to living with a chronic illness, the rest of it is just great, relatable, noteworthy advice & words of wisdom.

“#WinningWomen” with Gabrielle Union

  • Everyone is suffering from something, but sometimes we feel like we are on an island; so bring comfort to people however we can

“You are not alone and there is nothing wrong with you.”

  • We internalize so much often because we fear judgement
  • It is ok to say to doctors “actually, that doesn’t seem like what I have.”
  • You do not have to take on doctor’s diagnosis as a sure thing. Get second opinions, explore other options; you are your own best advocate.
  • “It is ok to be the pesky patient.” YES, THIS. We shouldn’t go to doctor’s offices leaving with the same issues and no answers.

“You are not lucky. THEY are lucky.”

“#WinningWomen” with Maria Menounos

  • You need to be your own best advocate
  • You know yourself and your body better than anyone else – you have to make choices based on how you feel even if doctors don’t agree with you
  • Statistics are just numbers – listen to what your body is telling you
  • Treat your health from every angle – physical, emotional and spiritual

“We are everything to everyone and nothing to ourselves.”

  • With stillness, we are able to hear what is being told to us by God and can listen to what our bodies are also telling us.

“Everything has a purpose and nothing is a coincidence.”

  • Life is happening FOR me, not TO me.
  • There is a reason things are happening for you, no matter what it is that’s happening – good or bad
  • Keep a pain journal and tell your doctor everything at your annual physical
  • Keep a regular journal – for random revelations
  • Focus = Feeling
    • Whatever we choose to focus on, that is going to dictate how we feel; if we decide to focus on the negative, we will feel negatively.
  • Trust your gut and instinct and be ok with people thinking you’re crazy – you are not crazy, you are wise.

“Passion to Profit”

  • How to find your passion
    • Document, don’t create → think introspectively about what you want, what you believe in, etc., rather than trying to create an image. Don’t echo what already exists
  • Your point of view is really what differentiates you
  • When creating content, think “what real value does this provide to my audience?” and if you can’t answer that, then don’t post it

blogher creators summit

Scars

Scars. We all have them. Whether they’re visible on our skin or deeply hidden underneath it. Either way, we often times try to hide them for everyone else. Doing our research into the most effective cream or at home treatment to rid our skin of its imperfections. Putting on a brave face for the world, giving into our vices or faking love for someone or something else to protect ourselves from whatever imperfections we feel we have on the inside.

Why do we feel the need hide them, though? Is it because we’re afraid of what people may say or think? That they might point, stare and ask how we got those ugly scars? Because if they stare, then we feel vulnerable, self-conscious and very aware that we don’t look the way that we think we should. Maybe we don’t want to explain how we got them: A noble military wound. The evidence of a stupid, teenage stunt. An accident due to being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Because if we have to explain how we got them, then we’re just reliving those bad moments that we try so hard to forget or are too embarrassed to reveal. We hide these scars so we don’t scare off the unknowing people who may raise their brows when they see them. They may become fearful of the things that gave them to us, thinking that maybe they too will be victims of similar situations.

But we fear the same things when dealing with the scars others can’t see, as well. Why do we feel the need to hide those? Are we afraid that if we open up about them and make them visible to everyone else, that it’ll make them that much more real? Maybe people will judge. The people who seem to have nothing breaking them on the inside will judge and we will feel our wounds reopening, increasing the risk of infection with every word that reluctantly spills out of our mouths. They will point and stare and wonder how we got these scars. Maybe we don’t want to explain how we got them. A broken heart. A broken home. Constant uphill battles that we can’t seem to win. Because if we tell them how we got these scars, we’re reliving the moments that broke us. The moments that sent us into a darkness of which maybe we’re finally finding some light in. We don’t want to share these parts of ourselves with others because it could scare them off. Make them fearful of the things that gave them to us. Questioning if they, too, could be a victim to similar situations.

Now you see why, of course, we try to hide them. We don’t want to put ourselves at risk by exposing them. And that’s because people can’t understand how you felt when you got those scars. They can’t put themselves in your shoes because there’s a chance they haven’t been in similar situations themselves. They were never in the military, or never got hurt doing something a stupid teenager would or they never were victim to an accident by being in the wrong place at the wrong time, So yes, you can hide your scars with layers of makeup and clothes. Yes, you can hide your imperfections from other people who may not understand the physical pain that led to those scars because they don’t have any themselves.

But when you feel like hiding the scars that aren’t visible, remember that everyone has had a heart that needed mending at one point. Everyone has scars on the inside, just like you. It’s just, that everyone pretends not to. So people come across like everything in their life is as it should be. We look at them and see only what they want us to see. That things are great, always have been and always will be. When in reality, below the surface, they aren’t as perfect as they look to be. Therefore, we don’t see past other people’s facades, which results in us feeling alone in our suffering. But the fact is, we wouldn’t feel so alone if we knew that other people were trying to heal similar scars just as we are. So, if we open up our hearts to others, and share with them the stories of our wounds, we would end up finding that they too have very similar stories. If we stop hiding the imperfections in our heart that make us who we are and the stories that made us the way we are, everyone else would see that they weren’t alone.

So, I’ll share some of mine.

I struggle with chronic headache disorders that have beaten me down many times in many ways. They’ve broken my spirit, tested my faith and beaten my body. They stir and strengthen my anxiety and make me familiar with a level of pain of which I’ve involuntarily learned to fight through. They’ve stolen from me and they continue to steal from me.

I’ve had many setbacks in my health. New diagnoses, new medicines with no new results and new doctors. Meaning, more symptoms, more side effects, more time wasted in waiting rooms and more blood tests, IVs, MRIs, you name it.

I’ve loved and I’ve lost. I’ve experienced a heartbreak or two. I’ve gone from being someone’s “person,” to being a distant familiarity, to being a stranger.

I have family members I’ll only ever know through stories I’m told. My vivid imagination giving life to people I’ve never met or never grew old enough to form a relationship with.

I’ve lost friendships to time, distance and the inevitable changes that life brings. Bonds that were once close have melted away. People who I shared belly aching laughter with now feel like people I would have to reintroduce myself to.


Maybe your scars look a little similar to mine. Maybe your scars look completely different. No matter how we got them, we all have them. So instead of pretending we’re all untouched and unscathed, maybe we share our stories and help heal each other’s scars.

Patience is A Virtue

Growing up we are told to “be patient.” Starting from when we were just little ones, we would hear “be patient” from our parents as we relentlessly tugged on their clothes to get their attention. As adolescents, we would beg for the newest thing to keep up with the trends and fit in with our friends. “Be patient,” our parents nagged.  As adults, we want our dream job right out of college, we want to own our own house as soon as we can, and we yearn for our fairytale relationship that we so envy in other people. “Be patient,” we hear from all directions. In an environment where everything is so rushed, it’s hard to practice that particular advice that we’ve been given since day one.

 

Patience is a weakness of mine. I’m notoriously impatient, actually. I have a bad habit of interrupting people when they talk, I sing lyrics to songs two seconds too early and I get so antsy waiting in lines that sometimes it physically pains me. But where I’ve been most impatient, lately, is with my health. I’ve been going through another bad spell–headaches pounding when I wake up that, more often than not, get worse as the day goes on. Leaving me frustrated and pouting, or pushing myself past my limits and making the pain worse.

 

I’ve made a lot of changes in my life recently, though, so I know there are multiple factors to consider when trying to figure out why my headaches have taken a turn for the worse again. I moved into a new house, I was on and off my Vyvanse for my narcolepsy, the season is changing, my allergies are kicking in, the list goes on and on.

 

But instead of being patient and taking it day by day, I’ve been jumping to conclusions quicker than most. I have been automatically assuming that it’s my house that’s making my head worse. Or that my chiropractic and botox treatments are no longer working. I always assume that I’ve figured it all out and that I’ll just never feel better.

 

Take it from me, it does NOT help to be impatient in this way. Well, it really doesn’t help to be impatient in any way, but you get the point.

 

For me, and others who have multiple chronic illnesses, it’s so important to remind ourselves that there are so many different factors at play when it comes to our symptoms. It’s never just one thing for me that is causing my symptoms to flare up badly. My headaches are affected by countless factors: for example, humidity, allergies, the heat, my environment, how tired I am, exercise, stress, anxiety, etc., etc. It’s more often than not, a combination of a variety of things. Which makes it very hard to pinpoint what is causing the flare. Which is why my impatience usually kicks in full gear–because I can’t pinpoint a reason and therefore cannot see an end to the flare in any foreseeable future.

 

So here’s where I tell you the words that you’ve been hearing since day one: Be patient. Take it day by day, literally. Each day is a new day with the possibility that something may change–some things may get better. But the fact is, we won’t know until that new day comes. So take a deep breath, and be patient.  

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayers.

-Romans 12:12

2017 WEGO Health Awards–Vote for The Headache Heroine!

I am excited to share (even though I may have already initially shared) that I have been nominated for the WEGO Health Award in the 6th Annual WEGO Health Awards! Last year I was nominated for three categories and a finalist in two. This year, I’ve been nominated for two categories: Best in Show: Instagram  and Best in Show: Twitter.

WEGO Health is a mission-driven company connecting healthcare with the experience, skills and insights of patient leaders. They are the world’s largest network of patient leaders, working across virtually all health conditions and topics.

The WEGO Health Awards were created to celebrate those who tirelessly support the mission of WEGO Health: to empower the patient voice. With 16 award categories, the WEGO Health Awards are the only awards across all conditions and platforms, that recognize the over 100 thousand inspiring Patient Leaders who raise awareness, share information, and support their communities – but often without recognition.

Being nominated means that I have in some way, shape or form helped another person like myself–someone who struggles with health issues and who may have at one point felt or still feels totally alone in their journey. I’m so glad that I can use my experience to empower others to feel empowered.

I’m looking to you, my incredibly supportive network, to help endorse me for this award.

Click here to be taken to my WEGO Health Awards profile and click “Endorse” under my nominee photo. You can vote twice–once for each category that I have been nominated in!

If you’ve ever felt touched by something I’ve written and shared, if I’ve ever made you laugh or inspired you to keep fighting–please consider endorsing me for this award!

Thanks fam 🙂

Vote for The Headache Heroine in the 2017 WEGO Health Awards!

I’m so happy, humbled and honored to say that I’ve been nominated again this year for the 6th Annual WEGO Health Awards!!

 

Last year I was nominated and became a finalist in three different categories. It was such a cool experience and I got to speak with so many wonderful patient leaders.

This year, I’ve been nominated in two categories: Best in show: Instagram and Best in Show: Twitter! I would very very much appreciate your votes! You can visit my nominee profile here and you can vote once for each category! Just click the endorse button below my page 🙂

Thank you so much for your love and support ❤

 

2017 Migraine World Summit–The Event of the Year!

Last year, I was so fortunate to receive an email making me aware of an online event called the Migraine World Summit. I didn’t know what it entailed and I wasn’t sure what to expect, all I knew was that world known doctors would be interviewed about migraines, headaches and everything that comes along with them. So I immediately signed up to participate!

There was so much information being talked about–and there was a week of interviews that were available for me to watch! Best part? I was able to participate and watch straight from my bed. Score.

This year, ‘m volunteering for this international event that is going to bring thousands and thousands of participants. I can’t wait to hear what the people interviewing have to say! BTW, some of the people being interviewed include leading experts and doctors from the National Headache Foundation and the American Migraine Association. Sooooo yeah, that’s pretty awesome.

The event begins next week, April 23rd!! Make sure to check out the website here: https://www.migraineworldsummit.com/ and register for the event! I promise you will learn very valuable information and perspective on the migraines and headaches that you’ve been battling day in and day out.

Chronic Illness and Relationships

No couple is immune to the hard work that goes into their relationship. Each couple has their own unique obstacles that they have to overcome, their own speed bumps to get over and their own challenges. Each relationship is unique. Relationships that involve someone with a medical condition such as an invisible/chronic illness, present a whole new category of challenges and obstacles.

 

Since I was about 12 years old I’ve battle migraines.Then a couple of years ago my chronic daily headaches developed. Two years ago I developed an anaphylactic food allergy. In the last few months I’ve been diagnosed with hypermobility ehlers-danlos and mild postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome. You can probably assume that I don’t lead the same type of lifestyle that most normal “healthy” young adults do. These health issues present a number of challenges that would take up a whole page to list them out. But one that other people may not think about is the challenge of dating as someone with a chronic illness and/or condition.

 

It wasn’t often that I opened myself up to someone. And there was always an underlying reason that I often tried to downplay–which was I didn’t want to try to explain my headaches to someone else. It’s a challenge in itself to get someone to even remotely understand what I feel like every day. Which makes sense–you can’t really understand someone else’s physical pain–but it is such an overwhelming and anxiety inducing thought just thinking about explaining it to someone else and trying to help them make sense of it. So I just avoided it.

 

What I’ve found, though, is that with the right person it may still be difficult to explain and express to them how you feel with your chronic illness, but it will become much easier over time and the burden of having to explain over and over will be lifted.

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I have been lucky enough to be in a relationship with someone who, even though he may not be able to understand my daily physical pain, tries his hardest to do so and is there for me every step of the way. Dating as someone with a chronic illness means you look for someone who will stick by you when you’re at your worst. He has laid beside me when my migraines have been so awful that it hurt to talk and think. He has rubbed my back while I lay curled in my bed. He’s rushed me to the ER and rushed himself to the ER when I found myself there without him. He’s held my hand through countless IV’s and needles. But not only has he seen me at my worst physically, he’s seen me at my worst emotionally. He’s been by my side when the unpredictable blues hit and I lay fetal position in my bed crying due to frustration, pain, anxiety and disappointment.

 

You can imagine that being seen in such states can make you feel incredibly vulnerable. I feel fragile, broken and completely exposed. It took me a while to show that part of myself to him, but even now, I have a hard time expressing everything that I’m feeling. It’s hard to be as vulnerable as that and not feel guilty about it. Showing that much vulnerability can make your partner sad because they see with their eyes how much you are hurting. It’s not fun for them either. Which is why I try my best to hide it sometimes, even when I know I shouldn’t.

 

Even though i’m the one who is in constant physical pain, it takes a toll on him as well. It takes a toll on our relationship at times.

 

Once or twice the words “go on a break” have been tossed around before and we have found ourselves facing crossroads of our relationship. It’s no surprise that there is a certain amount pressure put on a person who is dating someone with a chronic illness to be stronger, more reliable and more flexible than a person who is dating someone “normal.” I’ve been stubborn and told him he should date someone normal because it would relieve him of this unnecessary and burdening pressure and frustration that he inevitably faces by dating me. I have become short and impatient because I was telling myself that he should be with someone easier and healthier, which results in him growing fearful and frustrated as well.

 

By living a life with chronic illness, I’ve gained a lot of insight I never expected to. One major thing that I’ve learned about being in relationship as a person with a chronic illness, is that we must give back. Love is a two way street. Our partners constantly give and give and give to help us out when we are feeling at our worst. And it can be easy to let it slip our minds, especially when we aren’t feeling well, that they are putting out so much effort to make us feel better. We end up taking and taking and not giving anything back in return.

 

We have to be mindful and remember to give back. Be outwardly and openly thankful. Be verbal about it but also show it through actions and do something small (or grand) every once in a while to show your partner just how grateful you are. Surprise them with thoughtful gifts, write them notes, tell them how much you love them every day, take part in their interests, cook for them when you’re feeling well, help them in ways they may not feel comfortable asking for just as they do for you.

 

There are numerous challenges that we face when we live with a chronic illness. Being a part of a relationship is one of those challenges that bring about many challenges of its own. But if you can make it through the hardships that chronic illness throws your way, you can make it through any of the other relationship speed bumps you may come across.

 

“How To Live Well With Chronic Pain and Illness” Chapter 9 Summary: “Cultivating Kindness”

People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

-Maya Angelou

This chapter is all about being kind. She says that kindness is a universal form of communication. We so often direct negative judgment toward ourselves. People with chronic illness (I’m speaking for all of us here, as an assumption,) definitely tend to do this. “Why does my body hate me?” “Why can’t I do things like I used to?” “I hate living this way.” etc etc etc.

But just imagine what it would feel like, if instead, we treated ourselves with the constant kindness that we so often show others. If we can be friendly to others, we should be friendly to ourselves as well.

She goes on to talk about how the mind is flexible and changeable. In order to get us all to start cultivating kindness, the author share in this chapter some of her favorite quotes on kindness:

“Tenderness and kindness are not signs of weakness and despair, but manifestations of strength and resolution.”
-Kahlil Gibran

When we extend kindness to someone else, it helps take us out of our own minds and away from being preoccupied with our own problems.

“Kindness is within our power even when fondness is not.”
-Samuel Johnson
This quote I think is even more relevant in today’s world. Where we may not all agree with one another, we can still be kind. Even though we may not find another person easy to get along with, we can still show compassion.

“I’ve always depended on the kindness of strangers.”
A Streetcar Named Desire
We with chronic illness can definitely relate to this one. We may find ourselves in situations where we have to rely on a stranger or acquaintance to help us if we are not feeling physically well enough to do something ourselves.

“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”
-Aesop

Every. Drop. Counts.

The author ends the chapter with this powerful quote by Henry James:

Three things in human life are important: first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.

 

“How To Live Well With Chronic Pain and Illness” Chapter 8 Summary: “The Many Benefits of Patience”

Chapter 8 of “How To Live Well With Chronic Pain and Illness” outlines the many benefits of patience when it comes to living a life with chronic pain and/or illness. We are patients. And we need to be patient. This word patient is such a commonly used word in our life’s dictionary.

Everyone loses their patience–maybe traffic is bad and you just want to get home; maybe the wait time at the doctor’s office is unbearable and you can’t stop glancing at the clock while sighing; maybe today just isn’t your day.

One hard truth about life: sometimes, it just doesn’t go your way. But the author puts this fact into perspective for us a bit in this chapter. She says that “it’s not the fact that we don’t get our way that makes us miserable; it’s how we respond to that fact. The question becomes, do we get angry and upset, or do we tolerate and accept whatever’s happening that we don’t like?”

The author notes that by practicing patience in her life, she has noticed two things:
1) being patient is a way of treating yourself with compassion
2) being patient gave rise to equanimity–the even-tempered, peaceful state of mind that accepts with kind understanding that our lives will not always conform to our preferences.

The author then outlines her four-step approach for working with stressful and painful emotions. See below:
1) Recognize it: Recognize that impatience has arisen
She goes on to talk about how we often tend to think that the environment around us should conform to our expectations (ex: no traffic jams, no long lines, etc.) ; we tend to think that people should conform to our expectations (ex:they should behave the way we think they should) **I am very guilty of this** ; our expectations are often unrealistic when it comes to mastering new skills ; our expectations are almost always unrealistic when it comes to what goes on in our minds.

She suggests trying to come up with specific examples from our own lives that we can fit under these categories, which in turn will help us recognize that we are responding with impatience.
2) Label it: Label impatience when it is present in your mind
Try investigating your emotions from an objective point of view. It’s easy to place judgement on ourselves for how we’re feeling, but that isn’t fair nor compassionate to ourselves.
3) Investigate it: Investigate how impatience feels in your mind and in your body
Try to pay attention to how you feel when you’re impatient–is your body relaxed or tensed, is your mind calm or anxious?
4)Let it be
“Calmly accept the presence of impatience knowing that, with time, conditions will change..and so will my mind”

It’s the peace of mind that comes with accepting, without aversion, that delays, difficulties, and annoyances will inevitably be among life’s experiences.