The Most Inspiring Health Stories Real People Shared With Us This Year
When senior health editor Kristine Thomason and I first discussed launching an invisible illness series at mindbodygreen, we had a dream of shedding light on stigmatized, misunderstood, and often misdiagnosed conditions. These illnesses, which don't always have external signs or symptoms (hence invisible illnesses) can have a massive impact on not just the physical, but also the mental, health of the people experiencing them.
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Our hope when we started the project was that by recounting personal stories, it would both shed light on these conditions and offer solidarity to other people facing similar situations. What we couldn't have expected, though, was how many individuals would step forward to boldly and honestly share their stories with us.
Here, every single invisible illness story from the past year:
I lived with mysterious symptoms for 20 years.
"I am thankful that I finally received a diagnosis but disappointed in how long it took to make sense of my symptoms. And I know I'm not the only one who has (or currently is) suffering from a misunderstood or undiagnosed case of celiac... On average, most individuals with celiac spend 10 years suffering from the time their symptoms start until the time they get diagnosed. Ten years! While they might be common, gut issues are not normal and there is always a cause." —Wendie Trubow, M.D., MBA
Read the rest of Trubow's story here.
It felt like a heart attack — then I was diagnosed with this rare condition.
"I go to bed in pain; I wake up in pain. But I'm able to get out of bed, I'm able to lead my company, which advocates for underrepresented communities in the workplace, and I'm able to inspire hundreds of thousands of people. I think that's pretty great and powerful, and I'm really proud of myself for being able to do it." —Akilah Cadet, DHSc, MPH
Read the rest of Cadet's story here.
I thought I was dying, and nobody believed me.
"I got to a point where these unexplained symptoms started affecting my stress levels and my anxiety. I started feeling depressed because I couldn't figure out what was wrong with me—I literally thought I was dying of cancer—and worst of all, nobody believed me." —Michael Chernow
Read the rest of Chernow's story here.
I was diagnosed with a rare syndrome at age 10 — then I hid it for 17 years.
"I believe you are so much more than your health, no matter what you're dealing with. In my younger years, I wanted to fit in, and I had so much shame around feeling and looking different. But now as an adult, I'm thrilled that I'm not typical. In fact, I think that's what makes me special." —Harper Spero
Read the rest of Spero's story here.
People called me a hypochondriac for 13 years.
"Everybody is different, and there needs to be room for those differences—there's no right or wrong to any chronic, rare, or invisible condition. It's also important to remember meeting one person with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome is not a representation of what it's like for another person living with it. The condition is sporadic, unpredictable, and it impacts both physical and mental health, as do most invisible illnesses." —Lara Bloom
Read the rest of Bloom's story here.
I dealt with debilitating dizziness, and no one believed me.
"I remember one day I was sitting in my parked car, after taking my co-workers to lunch. Suddenly, I slammed on my brakes because it felt like the car was moving forward—but we were totally sitting still, and everyone looked at me like I was nuts. Incidents like this kept happening. It made me too nervous to drive, and I felt like I was losing my mind." —Alicia Wolf
Read the rest of Wolf's story here.
My condition made walking nearly impossible — 10 years later I ran a marathon.
I'm an Olympian, and I struggled with mental health for years before getting help.
"It was really important for me to realize [my eating disorder] wasn't about me being weak, and it wasn't even about food—even though that was the outward manifestation of this mental illness—it was about control, wanting to be perfect, and wanting to avoid my feelings." —Jessie Diggins
Read the Rest of Diggins' story here.
I was breaking out in hives, and it took more than a diagnosis to find out why.
I thought my strange symptoms were all in my head.
My doctor was convinced I had an eating disorder — but it was type 1 diabetes.
"Luckily, since my diagnosis, I haven't had a low so urgent that I lose consciousness, and my highs never last long enough to do any damage. With the right treatment, type 1 diabetes is manageable, but it's important to know how serious it can get if you stop taking care of yourself." —Christina Coughlin
Read the rest of Coughlin's story here.
I thought my symptoms pointed to depression — then I discovered this diagnosis.
"My 20s were a blur of binge drinking, toxic relationships, and never seeming to be able to get my head above water. That decade changed me, at first for the worst and then for the better. But with most things that are painful and life-altering, that time period shaped who I am today...I just sometimes wish I had been a faster learner."—Alexandra D'Elia, R.D., CDN, RDN
Read the rest of D'Elia's story here.
I experienced symptoms that resembled anxiety — but there was more to it.
"I was recently asked if I hate or love my OCD, and I answered 'Neither.' I can't imagine my life without it. While I sometimes feel curious about what my day-to-day life might be like without OCD, it is essential to the way I relate to the world. It has caused me great suffering, and it has also caused immense pride in my ability to work with my mind." —Olivia Giacomo
Read the rest of Giacomo's story here.