Finding your place in the world can be tough, especially when you have a chronic illness. Realising that the advice and support she received from friends and family was crucial to her wellbeing, Erin Berman of Marin, California wanted to create an online space to reflect a different type of community. Now Erin has created the place she envisioned: Superbloom, where people with chronic illnesses can find connection, friendship, advice, support and shared understanding. Below, we chat with Erin about her own chronic illness, her hopes for Superbloom, and her desire to do away with what she calls “positive washing.”
Chee: Why do you think having a community space is so critical for women with chronic illness?
Erin: A few years ago, I had a host of mysterious symptoms like extreme fatigue, brain fog, rashes, digestive pain and bloating, Raynaud’s, chronic anemia, blood, vitamin and mineral deficiencies. I saw over a dozen doctors who had no idea what was wrong. I know the ME community can relate.
Chee: Yes, we’re nodding in agreement.
Erin: My truth is—and I firmly believe this—I would still be sick, or stuck on a waitlist to get into the Mayo Clinic if I hadn’t had the help of my friends, family, and community making recommendations and offering support along the way. That’s really why I created Superbloom—to offer support and community to those suffering from chronic conditions.
Chee: Do you think the need for support is tied to mental wellness?
Erin: Absolutely. Chronic conditions often impact emotional wellbeing and mental health, and there needs to be space for that to be shared. I still experience shame around my body and regret about years and experiences that were lost to illness. Having to cancel on friends over and over to the point where I stopped getting invited led to loneliness; being single and not being able to go on dates, not being able to tell my coworkers what I was going through—there’s a lot of shame around not feeling like you can speak up or be taken seriously with what you are experiencing.
Chee: There’s also this thinking that if you don’t have anything positive to say, you should remain silent.
Erin: That’s part of the shame. I have learned from my struggles and believe I’m a more compassionate person with a deeper understanding of my body because of chronic illness. But that said, chronic illness sucks.
Chee: It’s funny how both things can be true, but we feel pressured to focus on one emotion over another.
Erin: We want to hold space for both truths at Superbloom—there can be unexpected blessings that come out of our deepest challenges, but they can still be very hard experiences to live through that no one would choose. I want the community to lift each other up, but not in a “positive-washing” kind of way. We aren’t all rainbows and healing. And there’s a real detriment in society perpetuating that we should be positive all the time.
Chee: How does that inclusive stance on mental wellness affect your point of view on care and treatment?
Erin: Superbloom supports an integrative and intuitive approach to women’s health. There are those of us who have seen results with amazing doctors, pharmaceutical, and integrative options, while others have gone through a rolodex of practitioners and protocols and are still searching for help. What works for one will never work for all, but there can be similarities that can help us fast track understanding our relationship with our bodies and how to work through health challenges.
Chee: How do you see women using Superbloom?
Erin: Superbloom was built as a social media platform with blogs, forums, profiles to own and share your experience, and have the ability to directly message others. Unlike just posting on Facebook groups or Reddit forums, we’re creating an experience that gives you more ways to engage. I hope women find connection and support.
Click here to join the Superbloom community and connect with other women, like you.