#SWAAYthenarrative

Why I Started a Podcast to Shine a Light on Invisible Illness Stories

5min read
Health

Made Visible is a platform that brings to light real, raw, and significant stories from people experiencing from a range of invisible illnesses, from Hodgkin's Lymphoma to bipolar disorder. These people look perfectly healthy on the outside but are grappling with chronic conditions that make "normal" life anything but normal.


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I'm a born and raised Manhattanite. I spent ten years working in marketing, public relations, and event production at companies such as Bobbi Brown and Avon before I became a business coach and consultant. Starting my own business was something I always wanted to do, but the pieces really fell into place due to my health journey.

When I was 10 years old, I was diagnosed with Hyper IgE, also known as Job's syndrome. It's an extremely rare immune deficiency that caused me to experience skin issues and lung problems, among other things. When I was diagnosed, I was focused on trying to be a "normal" kid. I never wanted to be defined by my health issues, so I spent the first 27 years of my life hiding from my diagnosis and just dealing with symptoms as they came up.

That all changed in late 2012, when I had a lobectomy to remove a quarter of my right lung. I'd seen a pulmonologist because I found myself out of breath and on the verge of collapsing whenever I walked anywhere. It turns out, I had a cyst the size of a golf ball in my right lung. We have no idea how long it had been there. The surgery to remove it was risky but medically necessary, and the infectious disease team at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) had advised me to proceed with it. This was such a pivotal time in my life, and I came out of the surgery grateful to be alive.

The surgery--and recovery from it--turned my world upside down, and it was hard to hide and ignore my health any longer. I started sharing with friends, writing about my story, and owning my health (including visiting the NIH every year, something I had resisted for a long time). I also started eating healthier, meditating, practicing yoga, and creating a lifestyle that allowed me to prioritize these things. This was when I started to acknowledge that I needed a career that was more fulfilling and provided me with more flexibility. In November 2014, I launched my coaching business.

I'm now seven years out of surgery, and managing my health is now a big part of my life and story. There have been challenging moments, but I am very fortunate to have my team at the NIH, a few doctors in NYC, and friends and family to support me--something that's a lot easier for them now that I'm not hiding what I'm going through.

As I finally came out of my shell, I started to seek out other people who also manage invisible illnesses. Through my conversations with these people, and my own experiences, I realized that people don't know what it's like to live with an invisible illness. It was really challenging for me to find content around invisible illness that I related to; most of what I found didn't acknowledge that illness is only one part of someone's story. As an avid podcast listener, I decided this was my opportunity to create the content I wanted to hear. With this in mind, I set out to create a platform to showcase the stories of people living with invisible illness. In July 2018, my podcast, Made Visible, was born.

Made Visible is a podcast that gives a voice to people with invisible illnesses. It aims to change the conversation around invisible illnesses, helping those who experience them —whether as patients, caregivers, or friends or family members — feel more seen and heard.

The goal of Made Visible is to help people living with invisible illnesses feel less alone as they strive to create a "normal" life. It aims to create a new awareness of how friends, family, and others can be sensitive and supportive to people who live with these illnesses — especially when most people have no idea what's appropriate or helpful, and don't know where to turn for answers.

People with invisible illnesses may look fine, but that doesn't mean that we feel fine or aren't sick. Most of the symptoms that I deal with, you would never be able to see when I walk down the street. Talking about my invisible illness is something I've only done in the past few years, but it has been extremely freeing, and it's helped my friends and family learn how to support me better. I want the same for others who are silently struggling. I hope that through Made Visible I can teach people to be compassionate to everyone, given that we don't know all that people around us are going through.

4 Min Read
Business

Today, Companies Need to Retain Veteran Employees in Order to Survive and Thrive

In 2020, as the world turned on its axis, we all held on for dear life. Businesses, non-profits, government organizations, and entrepreneurs all braced for a new normal, not sure what it would mean, what would come next, or if we should be excited or terrified.

At the same time that everything is shifting, being put on hold, or expanding, companies have to evaluate current talent needs, empower their teams to work from home, discover new ways to care for clients from a distance, and navigate new levels of uncertainty in this unfamiliar environment. Through it all, civilians are being encouraged to lean into concepts like "resilience" and "courage" and "commitment," sometimes for the first time.

Let's contrast what the business community is going through this year with the common experience of the military. During basic training, officer candidate school, multiple deployments, combat, and reintegration, veterans become well-versed in resilience, courage, and commitment to survive and thrive in completing their mission. Today, veterans working in the civilian sector find the uncertainty, chaos, instability, and fear threading through companies eerily familiar.

These individuals do not leave their passion and sense of service behind when they separate or retire out of the military. Instead, typically veterans continue to find avenues to serve — in their teams, their companies, their communities.

More than ever before, today's employers who employ prior military should focus on why and how to retain them and leverage their talents, experience, and character traits to help lead the company — and the employees — to the other side of uncertainty.

What makes veterans valuable employees

Informed employers recognize that someone with a military background brings certain high-value assets into the civilian sector. Notably, veterans were taught, trained, and grounded in certain principles that make them uniquely valuable to their employers, particularly given the current business environment, including:

Leadership

It's been said that the United States Armed Forces is the greatest leadership institution in the world. The practices, beliefs, values, and dedication of those who serve make them tested leaders even outside of the military. Given the opportunity to lead, a veteran will step forward and assume the role. Asked to respect and support leadership, they comply with that position as well. Leadership is in the veteran's blood and for a company that seeks employees with the confidence and commitment to lead if called upon, a veteran is the ideal choice.

Commitment

The hope is that all employees are committed to their job and give 100% each day. For someone in the military, this is non-negotiable. The success of the mission, and the lives of everyone around them, depend on their commitment to stay the course and perform their job as trained. When the veteran employee takes on a project, it will be completed. When the veteran employee says there's an unsurmountable obstacle, it is so (not an excuse). When a veteran says they're "all in" on an initiative, they will see it through.

Strategy, planning, and improv

Every mission involves strategy, planning, and then improvisation from multiple individuals. On the battlefield, no plan works perfectly, and the service member's ability to flex, pivot, and adapt makes them valuable later, in the civilian sector. Imagine living in countries where you don't speak the language, working alongside troops who come from places you can't find on a map, and having to communicate what needs to get done to ensure everyone's safety. Veterans learned how to set goals, problem-solve challenges, and successfully get results.

Service

With an all-volunteer military for decades now, every man and woman who wore our nation's uniform raised their hand to do so. They chose to serve their country, their fellow Americans, and their leaders. These individuals do not leave their passion and sense of service behind when they separate or retire out of the military. Instead, typically veterans continue to find avenues to serve — in their teams, their companies, their communities.

When companies seek out leaders who will commit to a bigger mission, can think strategically and creatively, and will serve others, they look to veterans.

Best practices in retention of veteran talent

Retention starts at hiring. The experience set out in the interview stage provides insight about how it will be to work and grow within the team at the company. For employers hiring veterans, this is a critical step.

Veterans often tell me that they "look to work for a company that has a set of values I can ascribe to." The topic of values can serve as an opportunity for companies seeking to retain military talent.

The veteran employee may have had a few — or several — jobs since leaving the military. Or this may be their first civilian work experience. In any case, setting expectations and being clear about goals is vital. Remember, veterans are trained to complete a mission and a goal. When an employer clarifies the mission and shows how the veteran employee's role supports and fulfills that mission, the employee can more confidently and successfully complete their work.

Additionally, regular check-ins are helpful with veteran employees. These employees may not be as comfortable asking for help or revealing their weaknesses. When the employer checks in regularly, and shows genuine interest in their happiness, sense of productivity, and overall job satisfaction, the veteran employee learns to be more comfortable asking for help when needed.

The military is a values-driven culture. Service members are instilled with values of loyalty, integrity, service, duty, and honor, to name a few. When they transition out of the military, veterans still seek a commitment to values in their employers. Veterans often tell me that they "look to work for a company that has a set of values I can ascribe to." The topic of values can serve as an opportunity for companies seeking to retain military talent. Make it clear what your values are, how you live and act on those values, and how the veteran's job will promote and support those values. Even work that is less glamorous can be attractive to a veteran if they understand the greater purpose and mission.

Today, veterans working in the civilian sector find the uncertainty, chaos, instability, and fear threading through companies eerily familiar.

Finally, leveraging the strengths and goals of any employee is critical, and particularly so with veterans. If you have an employee who is passionate about service, show them ways to give back — through mentoring, community engagement, volunteerism, etc. If your veteran continues to seek leadership roles, find opportunities for them to contribute at higher levels, even informally. When your veteran employee offers to reframe the team's mission to gain better alignment across the sector, give them some runway to experiment. You have a workforce that is trained and passionate about and skilled in adapting and overcoming. Let them do what they do best.