Episode 107: The Point of Pain with Chronicon Founder Nitika Chopra

Episode 107: The Point of Pain with Chronicon Founder Nitika Chopra

Overview

At the age of 10, Nitika Chopra was diagnosed with a debilitating case of psoriasis. By 19, her joints were entirely inflamed and she was further diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis. From the tips of her toes to the crown of her head, her body was covered in unsightly sores…and for the first five years of her second diagnosis, she was unable to move without severe pain. While she’s come a long way since then, the first 15 years of diagnosis and life with chronic illness left Nitika overwhelmed with pain, insecurity, and confusion…and also led to depression. But why does she share so openly about these experiences now? Because: she gets it. She resisted self-care at first, and even overdosed on self-improvement (the concept that something was “broken” and needed “fixing”) in her search for self-acceptance and love. And so she made a clear decision: to commit more to her happiness than to her suffering. With baby steps — long baths, lotions, even a little bit of glamour — she began to feel compassion for her condition, as well as for herself. Her perspective shifted from total despair to the deep faith that there was a better way. And she started to realize that she was meant for something much bigger than a life spent in misery. In 2010, her commitment to natural beauty led her to create the online lifestyle magazine Bella Life. A few years after that, she was hosting her own talk show, Naturally Beautiful. She even landed a position as a luxury skincare spokesperson and regular expert on QVC! But something was still missing. In 2019, she launched The Point of Pain podcast and Chronicon — a highly successful one-day event that finally helped her fulfill her life’s purpose: to bring together Spoonies and their allies in real talk about finding that same love and abundance in their lives that she had spent so long seeking. And, as she shares in this interview, the pandemic changed everything. While it was no longer safe to congregate in large groups, she cleverly pivoted Chronicon to an online community. We’ve been working within the community to keep this vital conversation going, while Nitika has been curating amazing content just for us: Spoonies and our loved ones. From events and guest posts to product discounts and giveaways, she has given us a window into what CAN be for this community; with hope, prosperity, and inspiration round every corner. Help us welcome Nitika back to the show!

Takeaway

Transcript

Nitika Chopra Bella Life Naturally Beautiful QVC Chronicon Uninvisible Pod Psoriasis Psoriatic Arthritis Chronic Illness

Lauren: All right, guys, thank you so much for joining us. I am here today with a familiar voice. You may remember last year we had the lovely Nitika Chopra on our show. And she's back, because there have been some developments since we last had her on. If you recall, Nitika lives with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. She has for the last 30 years. She's been creating content for the last 11 of those years, and has her own global TV talk show called Naturally Beautiful, as well as an online magazine called Bella Life. She is also the founder of Chronicon, which at this point, if you don't know about Chronicon, guys, go look it up because it is the best thing ever! And she's had to make some shifts because of #COVID. So Nitika, we’re so excited to have you back on the show. Welcome back!

Nitika: Thank you for having me. I have the biggest smile on my face right now! I just feel so warm and fuzzy inside that I get to be with you today. And all of you listening. This is so exciting.

Lauren: The feeling is completely mutual. Right before we hit RECORD on this thing, we were having a Mutual Appreciation Society membership meeting!

Nitika: Absolutely, as we do often. 

Lauren: Yeah. Well, speaking of mutual appreciation societies, Chronicon is one of those! We talked about your journey with psoriatic arthritis and chronic pain and how it led you to create Chronicon, when we had you on the show last year. Can you share a little more today about how you became a patient advocate? Just a little refresher for our listeners, and why this work is so meaningful to you? 

Nitika: Sure. I started my content creation career, as you mentioned, about 11 years ago. It started with an online magazine, Bella Life, and parlayed into a talk show called Naturally Beautiful, as you mentioned all those things. At the time, when I was doing all of that, I really focused on self-love; I focused on beauty as an access point to self-love. I was being honest about everything I was sharing.

It was where I was at at the moment, but I really wasn't comfortable making my chronic illness story and journey the focal point of my life.

There's no other way to say it. I didn't even realize that I wasn't comfortable, to be honest with you. If someone brought it up and said, “Oh, you should talk to more people about this,” or, “You should share this more,” I'd be, like, “No, no, no. Nobody wants to hear that.” That's kind of how I felt about it for a while, because … and I'm sure your listeners, and you, can relate … there weren’t a lot of people talking about their health in a way that felt inspiring. It always felt really dark. And for me, someone who had dealt with incredibly debilitating chronic conditions, I really needed to have light and hope. And so I never wanted to talk about my health. One, I never wanted to share it in a way that would make me feel more sick. And then I also didn't want to make other people feel depressed or make them feel like they had to feel sorry for me, or any of those things. So it was really a long journey. It was about eight years before I really went for it. I was never ashamed; if anyone ever asked me, I would always be honest with them and be comfortable telling them. It was something hidden on my ABOUT page that I had dealt with these conditions, but I never led with it. And I would say, in 2017, right after the election, it was such a dark time in so many ways, especially as a woman of color. There were things coming to the surface in my life that were just so profound, and things that really caught me off guard, and it was a great equalizer. Equalizer isn't the right word. It was a great way to sift out what meant something to me, and what didn’t, and what really mattered. I just felt like there was nothing else that I could do but share this thing, this journey. And the thing that I know more about than anything, is what it's like to live with a chronic illness. I'm not a doctor, I'm not a healer in any traditional sense of the word. I am a patient. And I come from the patient perspective. But there is nothing I know more than the thousands of doctors’ appointments that I have had, and what it feels like to go to them, and the pills and the shots and all that. And what it feels to live with that. So I started my journey really in telling people about my story in 2017, really just going for it. And then it just kind of snowballed from there, as I think a lot of people can relate to — when you finally do the thing that the universe has probably been trying to yell at you to do for a really long time. Everything sort of starts to come together a little bit more easily. And things start to click. I felt like things that I was grasping for with the self-love and beauty conversations were all of a sudden, like, oh, yeah, we want to talk to you exactly about the thing that you want to share about. So yeah, that's a little bit about that.

Lauren: And I remember last time you were on the show, and this is a conversation that comes up a lot in your work as well, which I really appreciate … you also mentioned that you had gone down that rabbit hole of toxic positivity, right. And had done so much work and research in how to improve your mindset to make yourself a “better person”, despite all the pain that you were living with. So much so that you got to the point where you kind of reached breaking point and you were like, actually, there's no message of ‘it's okay to not be okay’ in here. And your remedy has been your work, as well as your podcast The Point of Pain, which I should have mentioned at the top, which is super important. Because there is a point to this pain, and that's so much of what you're offering to this community. Can you talk to us a little bit about that, too, and about how that shift happened in the midst of this shift into claiming your true narrative?

Nitika: Yeah, that's such a powerful question. I think it all happened in chunks and is all happening all the time at the same time. I really started to understand toxic positivity in my mid-20s to late-20s, when I had come to the other side of the most aggressive parts of my health journey. I understood that I was really just being fed a lot of ‘you should say this affirmation, you should just think one way, you should listen to The Secret.’ You know, my last name is Chopra, so everyone assumes that Deepak and I are family. We’re not.

Lauren: Wait, you’re not?! (laughs)

Nitika: I know! I know! I'm sorry, we're not. But, you know, “Just listen to this meditation. And then if you're still sick, there's something wrong with you,” is basically what I was being fed from the self-help world. And while I know that meditation is helpful, I know that saying positive affirmations are helpful, and eating certain foods, and getting a certain amount of movement in — it's all helped me. It is not the only thing. And it does not mean that if I'm not able to cure myself, that there is something wrong with me. It took me decades to get to that place. It took me a very long time … I didn't understand, I would have never understood what that even meant in my early 20s, because the wellness industry is not set up to have us really thrive. And I think that's the thing that makes my work now very different. You'll never see us write anywhere that we're trying to make you heal. That is not something you will ever hear come out of my mouth, okay? Because I don't know how to make you heal. Most of your doctors don't even know how to make you heal. Only thing I can tell you is how to have spiritual connection, maybe if that's your thing; how to feel emotionally connected to yourself; how to create community in a way that nurtures you. And to me, I've found those daily steps … sometimes minute-to-minute steps, monthly steps when we're going through a flare and we just don't have the energy … those accumulate into us feeling better, into us thriving in our lives more. But that looks so different for everyone. I think the thing that's different about Chronicon … which as I said, the wellness industry is not about, right … so if I don't convince you that you're sick, and that there a cure for it. and that I have the cure, then what am I even selling you? Don't even get me started about capitalism! We won't go into all of that! But it is this kind of vicious cycle of, ‘I need to show you that you're sick, that there's something wrong with you really, so that I can fix you.’ Because if I don't show you that I can fix you, then what do you need with me?

So then there's a place like Chronicon, that's like … we love you … we love you exactly where you are, whether you're phoning in from bed, or you're on a walk and it's the only walk you've done all week, or whatever it might be, or you're managing so many different things … we love you exactly where you are.

And we're just gonna infuse your life with so much vibrancy and joy and beauty and connection, that I know this is going to make you feel better — even if it's 1% a month, or 10% a week, or whatever it amounts to for you, however much you can handle … however much you're able to participate is really what it comes down to. But it's not about us healing you. In theory, people could do that on their own, right. You can do all of these things, a lot of people do. I mean, I was doing a lot of these things that we do in Chronicon myself. But there's a very different experience when you come together with other people who are exactly like you. And I have to say everyone in Chronicon is so beautiful, I just can't even get over it.  And I mean that in the fullest sense of the word. They are just incredible humans. And it creates a totally different experience when you are in a community of people and you're all reflecting what's possible, back and forth with each other. Anyway, I could go on a tangent about that!

Lauren: I mean, it's amazing. And this is the thing, Chronicon started as an in-person event that you launched in 2019. And because of COVID, because none of us are traveling, especially those of us who are chronically ill, and because the world has kind of changed a bit, you've pivoted in response. Can you tell us about how Chronicon has continued to develop in the face of COVID-19? And how this has changed your approach to advocacy, as well, on the day-to-day?

Nitika: So last year, as you said, we did our conference. It was the best day of my life, it really was. We had hundreds of people; we had sold out our conference a month before it even happened. We had thousands of people online, live streaming. It exceeded every expectation, really, that I had for it. I really was, like, is anyone going to even want to come to this thing? I have no idea what's gonna happen. It was kind of mind-blowing, what ended up happening. And then, obviously, I had all of these plans for 2020. I was, like, well, great, that was awesome. So let's do it again. And maybe let's do it in a few different places; let's do it, across the country or whatever. I was really ready to take it to the next level. And when COVID hit, I spent the first couple of months, I would say, just kind of in denial a little bit. I wasn't in denial about my own personal need to isolate and be very particular about what I was doing. But I just kept holding on to … well, maybe by January 2021, which is about the amount of lead time I would need to plan something of that scale, we'll be fine. And so I kept trying to make that work, in my head at least. And then after a couple of months, I had to really just accept that that wasn't gonna be the case. I had to grieve a little bit, to be honest with you. Because there's a real magic with in-person. And I'm a very clear, particular person. I’m an Aries, I know exactly what I want, and I know exactly what I don't want. And so I knew that the in-person experience … I wanted that because I really wanted people to feel loved, people with chronic illness to feel loved in the most divine and full sense of the word, from every cell in their body to feel that. Which is pretty hard to do when you have a chronic illness; I know from experience. So I just felt in-person it had to be. And when I realized that wasn't going to happen, it took me quite a few months to really sit with it. It took me time. I grieved, I started a few things online. We do the ‘Chronicconvo’ series, which we did for a couple of months over on our Instagram, where we would talk to a thought leader, and do an Instagram Live with them. We have all of those saved on our IGTV. And then I started the Chronicles newsletter, which comes out every Wednesday, which has been really fun. That's been great. So I started to play around with a few digital offerings. But I obviously knew that I needed to do something much bigger, something to the scale of the conference. And I really didn't know what that would be. Because as I've said, I was really clear about the in-person conference. So coming up with The Chronicon Community. For those of you who don't know, it's a monthly membership program. I'm sure we'll get into more of it, but we have lots of stuff going on there every single day. It's really an incredible place. But I needed it to feel that full. I needed it to feel like you basically had Chronicon in your pocket. Otherwise, it just wasn't gonna be good enough for me, to be honest with you. I’m, like, people's time is so valuable. I know I don't invest in things unless they're A-plus-plus, because who has time to do anything else other than what we're already doing. And I also have a really clear vision of what I want for this company and for this conversation. And for 133 million Americans that have a chronic illness that we know of, and obviously, people across the globe. It took me a long time. But I think what's really come out of it is something I am incredibly proud of, which is The Chronicon Community, obviously, and the podcast The Point of Pain … we're coming out with next season, at the top of the year in 2021. So when you ask me the advocacy question, I think there is a part of my advocacy that's changed, in terms of just feeling like I can be … I guess with an in-person conference, it was just one day, and so everything was really centered around this one day. And although we have the podcast and other opportunities, there weren't as many opportunities to collaborate. So I think there's a part of that, which I don't even know if I realized it until you just asked this question, that felt a little bit limiting. Because there are thousands of people that we can feature. There are so many people who are doing amazing work — like you, for example, you had to go to the WEGO Health Awards, so you couldn't be there in person, right?

Lauren: I know! This is one of my biggest regrets of 2019!

Nitika: We’re gonna have another conference soon, and you're gonna be right in the center. I can't wait. I cannot wait. So, just people that I want to collaborate with, like yourself, where the time didn't work.

So I think the way my advocacy has changed is that because with the Community we do events every week, multiple events a week, I can just be, like, “Hey, what are you passionate about? Let's talk about it. Let's find a way. Let's showcase you.”

And we're posting in there every day. There’s already been so many comments and shares today in our gratitude share and everything. People are getting exposure to how beautiful and wonderful they are just by being a member. I feel like I'm ranting about about how obsessed I am with everybody in the community. But I do feel that way. 

Lauren: Well, I couldn't agree more. I've been a part of The Community since you launched it. And what I love about it is that it feels personal. It is a social network for all intents and purposes, where you're posting, we're all communicating, we're messaging each other. And while there is a professional networking element of it, we're all able to connect on that level. There's also a direct line to people like you, to people like me, where we're meeting and chatting with people and developing relationships that might not have happened otherwise. And that is incredible. There's also an element of it, for sure … and I promise I'll be getting to a question at some point … I’m Chronicon’s biggest fan! There's an element of it as well … and we were talking about this also before I hit RECORD … it is about the de-colonization of the wellness industry. Because we see so much of wellness, and particularly patient advocacy, that's very white in its messaging. You did an event last week that I attended, where you didn't have a single speaker who wasn't a person of color. And that is so exciting to get new perspectives for someone like me, to expand your awareness. But also, for everyone to be engaged in these meaningful, purposeful conversations that are as much about your full self-hood as any conversation can be. And that's the really exciting part. Without being a total Debbie Downer; there hasn't been any of that, which has been amazing. So I'm also wondering, given what you've seen as this has continued to grow, what your hope for the future of patient advocacy is, for the inclusion of the patient voice. How do you see that continuing to develop over time — especially given the work that you're doing and the blood sweat and tears you're putting into this community on the ground right now?

Nitika: I don't know if this is a far stretch, but when you ask me that, what comes to mind is … I kind of hope that patient advocacy is so integrated, it's not even a thing. 

Lauren: I don’t think that’s a stretch, that's awesome. 

Nitika: That's kind of what I feel when you say that! Half the population … pretty much half, and probably by this point, because that number I quoted earlier from the National Health Council was from 2019 … half the population of this country has a chronic illness that we know of. Why is it treated like some extraordinary, out-of-this-world, oh my God this is such a rare thing, no one is dealing with this … No, it's just that our systems are set up to separate us. Our systems are not set up to support us; our systems are built to oppress us in our journey with our health. And so there is no reason why, given the fact that so many of us are dealing with a chronic illness, that this shouldn't just be in the vocabulary, that this shouldn't just be part of who we are. And so when when I think about patient advocacy in the future, I just think that our systems need a complete overhaul. I don't know how to do that!

Lauren: You’re doing it, though. Because part of it is just showing up in your authentic self, isn't it, and offering a solution. Which is what The Chronicon Community is.

Nitika: Thank you. I really do appreciate that. I think that was sort of the moment that I had to come to at one point, when I decided to start talking about my health journey in this way. I was, like, well, I see that some people talk about it, and they try to pass bills, and they go try to really change our government systems. And our laws. And thank you for doing that. Because I'm sure that's made my life a lot easier many times over, because people have done that. And then there's this other thing, where I’m, like, well, I don't really know how to do that. But I know how to create content, and I'm a media person. And the media is integrated into every facet of our lives, whether it's social media, or watching TV, or going to a concert … you know, when we used to go to concerts … absorbing music. We're just swirling in media all the time, whether we think about it that way or not. So I was, like, well, if I can infiltrate the media somehow … That's really, I mean, top secret, just so you guys know … that's really the plan … for us to take over the media, one conversation at a time!

Lauren: Yeah, that's absolutely how it happens. And I don't want to talk more about the separateness factor here, what makes everyone so unique and different within the community, because as you mentioned, it is about this whole and an integration of the whole. But as we are undergoing those shifts in the narrative, as we are becoming aware of what keeps us apart, and finding ways to come together — which is exactly what you're doing in the community — why is diversity in the patient advocacy voice so vital? Why is it so important to include so many different perspectives?

Nitika: Well, you know, it's funny, because while we were talking about this before we started, too … I swear, we're just repeating our conversation from earlier. We should have just been recording that!

Lauren: I was! I have it, don’t worry!

Nitika: Perfect! What I was kind of saying before, and what I really believe is that, the advocacy question that you just asked me … I feel like diversity shouldn't even be a word that we have to use. There are just so many different types of people everywhere.

And that is just the way that it is. Why does it have to be, like, "Oh, we're diverse now, because we have a person of color” … or a non-binary person, or a tall person or a short person, or whatever.

I'm just, like, this is just humanity. I've been a brown person my whole life; this is not something that I put on, or I try to accent so that I can fit into a cool box now that everybody wants to talk about it. This is just my life, and the lives of hundreds of millions of people, right? I'm not special in that way. So I kind of am, like, while I appreciate … this is the gateway drug to us, kind of feeling like we were more comfortable, we understand that there are educational aspects to the diversity conversation that are super important for communities that might not understand why it's so important to be as inclusive as we need to be. For me, personally, I'm just kind of, like, “Wake up people! We've been here since the beginning of time. I'm sorry that you're just now noticing us.” But that’s really how … I have no filter, people, in case you guys didn't notice I have zero filter! 

Lauren: But that’s why I love you!

Nitika:  I love you, too! That's really how I feel about it. And even when you mentioned that we did an event last week, and we had Black, brown speakers and nobody that was white necessarily, I was just, like, yeah, when I look back at so many of my podcast interviews, so many of our panels at Chronicon, all these things, I didn't ever feel like … oh my God, I’d better have a Black person on this thing, or I’d better have a brown speaker who does this thing … It's just like, oh my God, I know this badass person. And oh yeah, they happen to be Black or brown, or non-binary, or they happen to live in a totally different part of the world that I didn't know anything about. Or, you know, whatever community that they might be a part of that's just so different from what I know. I could go on a whole tangent about it; I probably already did! But I just feel like it shouldn't really be, like I said, the advocacy conversation. I just look forward to the day where it's not like … because a lot of times, I look at a lot of these conferences … and this is something that I really love about your podcast, because I look at your podcast and I can tell with every guest you have on your podcast, oh, she really wanted to have that guest on her show. She's not, like, oh, I need to fill my quota for a brown girl, so I'm gonna have Nitika on my show. 

Lauren: No, I so appreciate that.

Nitika: But you can feel the difference. And there's so many … whether it's podcasts or conferences, communities … that are like, oh, crap, we've had too many X people, now we need Y people, or whatever.

Lauren: It becomes tokenism, yeah.

Nitika: Exactly. And so I just look forward to the day where that's not even a thing that we talk about, to be honest with you.

Lauren: And even from a disability perspective, that there's no disability tokenism, too. Even if that's the one layer of identity that we're dealing with. Absolutely.

Nitika: I completely agree, especially for the disabled community. They shouldn't have one person in a wheelchair as their token person for this campaign. Like, oh, look how inclusive we are because we had someone … and I’m, like, no, no, no, no, you do not get a pass for that. That is not what this is like. Anyway, we could have a whole other episode on that.

Lauren: Part of that is also shaking up what the common narrative is about disability, right. That this is the chronic illness perspective, which is the perspective that both you and I take, where there's disability mixed in but that it's a much more nuanced conversation. And that you don't necessarily have to use a mobility aid to be someone who is disabled.

Nitika: Oh, yeah. I experienced that when I went to go vote this year. 

Lauren: Yeah, I remember you did an awesome video about that. Can you tell everyone about this, because I remember seeing it after you had voted, and I was, like, yes, Nitika!

Nitika: Because I was so angry, honestly. The video was not angry, but I was very angry, which usually is what gets me to create things. I went to go vote, and I got there early, a little bit before the actual line opened. I live in Manhattan. And the line was five hours long when I got there. By the time I left there, the line had grown to eight hours long. As I said, I got there early, so I was kind of devastated, I'm not gonna lie.

It’s that feeling that only people who go through this know exactly what that feeling is like, that moment when literally, you’re, like, am I gonna make it?

That's how it feels, right? Although I don't have a life-threatening illness, it is your survival. It is making sure that you're okay. So I ended up advocating for myself. I literally heard our Chronicon curriculum and conversations and topics in my head, and I was, like, I think this is the part where people keep telling me that we should advocate for ourselves! I'm a patient too, right? I'm practicing every day. So I was, like, okay, what is advocating for myself look like right now? I was just having this really basic conversation. And I ended up asking somebody who was one of the volunteers. I said, “I have arthritis, I can't stand in line.” My max is about 90 minutes that I can really stand up. She was, like, “We’re trained not to ask questions. It's okay if you do not have a mobility aid.” Because that was something I said, “I don't have a cane or anything, but I can't stand here.” So she took me to the disabled line. And I'm not gonna lie, it was a little nerve-wracking. Because it’s all that stigma of … well, I don't “look sick.” But it was a moment of empowering myself to do it, to know that I was doing what was absolutely right for my body. And the line, which would have taken me five hours, took me 90 minutes, which, as I just said, was the exact limit that I could possibly do. And I was so grateful. So afterwards, I was, like, I don't want anyone else to feel this devastation that I felt, just because they didn't know. So I made a video and was, like, "Guys, tell them that you need to go to the disabled line if you can't stand — because you have an autoimmune disease, or chronic pain or whatever.”

Lauren: Yeah, it was pretty awesome because I didn't even know about that. And I count myself as someone who's at least pretty plugged into voting laws and democracy. But seeing that video from you, which, in many ways, also, I felt like it gave me permission, it gave so many of us permission, to be able to advocate for ourselves in situations like that. It was a reminder of your humanity, as someone that we're all looking up to. There were so many elements of that post, the video that you did, that really shook up the conversation in a positive way — in the ways that we're trying to do all the time, but it was so targeted for this particular issue. And in some ways, part of me is like, wow, the line being five hours or eight hours, even in Manhattan … what a good sign. That means there were more people showing up, which was really needed! But to be able to stand up for yourself, when you're not walking around with a mobility aid, and finding ways to take care of yourself in a highly triggering situation —which the election already was. That's a big thing, among the many lessons you can learn from a community like this … how to behave in situations like that, how to treat yourself. I was wondering if you could also give us a little rundown … you've mentioned a few things about the programming in the Chronicon community. And this is all virtual for anyone who hadn't caught on with that yet, right? It's a membership community. It's a social network, but there are also events that, if you're a member, are free to attend. So can you tell us a little bit about what that programming looks like, and what kinds of topics you're covering and offering to people who are part of the community?

Nitika: Yeah. This is my favorite part!

Lauren: We've had a few conversations about this, and you’re, like, “It’s the programming! That’s my favorite part!”

Nitika: Everyone just come, so that we can just hang out and do all this programming together! Because it's really what I've been doing since the beginning of my career. So it's really deeply rewarding to create programming for people who actually really need it in this specific way. So next week, for example, we're doing “The Business of Being You”, which is our monthly event that we're going to have, and it's also going to be a topic that we're going to be coming back to over and over again.

What “The Business of Being You” is all about is really empowering our community members to share their story in the way that makes them excited.

So there's a lot of people in the community that aren't maybe as far along as you are, Lauren, with sharing their story so openly. But they want to, and they look at someone like you, and they're just, like, oh my God, she has a podcast! How do I do that? How does she do that? I don't understand. They have 1000 questions, which you do not have enough Spoons to answer all of them, right. So next week, we have “The Business of Being You” first installment, and this one is a Podcast Roundtable. And we're going to be featuring you; we're going to be featuring Natalie Kelley from Plenty and Well. Also Nikita Williams, who's a new member of our community; I realized she has a podcast. So I was, like, you know what, let's all just get together. And this is not only for women, just so you know. I happened to mention three women, but it's for any human being. So any way you identify, we welcome you, and we are excited to have you. So we're just going to be having a conversation about that. And we'll be doing that every month … one month about Instagram, one month about YouTube, things like that. And then we also teamed up with an amazing editor from Allure, which I'm really excited about. She happens to have a skin disease as well. And so we're going to be talking about Chronically Beautiful; that's the next event that we're having. What does it mean to have a beauty routine when you have a skin disease that is so crazy, or when you have a condition that doesn't make you feel as glamorous as you would like, or makes you feel lethargic. We're going to be doing that every month. No one in the community knows this yet, so you're getting top secret information, Lauren! But we're also gonna be starting a new segment and a new event called “Chronically Conscious”, and we're going to be having meditation. The meditation we did last week, within our event last week, was so loved by everybody, I was, like, okay, we need a whole thing.

Lauren: Yeah. And that was led by a community member, Regina, who's amazing.

Nitika: Yeah, Regina is incredible. Regina is going to lead an amazing 15-minute meditation this coming month in December. And then in January, we're gonna have a longer meditation practice that she's going to do to start us off for the new year. There's so many things. Every week, we're doing community Q&A, which is great. So I get to talk to everybody and say, like, “How is this going for you? What's coming up? What do you want to see?” And really, that's also a great time for people who are in the community to come to me and say, “Hey, I want to do an event finding a fun way to take your pills every day.” I don't know, whatever it might be. And I'm just, like, “Yes, let's do that! Let's do it together. I'm so excited to feature you.” So there are events like that every single week. We also do content around … like, there's tons of recipes that we've been sharing. That's been really fun. We're going to start in January having a featured Chef of the Month. Alison Morris was our first chef in November. It kind of just came together that way, we weren't really sure what we were gonna do about it. And so in January, we're officially having new chefs. Phoebe Lapine of Feed Me Phoebe is going to be our first one. I could talk about the content for seven years. So that's just a little taster!

Lauren: Exactly. It's just to give people an idea of, this is the kind of stuff that you'll have access to if you're a member. And these are the kind of conversations that are happening on the network. When the network first started, you did like a meet-and-greet; I guess it was the Community Q&A of the Month at that point. 

Nitika: So that was our Chronic Connecting event, which is separate from the Q&A. So Chronic Connecting happens every month, as well. And we're also going to be starting a monthly self love club. So there's so much. And you can come and go as you please. If you don't have the bandwidth to go to all of the events, that's always fine. You get a recording of every single event that we do, which is really great. But it's really fun! Because last week, so many of you got to meet each other and the chat was on fire. 

Lauren: We love the chat box! 

Nitika: ...

That's the thing with this community. You don't have to force it. Once you're in there, everybody just gets each other.

Which is amazing. It’s, like, oh, yeah, you're here. I know why you're here. Let's just be here together. Which is pretty awesome.

Lauren: Yeah, absolutely. So what is your ask for listeners today? What can they do to support you and the Chronicon community in your ongoing work?

Nitika: I would love to have whoever's listening as a member. That is really the best place to start. We give a free week trial for anyone who signs up for the monthly membership, which is really exciting. We give a month off if you sign up for a year. And the year price is about the same ticket price as a Chronicon event was for one day. So if you think about it that way. But you get multiple events every week, and content every day. We try to price it really reasonably. Just to make sure we're taking care of everyone. I have to add this to the page, but we do also offer scholarships. If people are in need of the support and their finances are just not where they need them to be to make a monthly payment or do a yearly payment … this community is for you. We charge for it for multiple, different reasons … me being a woman of color solopreneur myself, putting resources into the company is super important. But that's not why I'm doing it. For those of you who need a scholarship, never hesitate to reach out and let us know as well. But for those of you who feel like they can swing it, we're excited to have you, and yeah, you get a free trial.

Lauren: I love that. This episode's gonna air in early December, but you've been doing a few little things here and there to offer extra months off, and things like that. But it's always good to get in touch, and that's super important. You know I love to wrap up with a Top Three list. I was wondering if you've got some tips that you could share. You're so happily ensconced in this community, you're so close with so many members of the community. If you have three tips that you could share for living well with chronic illness that you've gleaned from your interactions with other patient advocates, or that you have experienced yourself … what would you share with listeners today?

Nitika: There's so much that we could share, and I think there's probably so much that you've already heard, too, right, because you're probably pros at dealing with your own health. But for me, I would say, as weird as this might sound, having a morning routine … it's not to be trendy, it really just helps me so much, I've noticed, especially during the pandemic. It's just anchoring for me. When you do have a chronic condition, it can feel annoying and exhausting to always be doing the self-care thing, because it's how we literally survive. But it's really helped me having that breakfast every morning, having my oat milk latte, taking my vitamins, whatever it is in your morning routine … it’s not really about that, it’s about you figuring out what feels good to you.

But I do find that that's really helped my mental health a lot … especially during a pandemic, where I'm just, like, why am I here again, the same day, same living room, every day?

Okay, got it. But there is something anchoring about, okay, I'm gonna get up, and I'm going to do these three things, and this is what my morning is gonna look like. And then I can figure the rest of the day out. I also think that … this is part of why the community is so important to me, but even outside of the community … just fostering relationships, investing in your relationships. I think one of the things that's come out of the pandemic, for a lot of my friends, is that they’re, like, “Oh, now we get why you've always really invested in relationships. When things hit the fan, and you don't have as many distractions, and you're not running around like a chicken with your head cut off doing 100 things, you need people.” You need people, you need people.

Lauren: I love how that's just occurring to able-bodied people now … like, oh, we need people. We’ve been screaming it for a while!

Nitika: Right? And I'm just, like, I learned this when I was in bed for the better part of six years, when I couldn’t walk and I had to call people and reach out, right? So yeah, I agree. I was kind of like, I'm sorry. You're just figuring this out? Why do you think I call you consistently … and all these things. So if you're listening to this, you probably already invest in your relationships on some level, but I think that's a really huge one. And then, something that I've been thinking about a lot is this amazing quote by the African-American poet Toi Derricotte; she says that ‘joy is an act of resistance.’ And it's something that people have said a lot lately, but not always given her credit. So I think it's important to say her name. I didn't really understand what that meant when I heard it. We say it a lot in the resistance revival course that I'm a part of. But it really is, in the face of so much suffering, in the face of so much trauma, whether it's in your own body or around you in the world, it is really an act of resisting all of the things that are trying to oppress us and keep us down — to choose joy. And I don't mean choose it in a way that belittles how hard that is, or that makes it sound flippant. That, oh, you just can choose something and it's over. I just mean the active practice of engaging in something that brings you joy. So, for me, singing does that, and I try to do that as often as I can. But even I forget sometimes, and when I start to do it again, it really makes a huge difference. But whatever you can do, just obviously safely from your home, that makes you laugh. This weekend, I spent so much time watching stupid TikTok videos. I was a bit embarrassed and ashamed. I was, like, oh my god, it's 11:30 in the morning, and I've been spending two hours watching.

Lauren: You are doing TikTok. I was stuck on Dr. Pimple Popper, because that’s my go-to! (laughs)

Nitika: Oh, my God!! Okay. See, but I was just, like … you know what? Yeah, yeah I watched two hours of stupid, funny TikTok videos, because this just increased my serotonin so much by the amount that I just laughed. Yes, this is needed. So those are some of my tips.

Lauren: I love that. Dare I ask what is next in your advocacy journey? This is what's happening right now and it's enough to focus on. But even for your wellness journey … what's happening next for Nitika?

Nitika: I really have no idea! (laughs)

Lauren: Actually I set you up to fail with that question. So, don't even worry! (laughs)

Nitika: I'm planning out Chronicon community content. And that brings me a lot of joy.

I think one of the things that has been really humbling about 2020 is that thinking in the future seems really strange right now.

It used to be really fun to be, like, I'm gonna land all these things, and go all these places, and all this stuff. And that's great, and I can't wait for us to be able to do all of that again. But I think in this moment of us being forced to be still, just creating and nurturing the community is really all that is on my heart. And continuing to work on my health journey on a daily basis, which I will always do.

Lauren: I love that. Nitika, is there anything else you'd like to share with everyone before I let you go?

Nitika: Yes. Lauren is amazing. And I know I don't have to tell you that because if you've made it this far in the interview, you're probably already obsessed with her. 

Lauren: No, they’re obsessed with you!

Nitika: I just really want to shout you out. I mean, we do shout each other out all the time.

Lauren:  That’s pretty much what we do for a living! (laughs)

Nitika: It’s basically what we do. If we got paid for how much we shout each other out…

Lauren: We’d be millionaires!

Nitika: Millionaires. It's really a very special thing that I get to have you in my life and part of the community, and just in my corner, and that I get to be in your corner. It brings me tremendous joy. I just think you're so incredibly amazing. And I just want to make sure everybody knows that. 

Lauren: Well, thank you so much, Nitika! The feeling is oh-so-mutual and my face hurts from smiling so much doing this interview. I feel like, doesn't that count as cardio? (laughs)

Nitika: Heck yes, it does!

Lauren: Let me just check my little activity tracker …

Nitika: Did they pick it up?

Lauren: They better, because let me tell you, my face is toned!

Nitika: Yes!

Lauren: Nitika, it's been, as always, such a pleasure to have you on the show. I'm so excited for everyone who's about to discover Chronicon. I'm so excited for those who are in the community who are continuing to participate. There is so much gorgeous, beautiful togetherness ahead for all of us. I mean, talk about joy as an act of resistance that you have actively sought to bring people together in a world where we are more splintered than ever. That is perhaps the most beautiful and peaceful response to the chaos of the last several years, and COVID and everything. So I'm just so grateful for your presence and for the work you do, and for bringing us all together, and so mindfully and so openly and honestly. Thank you so much for being on the show today, and remind everyone where they can find you and Chronicon, as well. Please remind them, and I'll obviously link to all this on the web page for the episode, too.

Nitika: Yeah, just go to @chroniconofficial and follow us on Instagram, and then chronicon.co is where all of our links and things are, so check that out as well.

Lauren: Nitika Chopra, what a joy. What an act of resistance. What a wonderful mutual appreciation club we do have. I look forward to having you on again soon. And yeah guys, go check it out. Chronicon is amazing. It was amazing from the start, it is amazing as it continues to go on and change and adjust to the world around us. Nitika Chopra, you are a light. Thank you so much.

Nitika: Thank you, Lauren.

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