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I have found that speaking vulnerably about what I’m going through, and therefore helping others, has really helped me. So it’s a really nice, circumventing cycle there.

The Mighty Presents: Kat Harrison, Chronic Illness Advocate

I am a chronic illness advocate and a writer who lives with chronic migraine, oscillopsia, bilateral vestibular loss, chronic ear disease and also a rare neurological syndrome called SUNCT.

What made you become an advocate?

I decided to become an advocate out of loneliness and out of disappointment from my life. I, for the longest time, hid my health problems. I never talked about them publicly.I never told employers about them and I rarely told people how my day’s actually were and it sucked the life out of me. I just wanted to be more honest and I just started talking about my health. Thanks to outlets like The Mighty, I’ve really been able to build my advocacy, and it’s really changed my life for the better.

What is your upcoming book, “Surgery on Sunday,” about?

I’m publishing my first book in the beginning of 2020. It’s a picture book called “Surgery On Sunday.” I wrote it for young me. I’ve had 14 surgeries so far, to date, and a lot of them were when I was a child and I just felt like I couldn’t find picture books that reflected my reality. So this picture book is for ages 4-8 and is really for young patients and the people they love. I think it’s super important for kids to be able to see their identity and see themselves and what they’re going through reflected in the media that they consume.

What is the most important thing multiples surgeries have taught you?

It doesn’t get easier. While I wish that was super optimistic, I think it’s really important to face the reality that you never get super used to being sick. Everyday will continue to be hard in some ways. But you do get better at rebounding, you do get better at going with the punches and you do get better for sure at communicating your needs and knowing your limits and knowing your boundaries and how to define them.

What advice would you give to someone preparing for surgery?

I have one big thing, over prepare! Think of all the things that you need to do and then do double of them. Cook all the food your going to eat, pack your fridge with things that are easy to eat, understand who your support system is and define how you want them to support you. I can really go on but I think it’s important to prepare so you can really give the time that you need to physically healing and also in aiding your mental health. 

What is your biggest challenge due to chronic illness?

I would say the biggest challenge is that I’m unable to plan my life with certainty. I’ve had four surgeries actually in the past 3 years. Really made it hard to achieve some of my long-term goals. That has really changed my mindset and also increased my anxiety so I think that chronic illness just hits you where it hurts sometimes, but you do get better at navigating those valleys in order to actually climb that mountain.

What would you like people to know walking away from this video?

Just because you have chronic illness, it doesn’t mean that your life is over. Yes, it changes your life in so many ways, so many ways that I wouldn’t have predicted and so many ways that are hard to swallow at times, but I’m really proud that I’m still able to accomplish things and I feel really honored to be able to talk about my health in a more public forum.  I think that chronic illness, while it changes you, shouldn’t stop you and won’t stop you. You just have to keep going.

Originally published: August 12, 2019
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