It all started in 2012 Hannah, the "slightly introverted social butterfly," had a decline in health but she's not letting that stop her, in fact she is using it to empower others.
We all love family holidays. They offer the best memories, sand between our toes, indulging on exotic food, and posting daily on social media with every emoji to do with warm weather followed by #blessed. The only form of illness you associate with holidays are from eating too much, travel sickness or even sunburn.
But let’s imagine something a little different…
Imagine going on a family holiday and contracting a chronic illness that changes your life forever. An illness that sucks every bit of energy from your body. An illness that constantly leaves you nauseous, gives you an internal chill, under your skin, as you experience fatigue, and makes simple tasks like brushing your hair seem like a chore.
Now imagine this illness isn’t quite recognised in the 21st century. It is known and somewhat spoken about but the chronic pain doesn’t result in Get Well cards or flowers and chocolate. Instead, it results in many days spent indoors, with no social life and the feeling of isolation.
It all started in 2008. At 13 years old, Hannah, the "slightly introverted social butterfly," had a decline in health and her life has never been the same. Growing up Hannah was happy and healthy it wasn’t until after a family holiday that her health started to play up. Hannah has a number of uncommon and at times unrecognised, illnesses. She battles Lyme disease, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and Fibromyalgia. This means regular symptoms like nausea, fatigue and liver problems. Though she spent most of her high school years with good periods of health, in 2013 these symptoms really started to take effect on her quality of life.
“I was terrified, everything that was once so easy, was now so hard. Even the simplest of daily tasks like brushing my hair, eating, having a shower, exercising, working, and socialising became awfully hard and even impossible for a while.”
Hannah describes her experience as challenging but speaks highly of her support system. Her family is essential to her strength. It is their constant encouragement that keeps Hannah working toward getting better. Her boyfriend, Troy, is always there for her doing small things with great love, like writing letters or going on adventures with her. Little things that keep Hannah’s beaming smile on her face. Hannah’s friends and the team of specialists she has working with her, have also been a reminder that her life is worth living and every day is an opportunity to create, laugh and be grateful. “The things that help me most are laughing with my friends and family, and appreciating the little things.”
Now 22, she's not letting these health hurdles stop her; in fact, she is using it to empower others. The healing process has brought about endless opportunities for Hannah. As a way of connecting with the world and overcoming the isolation of uncommon illnesses, she took to Instagram with @healing_han to document her weekly struggles and triumphs, whilst connecting with others who are battling similar health problems.
“I think I hovered over the ‘create account’ button for hours haha! I was absolutely blown away by the Instagram community, and still can’t express how appreciative I am of every single person who has reached out to me.”
Building an online support forum has been what Hannah describes as a “blessing in disguise.” Words that she also uses to describe the extra time she has been given to concentrate on her creative side.
Little Big Gems is Hannah’s way of giving back to the world. It is a small business she runs where she creates gifts like hand poured soy candles that fill rooms with the taste of vanilla, coconut or watermelon. Alongside the candles are handmade polymer clay treasures. Clay bowls with vibrant colours to keep your rings, she also creates detailed jewellery and key rings that are so vivacious you’ll think you’ve just opened a packet of Willy Wonka’s special edition gobstoppers. “I’m happiest when I’m creating.” And for Hannah, nothing is more rewarding than the smile on a customers face when she gives them their unique soy candle or polymer clay treasure.
For this adventurous soul, the road to recovery may seem a distant promise but she is determined to make things work so she can help others who are going through similar problems. When asked what kind of advice she’d give to someone undergoing chronic illness she graciously answered:
“Be kind to yourself. You are going through so much already, the last thing you need is to be harsh on yourself. If a symptom pops up it’s not your fault… Cut the crap and start being gentle on yourself. Even when things feel like they’re never going to get better, take a breath, rest and wake up tomorrow and try again.”
Imagine yourself on a family holiday, sand between your toes, the sun beaming down with the warmth of Vitamin D seeping into your skin. In-between those joy-filled moments there are going to be moments of illness, of sadness, of stress. Hannah is a reminder that our lives are so much bigger than any of one of these moments. We are all these moments put together and so much more.