Q: Tell us about you.
What health conditions do you have and how have they affected your life?
Q: My name is Blossom and I am the founder of Tea with HB, an online educational platform and international community where I create resources for chronic illness, disability, and much more! I am a writer, always have been. It is the way I make sense of- and escape- the world.
My first name is Holly Blossom: spiky and sweet, winter and spring, looks healthy and deals with ‘invisible’ disabilities! I have been ill since the age of 9 but had to deal with a lot of medical gaslighting before getting any sort of diagnosis, which is unfortunately a very common experience. Now I’m 22 and have 13 diagnoses.
Q: What has been your biggest challenge, or the hardest thing you have had to come to terms with, since your diagnosis?
A: I don’t think I can neatly sum up my biggest challenge as so many things interconnect- health issues, being discriminated against because of my illnesses, not being believed as a young girl, losing friends, bullying, seizures starting the day before my first A-Level exam (luckily it was drama and I was playing a drug addict so the twitching helped!). All of these things continue to have an impact on my overall mental health and well being.
I don’t like the narrative that I’m a ‘warrior’ because I don’t want to be at war with my own body. I hate the idea that my pain ‘doesn’t define me’ even though it impacts every aspect of my life! I know often these phrases are used to try to make me feel better, but I think it can be really damaging and it would be more helpful if we could embrace that illness is a natural part of life rather than be afraid of it or turn it into something we have to ‘fight’ or separate ourselves from.
I will probably always be ill, so although it’s challenging I’d rather learn how to live with my limitations than in spite of them! For me, it is healthier to accommodate my needs rather than try to ‘overcome’ them- the latter has only ever led to flare ups and burn out!
The hardest part is balancing all of this and trying to give myself grace and kindness when it feels like I’m failing.
Q: Despite your challenges, what keeps you going and brings you joy on difficult days?
A: I love Taylor Swift, Zelda, Avatar the Last Airbender, Studio Ghibli, Heartstopper, learning new recipes, and listening to audiobooks!
I write poetry every day, and I am a co-founder of Poetry Orchard, which is an intersectional organisation that hosts writing workshops to help people grow in their creative confidence! It brings me so much joy because helping people express themselves and their feelings is really fulfilling.
Blossom's most recent writing workshop she hosted for the Poetry Orchard.
If you're interested in attending future workshops, keep an eye on the Poetry Orchards Instagram.
Q: What is an achievement you're most proud of since being diagnosed?
A: The achievement I am most proud of is Tea with HB - I created Tea with HB to provide the education, comfort, and support I desperately craved at the beginning of my journey when I was only a child when I’d never met anyone like me and I didn’t know what chronic pain was.
The community (or communi-tea!) I have managed to grow is the best thing I’ve ever done. Through podcasts, YouTube videos, and artwork I have tried to create an inclusive and compassionate space for people. Every night I get to go to sleep knowing I have helped at least one person feel less alone, which is something I wish I’d had as a child!
I’m glad that I have become the person I needed when I was struggling with all those new symptoms, and I hope it continues to grow and provide support to more people!
Creating these resources has also been a way for me to unlearn a lot of my own internalised ableism and come to terms with living with chronic illness, which is a really difficult and ongoing journey.
Q: If you could write a small note/letter to your past self, what would you say?
A: You’re not lying! You’re not pretending! Your pain is real.
Don’t feel guilty or ashamed for things you can’t control. Any friend who leaves you isn’t someone you want in your life anyway. Spend more time reading books and playing your Nintendo and forget about exams - they genuinely do not matter and your love of learning will still be there! Just because you’re not made for school doesn’t mean you’re not made for life. Keep writing!
You’re right that things do get worse, but there is also so much joy waiting for you.