The stories we tell play a major role in determining our health and wellness, as individuals and as a collective. Public narratives around chronic illness shape our healthcare system and determine everything from funding for research programs and availability of treatments to protections for the disabled and the day-to-day experiences of those who are ill. Erin Berman, a former content strategist and brand designer for Silicon Valley startups and multinational corporations—recognized by Forbes as “a natural speaker with an art for telling tales”—understands this. Later this month she will launch Superbloom, a social media platform meant to expand the conversation around women’s health. The site, which gives chronically ill women a way to connect with one another, will feature resources searchable by symptom, diagnosis, or treatment and offer support channels designed especially for the millions of women currently living with the kinds of illnesses that evade proper diagnosis and treatment.
The CDC estimates that more than 80% of women will experience at least one chronic illness in their lifetime, and millions of women are already living with chronic conditions. This writer is one. Berman is another. Superbloom emerged from the ashes of her own frustrating experiences with chronic illness and quest for better health. “When I was 26 I started experiencing weird symptoms impacting my energy, focus, digestion and weight. I went to a doctor who ran tests and found nothing, so my symptoms were shrugged off…Around a year later, I experienced a sudden onslaught of chronic symptoms: brain fog, chronic fatigue, mysterious rashes, numbness and tingling, Reynaud’s, cystic acne, severe abdominal pain, weight gain, IBS, and bloating. No one could agree exactly what was wrong with me,” Berman remembers. “Beyond gender bias, I experienced the skepticism of doctors and peers as test after test came back inconclusive. After receiving unsettling, vague diagnoses and being prescribed medications with serious side effects from multiple doctors, I began looking outside conventional healthcare.”
Berman hopes Superbloom will help destigmatize chronic illness and combat the excessive bias—gender bias, but also class bias and racism—that currently haunts contemporary healthcare. “We made Superbloom for womxn because we are so underserved by the medical community and the system of white supremacy, oppression and patriarchy that has traditionally dominated healthcare,” she explains. (In our emailed interview, Berman spelled women with an x, stating: “We choose to use womxn to indicate that all who identify as womxn will be welcome [on Superbloom], which currently is not the norm in our society. It’s important to us that all their voices are equally heard at the table.”)