#FrayLife Follows: Crohnically Blonde

 

 

This month’s #FrayLife Follows features Michelle Pickens, aka Crohnically Blonde. Michelle’s a local blogger turning her battle with Crohn’s Disease into awesome and inspirational content. (She’s also a regular contributor here at #FrayLife!)

Read Michelle’s story below and give her a follow on IG and check out her blog to keep up with her journey!

Give us some background on who you are and how Crohnically Blonde got started.

I’m Michelle Pickens the creator and voice behind CrohnicallyBlonde.com. I live in the suburbs of Baltimore with my husband and my two rescue dogs. I work as a Digital Account Manager by day and after hours I hustle hard to create content for my blog CrohnicallyBlonde.com. If I am not working or blogging, chances are I am at a barre class, catching up on Vanderpump Rules, or researching new beauty/skincare trends.

Crohnically Blonde came to be after I got diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease and transitioned into the corporate world three years ago. I had blogged on and off since my freshman year of college but most of my content focused around fashion and beauty (I was working in makeup sales at the time). My personal blogging ventures were put on hold when I landed a job where 70% of my job description was contributing to that brand’s blog. When I left my job in the creative field and transitioned to corporate life I needed a way to channel my ideas and creativity. It was time to bring blogging back into my life. This coincided with the time that I was very sick and going through the process of getting diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease. During my diagnosis and months that followed, I relied heavily on the online community for answers and for support. I started sharing my struggles with having an invisible illness on my social media in hopes of connecting with others in similar situations. I received an outpour of positive feedback and people actually thanked me for being so transparent about what I was going through. I realized that my experiences and struggles could actually help other people and that is how Crohnically Blonde was born.

What kinds of content do you regularly share on your blog, podcast and IG account?

My blog content covers quite a few different topics but pretty much everything ties back to wellness and self-care. I can go from touching on a very serious topic like eating disorders one day and sharing my favorite new face mask the next. I knew I wanted to create a place to discuss the tough topics related to the chronic illness that people shy away from but at the same time I still wanted it to be fun and I wanted to share those other aspects of my life. I am more than just my illness!

As for serious topics, I talk a lot about the physical and mental impacts of IBD/chronic illnesses, self-esteem and body image, and overall updates on my health journey. On a lighter note, I share my favorite beauty products, podcasts and books I am loving, and reviews of products that I can’t get enough of, among many other things.

My podcast has a very similar vibe to my blog. My mom is my cohost and is also a Crohn’s crusher! We talk about a variety of topics like traveling with Crohn’s, trying botox for the first time, and the different kinds of relationships between mothers and daughters. It is cool to get two different generational perspectives on the topics we dive in to.

Instagram is where I put out content most often and it is a mix of posts relating to the blog or podcast and my everyday life experiences. I think of Instagram as a way for people to get to know the person behind the blog, especially now with Instagram stories!

Briefly explain how living a healthy, active, social lifestyle helps you crush Crohn’s.

Sweating for the wedding 💪🏼💍 (and just to keep my overall sanity 😅) Found a super convenient app that lets me find local personal trainers and steam sessions from them when I want and where I want. Aka around my busy work day and from my house OR the gym. Their trainers take a unique approach that focuses on learning to feel good in your own skin which y’all know I am a huge advocate for. Check out the link in my bio to download and try for yourself. You can also use my code HB 15 for $15 off any personal training package. Between the convenience situation and the fact that I actually like the workouts I’m doing, I have to say I give @handstand_app 👍🏼👍🏼 #TeamHandstand #hbtsponsored #hbthandstand

A post shared by Michelle Pickens (@crohnicallyblonde) on

A big part of living with a chronic illness is adapting your lifestyle so that you can stay healthy while still living your life to the fullest. It is all about balancing activity with rest and listening to what your body needs. I know that the better I take care of my body, the more things I will be able to do.

When I was first diagnosed it was really hard for me to get into a good workout routine because I always felt so weak and tired. I had to come up with lighter impact workouts and other ways that I could get my body moving in order to regain strength and confidence in myself. A lot of these activities, like yoga and hiking, I grew to love and still incorporate them into my life. Those not only get me moving but they also allow me to clear my head. Recently, I have become a serious barre fanatic. One of my friends (and fellow #FrayLife contributor) teaches at a local studio and after attending her class I was hooked. Not only do I love the actual workouts but I also really enjoy the social piece of it. We now have a group of us that go together a few times a week which helps with accountability but also makes it more fun.

Staying active and social honestly keeps me sane. It is so easy to isolate yourself and sit on the sofa watching Netflix all day when you don’t feel great. Working out helps me to feel empowered that even though my body seems to hate me sometimes it still can do so much! Getting out with friends is also super important because they are your support system and remind you that you are loved and appreciated even on a bad Crohn’s day.

What advice/tips can you give fellow young professionals also trying to maintain a similar lifestyle while balancing a demanding career and side hustles (and maybe fighting a chronic disease along the way)?

 

 

Listen to your body. In a culture where everything is go, go, go, it is easy to fall into the trap of running on coffee, no sleep, and whatever food UberEats will deliver while you are working. While you may see short-term success with that approach, you are wearing yourself down physically and mentally which will really hurt you in the long run. Your body will tell you what it needs and you have to respect it, whether it means carving out time to get extra rest, setting aside an hour to actually make yourself a healthy dinner, or holding yourself accountable to leave work on time to make it to a yoga class. All of these things take time but it is worth investing into caring for yourself properly because if you don’t you’ll end up burnt out and exhausted.

You also have to stay in your own lane and stop comparing yourself and your success to others.  I see people wasting so much time comparing how they look, how successful their side hustle is, how many times a week they work out, how much money they make, the list goes on… All you are doing is wasting time that you could be spending crushing your goals! Everyone has a different situation and follows their own unique journey to success. If you are putting forth your maximum amount of effort and tackling each day with the intention of success then you have done all you can do.

What is something completely random or unusual that most people don’t know about you?

I am a licensed barber! While I was in college I decided to also go to hair school. I ended up not doing anything professionally with my license but I have it if anyone ever needs a quick cut. I also lived in New York City for a hot second after high school. I started college there at the Fashion Institute of Technology and worked at Victoria’s Secret flagship. That is actually where I started blogging because this girl in one of my classes introduced me to Tumblr (I am totally dating myself here…) and I was hooked.

What has you most excited about contributing to #FrayLife?

I’m super excited to be part of the #FrayLife community! I think it is a great way to bring people with similar interests together and keep them up to date on fun local experiences. Every article I have read has clued me into some cool restaurant I need to go, an event I need to sign up for, or even someone awesome I have to follow on Instagram. Any time I can contribute to something locally I get really excited because it gives me a chance to be a part of what is happening in my own community!

 

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