How this blogger and YouTuber bounced back after battling lymph node tuberculosis
They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and that’s exactly how Priyanka Nair dealt with life’s unexpected turns.
After fighting lymph node tuberculosis for a year, the 34-year-old from Mumbai now blogs and talks about the importance of mental wellbeing. She is also the author of 26 Days 26 Ways for a Happier You, a short self-help book that she released in May this year.
In 2016, Priyanka was diagnosed with lymph node tuberculosis, and doctors found around 15 tumours inside her body, from her throat till her abdomen. With a two-year-old daughter and husband who was struggling with a new job, things were not looking good.
Because of the illness, Priyanka also had to quit her job, and began to face a huge financial crisis as all her savings went towards medical treatment.
Explaining the extent of her turmoil, Priyanka says,
“I spent sleepless nights away from my daughter in fear of passing the infection to her. When people came to see me, they maintained a very impolite distance. I lost all my appetite, yet put on so much weight. I also took 22 pills every day, including steroids.”
Although lymph node tuberculosis is almost always curable and isn’t contagious, everyone around her made her stay away from her daughter. She also recalls an incident where she once saw her friend passing by and got up to greet her and her baby, and was told not to come close.
“It was heartbreaking, but I neither had the energy to explain, nor did anyone care,” she says.
Battling the illness caused Priyanka to face severe mental stress as well, with an “unwarranted feeling” taking up space in her mind.
“I started to feel depressed and feared I will lose my mind. The physical ailment starting impacting my mental health as well. That’s when I decided to start blogging and bounce back to normalcy.”
She also says her daughter once asked her why she didn’t wear makeup or go to work anymore, and that innocent question made her more determined to take charge of her life.
After a year of uncertainty, Priyanka began showing signs of recovery. As everyone breathed a huge sigh of relief, she was suddenly hit with high-grade dengue, and was in the ICU for nine days. She says it took another three months to completely recover.
“I lost one-and-a-half years of my life, agitated, frustrated, and trapped in illnesses. My mental health was at its worst at this point. But starting my blog was something I looked forward to.”
After all her medical treatments were finally done, Priyanka was relieved, but says that a part of her seemed to be lost forever, to depression, anxiety, and mental stress. As she fought with her demons every day, she decided to dedicate her time towards mental health and helping anybody dealing with it through writing and words, and started her blogs - Virtual Siyahi and Sanity Daily.
She also practises Nichiren Buddhism, embarking on a journey inwards to bring back her sanity and peace with meditation, chanting soothing mantras, and going to the gym.
On why she hasn’t sought professional help, Priyanka says,
“Although I always recommend people I counsel to seek medical help, in my case, I was already going through a lot and no one around me thought about getting me professional help.”
Through her blog Virtual Siyahi and YouTube channel with the same name, which she created in 2017, Priyanka shares her story of battling lymph node tuberculosis, her mental health, and her feelings.
She also hosts a video series called Humanity Ki Chain where she invites mental health professionals or just about anyone who wants to talk about their experiences, for a chat. So far, she has written around 370 blog posts, and uploaded seven videos under the series.
“The aim behind starting this series was to enable people to talk about mental illness and break the stigma attached to it; to break stereotypes like ‘men can't be stressed’, ‘there is nothing like postpartum depression’, denying eating disorders, anxiety, and panic attacks that can make a person’s life a living hell,” Priyanka says.
On Sanity Daily, which she started three months ago, Priyanka posts advice about stress management, and focuses more on problems people may encounter in their marriage. She also shares insights from certification courses she took about mental illnesses and mental health first-aid. She is currently pursuing a course in cognitive behavioural therapy.
She adds that both Virtual Siyahi and Sanity Daily are monetised blogs. On the first blog, she earns an income through sponsored posts and paid book and product reviews as a verified Amazon Influencer. On the second, she primarily earns through ads and affiliate marketing.
Priyanka released her self-help ebook, 26 Days 26 Ways for a Happier You, earlier this year, and has received wonderful reviews, a number of them being from other bloggers. She has also contributed to another book, Women are Roses, an international collaboration with an NGO based in Colorado.
“I have also received a trophy and certificate for my eBook from Author Magazines, Chennai, as the best debut author in the mental health category. The book is also nominated by NE8X Official in the same category,” she adds.
In the next couple of years, Priyanka aims to venture into entrepreneurship, with a startup of her own - a dream on which she’s working hard to turn into reality.
To those struggling with mental health and wellbeing, Priyanka has some words of encouragement and advice:
“You are not alone. Please vent, and try to open up. Try to speak to someone with whom you are comfortable. Drop the fear of being judged and labelled. I know it is not easy but once these invisible wounds and silent pain make a space inside your head, it becomes really difficult to concentrate on important things in life - it takes away a little bit of you from you every day and you feel helpless and restless."
"Please seek medical help, go and see a doctor, show some love to yourself. Your body is your temple, please respect it and nurture it with love and care it needs," Priyanka says.
(Edited by Rekha Balakrishnan)