Candlelight Conversations Volume 6: Christy Sillman
TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOU! WHAT ARE YOU PASSIONATE ABOUT?
I’m a mother, wife, nurse practitioner (in training), and congenital heart disease advocate. I NEVER thought I would work in medicine after spending most of my childhood in and out of hospitals enduring four open heart surgeries for my complex congenital heart disease. When I turned 18 a misguided pediatric cardiologist told me I was “cured” and discharged me from care. My gut told me this wasn’t right, but I didn’t argue with what sounded like good news. It wasn’t until I was pregnant with my son over 10 years later that I discovered I needed life-long cardiology care with a specially trained adult congenital cardiologist to manage long-term consequences of my many heart surgeries and monitor my heart for new issues, especially with pregnancy.
As a nurse I was shocked to know that I had been “lost to care” for a decade and wondered how many other people are walking around thinking they are cured only to experience devastating consequences later on. I became a passionate advocate for adults with congenital heart disease and have dedicated my career to the adult congenital heart community. I’ve spent the last 5 years as the nurse coordinator for The Adult Congenital Heart Program at Stanford and recently returned to school to become a nurse practitioner and continue my passionate drive to help others with congenital heart disease live a long and fulfilling life.
WE BELIEVE THAT JUST LIKE BROKEN POTTERY PUT BACK TOGETHER WITH GOLD, WE ARE MADE WHOLE AGAIN IN SPITE OF OUR TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS AND ARE MORE BEAUTIFUL AND UNIQUE HAVING BEEN BROKEN. WE WOULD LOVE TO HEAR YOUR KINTSUGI STORY!
I was born broken, so I don’t know what it feels like to be “whole” - I only know the beauty of Kintsugi. Life is so much more beautiful when we embrace our cracks and weave them into the fabric of our self identity.
My Kintsugi story involves the moment I began laying gold in the cracks - when I became a nurse. I resisted a career in medicine but my natural empathy and caring drive to help others won over. Once I started as a nurse I realized there was power in my ability to say “I understand” to my patients. I’m able to connect with them and reassure them that I’m here to help and support them. I joke that it’s my superpower, but it’s really true, my congenital heart disease made me who I am and I wouldn’t be me without it. For that, I am so grateful for my journey, despite the difficulties.
SHARING YOUR STORY AND OWNING YOUR TRUTH IS SO IMPORTANT! HOW DO YOU PROMOTE AUTHENTICITY?
I didn’t talk a lot about my congenital heart disease growing up and as a young adult. It was something I denied as part of my identity. I had a lot of anger and shame that stemmed from my condition. I also struggled with anxiety and depression, something we now know is very common in adults with CHD, and felt the need to hide my struggles.
Owning my authentic truth, being unapologetic for my struggles and needs, and finding pride in my journey has brought a level of strength I never had before. It’s about walking with all parts of ourselves; celebrating our triumphs, and giving ourselves grace in troubling moments. The ying and the yang of life - you can’t have one without the other.
“Once I started as a nurse I realized there was power in my ability to say “I understand” to my patients. I’m able to connect with them and reassure them that I’m here to help and support them.”
HOW DO YOU PRACTICE SELF-CARE AND SELF-LOVE?
I start with the basics: eat nourishing foods, move my body, and breathe.
I work on not comparing myself to others - EVERYONE is on their own journey. You can only truly measure yourself to yourself - no one else. I try to live in the present moment, find gratitude in every difficult situation, reframe my thinking with an emphasis on the positive, and lead with kindness in all interactions. I focus on personal growth. I love the field of positive psychology and tend to make goals based on personal growth while also learning strategies to empower those around me. Lastly - I connected with others. I belong to a group of women with CHD called “Zipper Sisters” started by my friend Lena where we support and encourage each other in a sisterhood I never knew I needed but am so grateful I have.
NEEDLESS TO SAY, WE ARE BIG PROPONENTS OF AROMATHERAPY. WHAT ARE YOU FAVORITE SCENTS?
I have been searching for a smell I’m obsessed with - The Northern CA coastal area. It’s a mixture of coastal sage, eucalyptus, red wood, ozone, salt, ocean, and earth that intoxicates me. I’m a Californian native and every time I approach the coast I take the biggest deepest breath and just feel ALIVE. If you could recreate that smell for me I would buy ALL the candles and fill my house with them.
YOUR STORY IS ONE THAT PERSONIFIES COURAGE AND RESILIENCY. WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR OTHERS WHO ARE THRIVING TO OVERCOME AN OBSTACLE OF FIND BEAUTY IN THEIR BROKENNESS?
Take it one step at a time, focus on what you can control and optimize it, and you are definitely not alone. Everyone is dealing with SOMETHING. Finding others who are similarly broken and creating a tribe of survivors is immensely powerful. Owning your truth, using it as strength and drive in life, and finding gratitude in the golden cracks cultivates resilience.
WHO DOESN’T NEED AN INSPIRATION? WHAT INSTAGRAM ACCOUNTS DO YOU TURN TO FOR YOUR DAILY DOSE OF INSPO?
Anything that makes me laugh or beautiful photos like @natgeo
WE WOULD LOVE TO CONTINUE TO FOLLOW YOUR JOURNEY! HOW CAN WE STAY CONNECTED WITH YOU?
Facebook: Christy Sillman RN