29 July 2011

Choosing happiness

It is interesting that jealousy arises in those who should have the most empathy.

I was recently featured in New Idea – a double page spread. Of course I was hesitant. My story in the mainstream media's hands. My story about living with a rare, highly visible and often confronting chronic illness called ichthyosis. A story that could be manipulated and sensationalised like a great chunk of pity-putty. But it wasn't. I didn't write the article, but my personality, humour and honesty shone through.

The New Idea article was a small window into my experiences. To make those who don't know me think differently about physical appearance. To make people see my achievements, despite. The writing on my blog is the reality of my life. The fun I have shopping and seeing bands, the food I cook, the clothes I wear. Sometimes the reality I write about is tough. Hospital. Harassment. Love. Self doubt. Overachievement. My appearance. But it's the reality that I am prepared to share. And I am glad I do.

In the 19 months I've been blogging I have found a new support network. Online to offline. The friendships I've formed have been amazing. I have found support, acceptance and encouragement in strangers across the world. I have also been told I've helped people with ichthyosis and other disabilities and chronic illnesses. I've been told by parents of children with ichthyosis that they hope their children grow up to have the same positive outlook as I do. This is a privilege. And I've never sought pity in any of my writing pursuits.

Interestingly, the only negative comments I have received about my New Idea article, and also my writing for the ABC and DiVine have been from another person with ichthyosis. This criticism has been in the form of public online beratings. Despite our obvious similarity we are poles apart. Our generation, upbringing, support networks, outlook and choice are poles apart. The responses I have received from her are because of their own insecurities and bitterness. The jealousy and nastiness within are far more painful than her ichthyosis. Empathy versus jealousy. I know what I'd choose.

I have chosen a good life for myself. I could have sat at home hidden away, covering up, being ashamed. It's been suggested that I do. But I've worked hard at my own integration. I've had the support and encouragement from my parents. I've shown everyone I've encountered that I CAN. The road hasn't been smooth. I've experienced judgement, loneliness, fear, heartbreak, the desire not to have ichthyosis, bullying and physical pain. But I've just gotten on with life, despite the bullshit. Nothing has been handed to me, nothing has just fallen into place. I've worked damn hard to prove that I am not just a red face.

We all have the same opportunities in life. We can choose not to take them. We can choose to be angry at the blows life has dealt us. We can choose to feel hard done by.

I've chosen to see humour in awful situations. I've chosen to grab opportunities firmly with both hands and run with them excitedly, in awe of the possibilities. I have chosen an education, a corporate career and a media journey (writing and television) - an income for my independence. Friendships haven't always been easy, but I've worked hard at them too. I have chosen happiness. And these choices make my ichthyosis-riddled life a whole heap easier. 

(Originally written for Edenland)


  1. I loved reading this at Edenland and loved it again here. You are so right and such an inspiration. Like my idol Oprah says, we all have choices and everyday we can choose to be happy. I think you epitomise confidence, happiness and determination to succeed. Love your work!

  2. Well said Carly, I truly believe happiness is a state we choose and unfortunately there are people who choose to live in the opposite - You continue to be the inspiration that you are and remember "water off a ducks back"! :)

  3. I think you have just written a fantastic blog post (but then you are a fantastic lady...)

  4. It's quite fascinating that the difference between you and your detractor is that you have chosen to be happy and to live the best life you can, whereas they seem to have let things happen to them. And it's easy to do that; it's easy to sit back and say that life isn't fair and that everyone else has been lucky because opportunities have come their way and fate has clearly shone on them instead.

    But no: you have to choose how you want to live your life. I know I'm definitely guilty of not doing that at times - sometimes, it's easier to just hope that life will send nice things you way. And sometimes it does - it sent me my Chef, after all - but most of the time, we actually have to get off our backsides and make a choice.

    Thank-you for reminding me of this, Carly, and thank-you for being a veritable ambassador for choosing how to live your life. :)

  5. You are gorgeous, inside and out. I was so excited when I read your article in the mag at a friends place - I was about to gush I know Carly, but then I remember that we've never actually met. So, thats the kind-of impression you make!!

  6. I'm sure I've said it before and I'll say it again - You are an amazing person Carly. x

  7. Sounds like such a cliche when I write it down, but you are such an inspiration Carly. The way you live your life, your outlook and attitude, is inspiring. I love the idea of choosing happiness xx

  8. I think it's a little be sad that anyone has reacted to your feature in New Idea this way. I thought it was great, and tastefully done. Still, I'm glad that you are choosing to live a good life. It might be hard sometimes, but you will get all the good things from it that people who choose to remain unhappy will never get.

  9. Amen sister! Everyone has a right to complain once in a while, but people who are negative and critical all the time need to wake up and realize that everyone has problems and the important thing is how you deal with them. I hate people that moan and groan about how bad they have it but don't do anything to change it. No one is gonna change the bad stuff in your life except you so don't complain unless you are prepared to do something about it

  10. While I appreciate what you've written, for some of us, thinking yourself happy is just not possible. I have depression and when I'm in the midst of a depressive cycle, I can no more think myself happy than you can think your ichtyosis away.

  11. Here, Here Anonymous, Depression is just as real as Ichthyosis, But also remember that people with depression and mental illness CAN and DO feel Happiness too. Making assumptions about people is dangerous without checking them out first.

    Anonymous, also try to make choices when feeling motivated to help you create happiness, which will in turn reduce your depression.

    Sorry Carly, I just had to give some encouragement to anonymous. If we all helped others it would be a much better world that we live in.


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