Invisible Illness: From Paralysis to Powerful with Alyson Seligman

Alyson Seligman is reminding us that there is so much more than what meets the eye. This week’s guest of Lift U Up: Inspiring Health Stories, had a 30th birthday that changed the course of her entire life. When her unknown invisible illness suddenly made her paralyzed and sent her to the hospital, Alyson started a journey of recovery and managing her symptoms. It took getting diagnosed with an invisible illness for Alyson to learn what that phrase even meant, and today, 12 years later, she’s passionate about educating others on everything she’s learned about invisible illnesses. One of the ways she’s doing this – educating workplaces about how to create a compassionate workplace, and empowering women to take on challenges with strength. 

Uncovering an Invisible Illness

Alyson Seligman knows what it is like to overcome obstacles. When she was about to turn 30 she had plenty going on: a new baby at home, just back to work, and trying to navigate what it meant to have a life outside of being a mom. As her birthday week went on, she started feeling sicker and sicker, and eventually made it to a doctor. When the first doctor simply brushed her off, it wasn’t until she had severe symptoms that she stood up for herself to get real help. It took a trip to the hospital and a knowledgeable neurologist to see exactly what was going on, and eventually Alyson got a one in a million diagnosis, transverse myelitis. 

According to the Mayo Clinic, Transverse myelitis is an inflammation of both sides of one section of the spinal cord. This neurological disorder often damages the insulating material covering nerve cell fibers (myelin). Transverse myelitis interrupts the messages that the spinal cord nerves send throughout the body.

Alyson spent a month in the hospital after becoming temporarily paralyzed, focusing on what she needed to do to get better. 

Finding New Opportunity
Not many people would consider getting fired from their job one of the best things that ever happened to them, but for Alyson it was the push she needed. She was fired “to focus on her health”, but she took the opportunity to also focus on her new found passion. She applied her background in PR and began her own consulting business, mainly working with nonprofit organizations. In addition, she also started her blog, The Modern Savvy, to connect with women around the world through real-life conversations. According to Alyson, both businesses accidentally grew into the most incredible things that could have happened to her.

An Accidental Impact

As a storyteller, Alyson took this opportunity of reaching new audiences to heart. She used her personal experiences to connect with others and teach a lesson about compassion. She began speaking to organizations to share her story with the hopes of enlightening them and educating them about the potential of invisible illness in the lives of their employees. You can’t always see what people are going through, so creating a compassionate workplace is necessary. She teaches HR professionals how they can meet the needs of all employees and how they can support them, whatever that might mean. 

When reflecting on this new impact Alyson has been able to make, she concludes that it would never be possible if she didn’t first open up and share her story. 

What else can you expect in this episode?

  • Why public speaking was challenging yet worth it for Alyson.
  • How getting diagnosed with an invisible illness gave Alyson a new level of compassion towards herself and others. 
  • A conversation on asking (and not asking) questions and the importance of mindful communication. 
  • How Alyson has connected with women who have the same diagnosis as her, and how it has made her illness feel less isolating. 

Where to find Alyson Seligman: