- Nitika Chopra, chronic illness advocate and the founder of The Chronicon Community
The app is a natural evolution of the online community that Chopra created in 2020. What started as a virtual space for monthly events is now a platform with near-daily events, member-led collectives, chat boards in several different topic areas, and regular content from Chopra and a rotating roster of chronic-illness experts across industries. But make no mistake: This is no pity party. The underlying ethos is one that addresses its members as whole people, rather than defining them by the illness(es) they may have.
“Most organizations that speak to the chronic-illness community talk to us as if we’re a disease that needs to be put in a box.” —Nitika Chopra, founder of Chronicon
“Most organizations that speak to the chronic-illness community talk to us as if we’re a disease that needs to be put in a box,” says Chopra. “The messaging is, ‘Oh, you’re a sick person, take this thing to help,’ or ‘Let’s try to fix this problem,’ or ‘We’re just so, so sorry you’re in pain,’ and that just makes it worse.” Instead, Chopra’s approach with the Chronicon app is to “acknowledge that everything we do is through the lens of having a chronic illness, without forcing people to sit around and talk about that all the time,” she says. “It’s like, I know I’m sick; I don’t need to log on to something that reminds me of that.”
The benefit of finding community via the Chronicon app versus any other virtual platform isn’t so much in the content per se—conversation threads span popular topics like mindfulness, intimacy, and books—but in the comforting understanding that everyone on the platform can relate, in some way, to what you’re going through. It was this sense of community that Chopra found her audience wanted, more than anything else, when she polled them mid-pandemic. "Unanimously, they told me they just wanted friends who really get it," she says.
That same desire for supportive connection among chronic-illness sufferers is what initially led Chopra to launch the Chronicon brand—and what underscored the success of the IRL event. “Even if your loved ones really support you, and you’re one of the privileged people who has great doctors, having a chronic condition is incredibly isolating,” she says. The compassion you get from people without chronic illnesses can only go so far, she adds, equating it to being supported by a friend who’s never gone through a breakup when you’re in the midst of a heart-shattering one. “This friend might say, ‘Oh, I’m so sorry, that really sucks,’ which is nice, but it isn’t the same thing as the friend who’s really been there themselves and is like, ‘I’m coming over now, we’re going to get through it, you’re going to be okay,’” she says.
It’s that deeper level of understanding that the Chronicon app is designed to offer by way of its regular Zoom events covering such topics as “Determining What You Need to Thrive at Work” and “How To Effectively Speak to Your Body” and chat threads, ranging from a “Weekly Gratitude” thread to a “Share Your Wins” thread and a “Follow Friday” thread, where community members can share public-facing social platforms, podcasts, and the like. All the Chronicon app events are recorded and saved for any members who prefer to watch on their own time, and there’s no pressure to be camera-on during any of them.
To ensure the Chronicon app community remains a supportive and enjoyable one, Chopra curates the chat prompts and event topics to focus, explicitly, on the practical and positive. But to avoid the trap of toxic positivity and ensure that members who want to openly share their struggles can do so, there’s also a designated space called “Express Yourself” that users can opt into, if they’re comfortable facing the heavy realities of other peoples’ chronic conditions. (All of the above is included in the membership fee of $25 per month, though anyone who can’t afford the cost is welcome to apply for a scholarship, which, if granted, offers access for free or at a reduced rate.)
Chronicon members will also have the opportunity to convene in person (or via livestream) on May 19, at XX Venue in Brooklyn, New York, for the next in-person Chronicon event, the first since the inaugural event in 2019. (General admission tickets are $250 and livestream tickets are $75, with scholarships available for those in need.) It’ll be a full day of programming consisting of panels and several keynotes, with a roster of speakers including emergency-medicine doctor Darien Sutton, MD; disability-rights activist Emily Ladau; and business and career coach Amina AlTai. And following the event, there will also be a celebratory happy hour for attendees to meet and mingle with speakers.
While Chopra is thrilled to bring the live event back, connecting with the ever-growing Chronicon community—whether IRL or virtually in the new app—will always be at the heart of it all for her, on a personal level. “I’m more transparent with this community than I am anywhere else,” she tells me. “I’ve been going through a lot with my health throughout the pandemic, and engaging with Chronicon has allowed me to also get the support that I’m giving to my members.”
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