After losing most of her vision by the age of 14, Burke sank into a deep depression and began to lose her will to live.
“Mental illness is certainly not foreign to my life,” she said during the Disabilities Discussion panel at VidCon 2016 on Saturday.
“After I went blind I struggled with severe depression, self-harm and suicidal ideation. And more recently I’ve struggled with PTSD and generalized anxiety,” she added during the panel, which took place at Marriott Platinum Ballroom 6 in Anaheim, Calif. “So I embrace mental illness in my life, it’s been a big part of my journey.”
As a toddler, Burke was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, which is a rare, degenerative eye disease. Her vision worsened as she got older, and by middle school doctors warned her sight would not last much longer. If the prognosis wasn’t hard enough, Burke soon found herself being bullied by classmates.
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“For me, when I was overcoming depression when I was 14 years old and I was struggling to live one more day, I couldn’t set long term goals because I didn’t plan on being here long term,” said Burke, who sat on the panel with fellow YouTubers Lolo, Tommy Edison and James Rath.
“I had to set short term goals to live one more day, and for every day I woke up, I said, ‘If I can educate, motivate and inspire one person with my story then my pain had purpose and the day was worth it because it helped someone.’ ”
Now, Burke spreads her message as a motivational speaker and on her Youtube channel, where thousands tune in to listen to her talk about everything from how she picks out matching clothes, to how she tells shampoo from conditioner.
“That’s why I do YouTube and that’s why I’m a motivational speaker, because I believe this is my life mission,” she explains. “And that ‘educate, motivate and inspire’ is still what pushes me every day to keep going.”
But that’s not to say she never wavers in her commitment to staying positive. “There are still some days I get upset that I can’t walk out my front door and go for run or that I can’t jump on a bike and ride to the grocery store like my friends can.
“There’s definitely still times when I get down about it, but I also realized a long time ago on my journey to overcoming this, if you can’t change something about your life, like the way I can’t change that I’m blind, then the only option you have is to accept it.
“That’s the only way you’re going to find happiness is to embrace it into your life and realize, ‘I can’t fight this anymore because it’s not going anywhere, so I just need to own it and find the reason why it’s here.’ ”
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