3 Things I’m Thankful For: Invisible Community, Family, Pacquiao’s Victory

turkey-23435_640Happy Turkey Day, everyone.  As I write this, I am missing my family’s Thanksgiving celebration.  I come from a big, close-knit Filipino family where we (my mom’s side) get together a lot—a typical family gathering means forty aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandchildren.  I’m more okay with missing this Thanksgiving than I was last year, which leads me to today’s WEGO question: A Time to Give Thanks:  
What’s the one thing you’re most thankful for? Write a list of three things that you’re thankful for, excited about, or inspired by. 

  1. Invisible Communities:  An “invisible illness” is when you cannot tell a person is sick just by looking at him/her, which is why sick people never like being told, “But you don’t look sick.”  I have both invisible illnesses [Bipolar Disorder, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)] and visible illnesses (everyone asks me about my cane, which leads to head scratching as they hear “Myasthenia Gravis” for the first time).  But what I’ve learned online is the power of invisible communities.  I call them invisible because they don’t fit the image I usually think of when I hear “community.”  Until recently I had no friends with Myasthenia Gravis (MG); I had many friends with MS, Lupus, and Muscular Dystrophy but not MG.  MG only happens to 1 in 100,000 people.  Theoretically I knew that my friend Carol (who has lupus) and I must not be the only people who have to miss Thanksgiving because we can’t risk getting the flu.  But this week I read other people’s similar stories online and understood that I’m not alone.  No matter the illness, there is something validating about hearing similar stories of pain and survival.  I‘ve met people with Sjogren’s and CFS (Chronic Fatigue Snydrome) who can relate to the blessings of online community.
  2. Non-Holiday Special Occasions:  One year, my Uncle Jun threw a random party on the last day of summer.  Of course, it wasn’t about celebrating the dawn of the Autumnal Equinox (does anyone celebrate that?); it was about being together.  I recently attended my nephew’s piano recital.  I’ve blogged about Mikko before who has been my guardian angel/self-appointed doctor since he was two.  It was a special day; not a national holiday but it was extraordinary nonetheless.  Being absent from Thanksgiving makes me appreciate the supposedly mundane events of life.
  3. Boxer Pacquiao Beat Rios Last Saturday:  It’s about more than sports.  Manny Pacquiao is known as the “Fighting Pride of the Philippines.” Pacquiao has used his earnings from boxing to build hospitals and schools.  His victory last week was like the Boston Red Sox winning this year months after the Boston Terror Attacks.  Pacquiao’s win came just two weeks after Typhoon Yolanda devastated the Philippines.  Killing 5,600 people and displacing millions, Yolanda is the most destructive typhoon to date.  As I watched the aftermath on CNN, I saw a change in the Filipino psyche that was mirroring my own.  After every natural disaster, I’ve seen Filipinos react with a sense of humor (riding mattresses on flooded streets like they were surfboards) and talk about faith.  After Yolanda, I didn’t see people smiling, laughing, or talking about faith.  One autoimmune or PCOS storm after another, I began to have my own crisis of identity.  My ability to laugh at pain was tested.  In all this madness, enter Congressman and Boxer Manny Pacquiao’s November 23rd fight against a much younger Brandon Rios.  Pacquiao is the only boxer to win titles in eight different weight divisions.  So it was shocking when he lost a fight a year ago in a sixth-round knockout.  A lot of sportscasters blamed Pacquiao’s loss on the fact that he became a born-again Christian.  But Pacquiao said he was still thankful to God for all his blessings.

Last Saturday, when he returned to the ring and won by unanimous decision, it was a victory for the Philippines and me.  Pacman’s victory was a physical reminder that resilience can be just as powerful as loss.  News reports and pictures of survivors’ jubilant reactions to the fight were powerful.  Ardel Nebasa, one of the thousands of typhoon survivors who watched, said, “It felt like I got my house back.”  Spoonies are warriors too; we are knocked down but we never stay down.

photo.jpgWhat are you thankful for? Stay tuned as I continue blogging for WEGO’s National Health Blog Post Month.  Join Fashionably Ill at our new Facebook page here https://www.facebook.com/fashionablyill 

–Your Stylist,           

Jessica Gimeno

JessicaGimeno

Hi, I have five illnesses--bipolar disorder, myasthenia gravis (neuromuscular autoimmune disease), polycystic ovarian syndrome, asthma, and psoriasis. Most of the organs in my body are affected. I'm dedicated to being a stylist for sick women. As someone who has experienced changes in my appearance due to my 12 meds (including Prednisone), I know how hard it can be when your face and body change overnight. (In fact, because of treatment, between 2008 to 2010, I went from a size 0 to a size 10. While I lost the weight, there are permanent changes in my face and body, which I've grown to appreciate.) My blog will also help women deal with other issues like surviving chronic pain and fatigue. Healthy people can also use this blog as a window into what life with illness is like. Let this website be a place where we can draw strength from each other despite our illnesses and find solutions to our everyday challenges!

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