Why Fashionably ill: The Sick Woman’s Stylist?
You might be wondering why I’m doing a blog on style for ill women. Why can’t we just read other blogs on fashion? Because changes wrought by illness and treatment go beyond the changes most healthy women experience. I also help women deal with challenges like pain, chronic fatigue, and unexpected insults from people about our changed appearance. I want this blog to be a place where people can vent and find solutions to everyday challenges. Rich people and celebrities have stylists. So why don’t sick women? This blog will include links to products from makeup to clothes to disability tools. I will also feature “best bang for your buck” buys because I know that style should be affordable.
This blog is for:
a) People balancing mental illnesses with chronic pain diseases
b) Brave women fighting illness
c) Survivors of illnesses (emotional, physical, invisible or visible)
d) Family, friends, and coworkers who want to better understand the sick women they love
e) Anyone who enjoys learning about makeup and fashion
All My Illnesses
All illnesses are trying. If my life were a soap opera, it would be called “All My Illnesses.” In fact, I affectionately call my cane Erica Kane. I am 28-years old. I have five illnesses—Bipolar II, Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), Myasthenia Gravis (MG, as fun as Multiple Sclerosis but harder to pronounce), asthma, and psoriasis. I was diagnosed with these at the ages of 18, 19, 24, 26, and 30, respectively.
MG, a neuromuscular autoimmune disease, happens to 1 in 100,000 people. It brings daily fatigue and pain all over my body. It has exacerbated the painful PCOS. Sleep apnea adds to respiratory problems caused by MG. Basically, “wicked antibodies’” attack different parts of my body, which makes involuntary actions like breathing, swallowing, talking, and balancing hard.
Balancing Mental Health and Chronic Pain & Fatigue Diseases
I worked in mental health nonprofit for many years. While it was great creating awareness for diseases like bipolar disorder, depression, OCD, and ADHD, among others, I saw a dearth of resources for people living with emotional pain and 24/7 physical pain. Often times in living with both, we face limitations. For instance, people with bipolar disorder should get eight hours of sleep but pain diseases lead to sleepless nights. And of course, physical pain and fatigue, can trigger (or exacerbate) depressive episodes. In doing Fashionably ill, I’ve heard from many readers with combinations of diseases (lupus/bipolar, RA/bipolar, fibromyalgia/depression, hypothyroid/depression, Parkinson’s/depression) who have said that they’ve found a home. One reader said, “I’ve finally found a website that expresses what I’m feeling. This is my life. And I’ve found community through Fashionably ill‘s Facebook page.”
Future Topics of This Blog: Backfat, Cankles, Hairloss, Etc.
After my 2008 diagnosis and hospitalization for MG, I found a dearth of material on fashion for sick women. Time and again, I encountered the same messages: Beauty isn’t just for size zeroes. Style isn’t just for twenty-year olds. While I agree, I never found anything telling me that beauty isn’t just for healthy women. I was on Prednisone (steroids) and eleven other medications (and I still am). Between 2008 and 2010, I went from a size 0 to a size 10. Even though the latter is not big, many people who knew I was sick insulted me. I learned that women could be stylish at any size. And I do believe in style in sickness and in health. Every woman has been granted certain inalienable rights: the right to beauty, style, and the pursuit of confidence. These are some issues we’ll address:
- Body Image
- Insults about changes in our appearance
- “Cankles” (when the ankles and calves become one)
- Acne and scarring
- Prednisone’s infamous “Moonface”
- Hair loss
- How to “vacationize” your hospital visit or stay
- Changes in chest size
- Surviving pain and fatigue
What topics would you like to discuss?
–Your Stylist, Jessica Gimeno