My Contribution to Mental Illness Awareness Week: Self-Care (#MIAW)

photo-9This week, I intended to blog more for Mental Illness Awareness Week but I got too depressed to do it. It took all of my energy to go to work so there was nothing left in me to write anything eloquent. I wanted to write something along the lines of previous posts like Why I Stopped Saying Mental Health Stigma.  But half the time, all I could see and feel was grey.  Sometimes, depression feels like an overwhelming sense of nothingness even when good things are happening in your life. The body is overcome by a tremendous sense of inertia, which is why it took me five hours to get out of bed Tuesday. Unlike some of my five illnesses, bipolar disorder is an invisible illness. In contrast to the inner turmoil of bipolar disorder, I carry a cane for my Myasthenia Gravis, MG, a neuromuscular autoimmune disease. (There are also MG patients who do not carry canes. For some, MG is an invisible illness)

Depression This Week

I was diagnosed with bipolar 2 at the age of 18 following a friend’s suicide, which prompted me to seek help for my recurrent bouts of depression and hypomania. Over time, bipolar disorder has become less disruptive for me. I am usually happy despite my chronic pain and fatigue (due to polycystic ovarian syndrome, Myasthenia, asthma, and psoriasis). I know that I am fortunate; I have experienced fewer depressive episodes as I have gotten older. I’m thirty now. This week is certainly not one of my worst episodes. Still it was painful nonetheless. Tuesday, after straining to get out of bed half the day, I finally did and managed to do exercise. Exercise is very helpful in fighting stress and depression; exercise releases endorphins, also known as “the feel good hormones.” That day, I put on my Rocky boxing gloves and prayed, talked to friends, shared with my NKOTB Prayer Circle on Facebook, and watched a lot of Rocky and Pacquiao fights until I got up. I followed through with daily maintenance tools like light therapy and medication. On Wednesday, I managed to coach debate.

A Jolt On My Road to Recovery

Thursday on the way to my psychiatrist, I got in a small accident. The road was being repaved but there was no sign warning people. We fell into a ditch! It was a literal and figurative jolt that shook me. The stress was overwhelming. The accident and subsequent argument with a family member felt like a major bump on my road to recovery. By the time I got to my psychiatrist, I was doing the ugly cry. In the hallway. Yes, there were people around. The doctor found me as she was escorting a patient out. She immediately picked Erica Kane (that’s my cane’s name) and me up and took me to her office. She listened patiently. Before my appointment, her retina fell out and the optometrist told her to see him immediately. Despite the emergency, she stayed and listened.

Choices: What We Don’t Do

Though not as bad as Tuesday, today was still a rough day. I managed to attend an important Skype meeting for a mental health program I’m consulting on. (It’s a program to help young adults with severe mental illnesses finish school and find employment.) I have never missed a meeting before. Today I arrived ten minutes late. Thankfully, nobody seemed to care. Today was also remarkable for the things I didn’t do. I do visit Fashionably ill readers in the hospital and regularly talk to readers who struggle with a variety of illnesses from cancer to bipolar disorder. I rested today. I didn’t pick up the phone or read people’s messages. I watched last night’s episodes of Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder twice. I learned that the best thing I could do for others and myself was practice self-care. In a few days, I will get back to people’s voicemails, texts, and Facebook messages.

Managing mental illness is not just about the things we choose to do. It’s also about the things we choose not to do when we need rest.

–Your Stylist, Jessica Gimeno

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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!

3 thoughts on “My Contribution to Mental Illness Awareness Week: Self-Care (#MIAW)

  • October 11, 2014 at 3:37 pm
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    Can we trade gloves, mine are the flat black ones seen here. They came with the boxing bag I bought. The pink ones are ones I purchased for my sister. Neither look as good as yours.
    http://i60.tinypic.com/2n6rnyp.png

    Reply
  • October 11, 2014 at 4:51 pm
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    Thank you for sharing your struggles this week. Sometimes it’s so hard to even take time to evaluate that it’s a low day. I’ve been feeling the need to cry (but rarely do) and don’t feel very good. It’s really hard to keep your energy up (even for positive causes) when you are always ‘fighting’ for your life. I love the analogy your photo sends as a silent message of fighting through with prayer. <3

    Reply
  • October 13, 2014 at 5:40 pm
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    I am so worried about my daughter!! We have been trying to get her properly diagnosed and treated for the past 2 years but she cannot stabilize. Last week, she quit college and her job and left home to live with three men. She stopped taking all meds and I can’t seem to help her! Pray encourage listen empathize support, but what else can I do for this 18yo beautiful intelligent creative young woman who can’t seem to do life???

    Reply

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