Reflections on Being a Health Activist & Fashionably ill Readers #HAWMC

#HAWMC Reflection
#HAWMC Reflection

I’m continuing the monthlong challenge of answering one question everyday from WEGO.  It’s Day 21 of #HAWMC.  Today’s question in the Health Activist Writer’s Month Challenge is:

Reflection:  This is a day to reflect. For the WEGO Health family, we reflect on the inspiring and tireless work Health Activists do every day. Reflect on your journey today. What are your thoughts and hopes for the future?  #HAWMC

Lately, I’ve been reading and memorizing Emily Dickinson’s poems.   When I answered the #HAWMC question of what my ten-year old self wanted to be when I grew up, I told you it wasn’t my life goal to spend half my adult life bedridden and acquire five diseases before the age of 30.  As it happens with many chronically ill people, our plans are disrupted and I’ve learned that success comes in different colors and that our greatest achievements don’t appear on resumes and they aren’t always greeted by applause.  They come in the lives we touch.  This Dickinson poem sums up my feelings:

If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain. 

I am health activist, writer, and speaker.  I sometime speak at conventions but much of my work is done from my corner of the world, the intersection of pillow and bed.  I have bipolar disorder, polycystic ovarian syndrome, Myasthenia Gravis, asthma, and psoriasis.  I have also worked in mental health nonprofit for years motivated by my own illness and the death of a friend who had bipolar disorder (you can see more of my bipolar diagnosis story in this short documentary MSNBC did on me).  I’ve had a few readers write to me and say they were considering suicide or were severely depressed but reconsidered after reading this blog and decided to seek psychiatric help.  In those moments, I remember that the person who was helped is somebody’s sister, mother, or friend.  I’m grateful that my candid account of what it’s like to juggle a buffet of illnesses has helped one person.  I write unfiltered articles partly because I’m being honest and partly because I’m really tired.  There are 3 things that come to mind when I reflect on my journey:

  1. My Suffering Has Some Meaning–Yes, there are many nights when I ask God why and want Him to take away my daily pain.  But there are also times when I receive positive feedback from readers that reminds me why I keep writing despite being tired.  Part of why I started this website was because there was a dearth of resources for people living with both a mental illness and chronic (physical) pain and fatigue diseases.  I hear from people with combinations like: lupus and bipolar disorder, RA and bipolar disorder, or depression and Parkinson’s who say they relate to my stories.
One Reader That Encouraged Me on Facebook
One Reader That Encouraged Me on Facebook

2.  My Readers Have Blessed Me Beyond Words–As I said, I am encouraged by the kind words people leave behind here, on Fashionably ill’s Facebook page, and on Twitter.  Lately, I’ve started bookmarking those comments (like the ones above) so I can read them on my most difficult days.

3.  I Wish I Could Thank Everyone in Person–If I have one hope for the future (probably an unrealistic one), it’s that I could meet everyone.  Can you tell I’m an only child?  Last New Year’s Eve, I held my second annual NYE Online Twilight Zone Party where 134 guests came from around the world to watch SyFy’s famous marathon together.  We posted comments on Facebook while watching the same episodes together.  I started the party so that no one would have to be alone on New Year’s Eve.  As with everyone else I’ve met through this blog, I wish there was a way we could convene.

–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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