A Lesson I Learned the Hard Way (#HAWMC)

Today I continue WEGO’s Health Activist Month Challenge (#HAWMC), which I’ve been enjoying immensely. Day 19: Lesson Learned. What’s a lesson you learned the hard way? Tell us a time when you made a mistake and promised never to make that same mistake again. Write about it for 15 {minutes} today.

teddy-bear-ill-10683205I was diagnosed with Myasthenia Gravis, MG, a neuromuscular autoimmune disease in 2008. Because I already had bipolar II and polycystic ovarian syndrome, I wound up on twelve medications.  While on a high dose of Prednisone I gained weight.  A lot of weight.   One day, my cousin Rachel, a doctor asked me, “What’s your goal? Do you want to be skinny or do you want to be alive?”

I knew friends who stopped taking meds of because of weight gain, which always ended badly. I have friends with cancer who lowered their dose of Prednisone despite the doctor’s wishes and friends with bipolar who stopped taking prescribed meds. Despite my vanity, going rogue and refusing life-saving medications was never an option for me.

Giving Into Insecurity

While I never made a conscious decision like that, I did unconsciously give into my insecurities. Being bedridden at the age of 24 was rough. I felt like I was losing control over so many aspects of my life. Even as I endured medical operations, I didn’t know if I was going to live or die (my neurologist at the time gave me a 50/50 shot of living). And I knew of people with MG and similar illnesses (examples: multiple sclerosis and muscular dystrophy) who were in wheelchairs. On top of the uncertainty, my appearance was changing too fast for my comfort. Between 2008 and 2010, I gained ten dress sizes. At times, I couldn’t recognize my face when I looked in the mirror. A few weeks after one of my surgeries, my cousin AJ gave me a friendly warning, “I know you want to get up. But don’t force yourself to exercise. Give it time. Rest. You may make things worse for yourself and it will take longer to recover.” I learned that lesson the hard way.


Not being able to do something makes you want to do it even more. Before MG, I did yoga five days a week even though it bored me. I also had the greatest hits of Richard Simmons; I think there are few things in life more fun than Sweatin’ the Oldies. But I hadn’t done other workouts in ages like Paula Abdul’s Shut Up and Dance and MTV’s The Grind—both of which were so old they were on VHS! Suddenly I felt compelled to do the Paula Abdul and Grind workouts too! Every few days, I would try and push myself only to injure myself further. I was hindering my recovery. I hated being bedridden. Many days my routine was: Get up, drink Ensure, watch CNN, sleep, drink Ensure, sleep.

Realizing My True Motivations

One morning after I injured myself, I cried. I asked myself why I was forcing myself to exercise. Sure, there were elements of denial and trying to regain some semblance of control. But more than anything it was my vanity. I realized that before I got sick, 90% of my motivation for exercising was vanity. And 10% of it was health. I came to terms with the fact that I was changing. And not all changes are bad (see, “4 Tips for Casting Off Self-Hate and Loving Your Body More”). I was able to move on. Rest. Give myself time. Slowly but surely I got better.

Why I Exercise Today

Today I am physically able to exercise. Mostly I do Pilates. I also make modifications for the things I can’t do. Ultimately, I exercise for the right reasons. I exercise because it helps me manage stress and fight depression (see “4 Mental Health Benefits of Exercise”). It regulates my bipolar mood swings and makes life’s trials seem doable.

What lessons have you learned about illness or life?

 Stay tuned!  All month long I’m answering questions for WEGO’s Health Activist Writer’s Month Challenge.

–Your Stylist, Jessica Gimeno

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Hi there! I am a patient advocate, writer, and public speaker most well known for my TEDx Talk, “How to Get Stuff Done When You Are Depressed.” As someone who is juggling 5 illnesses: bipolar 2, myasthenia gravis, endometriosis, psoriasis, and asthma, I’m passionate about helping people who navigate life with both chronic physical & emotional pain. If you’re interested in hiring me to speak at your event, check out the CONTACT tab.

One thought on “A Lesson I Learned the Hard Way (#HAWMC)

  • April 19, 2014 at 10:32 am

    a family member was making snide remarks to people and to me that I was lazy that is a word that really bothers me for I have always done things at the speed of light until fibro massive head ace and other problems invaded my life and made me slow down so with that one word(lazy) I began my quest to prove I was anything but that I started to do everything including pouring cement to make a patio lifted very heavy items to using posthole diggers to plant rose bushes all the house work cooking you name it and I did it-things went well until may of 2013 I found my self not being able to get out of bed without help that was the beginning of 11 months of pure hell with the help of a good medical team I am doing much better-what did I learn the hard way? think more of yourself than what someone else think of you even if you hear that awful word LAZY!


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