Health Activist, Writer, Speaker
Jessica is a warrior who fights five illnesses daily: bipolar II, endometriosis, asthma, psoriasis, and the neuromuscular autoimmune disease Myasthenia Gravis (MG). This blog, Fashionably ill ® (https://jessicagimeno.com) helps people pain–mental and physical–with style and humor. Jessica’s TEDx Talk, “How To Get Stuff Done When You Are Depressed,” has over 1 million views and was named by Healthline One of the Best Depression Videos of the Year for two consecutive years. Jessica launched Fashionably ill ® in 2012 when she was working at a mental health nonprofit and didn’t see resources for people living with BOTH mental illness and chronic physical pain. Fashionably Ill ® is also about helping sick women feel confident despite changes in their appearance. It is inspired by Jessica’s experience surviving MG at 24 (after being given a 50/50 chance of living) and gaining 10 dress sizes in two years. She is also inspired by the cancer survivors in her family. With tips on style, mental health, and advice for loved ones, Fashionably Ill is a community for people of ALL illnesses.
One of her goals is to give more makeovers–Jessica has given makeovers to women with illnesses like cancer, MS, fibromyalgia, and PCOS, among others. She is currently filming a pilot for a makeover TV show–if picked up, the show would allow Jessica to give more makeovers. Fashionably ill also helps people who live with both mental illness and chronic pain diseases. While working in mental health nonprofit, Jessica found a dearth of resources for people with mood disorders who also have physical pain.
Jessica has guest blogged for WEGO, led a WEGO Twitter Healthchat, and participated in WEGO’s National Health Blog Post Month. In 2016, Jessica won Health Activist Hero in the 5th Annual WEGO Health Awards. In 2015, Fashionably ill won a Liebster Award. Psych Central named Jessica a 2014 Mental Health Hero.
Jessica also writes for The Huffington Post and Ask a Bipolar. She has appeared on numerous HuffPost Live segments. Jessica has spoken at conventions for organizations like the National Alliance on Mental Illness and eXl Pharma. She won 2nd Prize in the National Council of Community Behavioral Healthcare’s Awards of Excellence. In her two years at The Balanced Mind Foundation, she wrote/hosted the mental health blog & podcast Flipswitch. Flipswitch saw a 397% increase in readers—netting 6,000 visits a month. She wrote and hosted over 100 articles and podcasts, which showcased tools for surviving depression and bipolar disorder. Jessica also interviewed dozens of people who successfully manage diseases like: Bipolar, Depression, ADHD, OCD, and Schizophrenia. Jessica’s article, “Three Words Everyone with Mental Illness Should Know,” was published on the White House’s mental health website. She was also selected to be part of the White House’s “Stories of Hope and Recovery” mental health campaign; other people in the campaign include Glenn Close and Demi Lovato. Since 2014, Jessica has been working with Rutgers University and the University of Massachusetts Medical School on developing a manual that will help young adults with severe mental illness find meaningful employment.
Jessica graduated cum laude from Northwestern University with two majors, and won 20 titles for their Speech Team. Motivated by a friend’s suicide, she spoke to hundreds of students about stigma and helped thirty students get psychiatric help. In addition to her health activist work, Jessica coaches high school debate. In her free time, Jessica is a diehard New Kids on the Block fan who enjoys Pilates, painting, and playing with her nieces and nephews.
NBC News did an extensive feature on Jessica’s life and advocacy work in May 2016. She has also been featured in Health Central, BuzzFeed, everydayHEALTH, and Health Stories. Jessica has also been published in The Mighty.
Join Jessica’s 4th Annual Online New Year’s Eve Party!
Every year, Jessica hosts online parties on New Year’s Eve and the 4th of July when Sci-Fi airs their legendary Twilight Zone marathons. The first party was on New Year’s Eve of 2013–after spending many holidays alone due to chronic pain, compromised immunity due to autoimmune diseases, and bedtimes dictated by bipolar disorder, Jessica wanted to do something so no one would have to be alone on New Year’s Eve. Since then, she has hosted six holiday parties on Facebook. At one New Year’s Eve party, 250 guests attended from around the world including Anne Serling, the daughter of TZ producer, Rod Serling. Even people without cable can attend–episodes are posted on Facebook on the party page. Interested in attending this year’s New Year’s Eve party? Stay up to date by joining the Twilight Zone Posse HERE on Facebook.
MSNBC also did a mini-documentary focused on Jessica’s life and mental health. You can watch below:
22 thoughts on “Bio”
Stumbled upon your blog via another friend of a friend’s post. The fact that you have MG really got my attention because I also have MG. I started having symptoms in May of 2012 at the age of 62 and got a lucky diagnosis from my, of all people, eye doctor when I went to get my eyes looked at because of double vision etc. When I explained to him about my problems walking and holding up my arms he told me to get a test for MG and lo and behold my acetylcholine antibody levels were 7 times higher than normal. I had a IVIG infrusion in November and transsternal thymectomy surgery on November 29 of 2012. To make a long story short, I am now in remission with only very mild symptoms. The transsternal approach is brutal but it is the gold standard for getting all of the thymus removed. I sincerely wish you well. Maybe a different approach to this disorder will find you well again.
Hey Jessica, you’re courageous and brave for all that you’ve been through!
I have mdd, dreadful chronic fatigue and pain. So, I felt so happy to find your TED speech! I spent NYE alone in the mental health wing of the national institutes of health…where I watched many episodes of both Twilight Zone and the outer Limits…Also Pilsen is a great part of town.. I live in Northwest Indiana and feel like the illness always makes it hard to travel. How do you cope with those constraints? Thanks:)
sounds like you are a very strong and brave person-thank you for sharing your story-also am big on keeping your self looking the best that you can for i feel your day will go much better.
HI! Great blog! I’m writing to find out if you also provide stylist services….My sister is suffering with an autoimmune disease and is on hard steroids and has picked up weight and wants to work with a stylist to help dress her new body. She wants to work with someone who understands she’s picked up the weight due to an illness and drugs, not overeating/not exercising. Please hit me back when you can, this would be a great birthday surprise for her. Thanks!!
I do provide styling services. Let me email you.
The marketing team at Goodshop is actively looking to partner with Americans with disabilities advocate bloggers to help them spread the love for The Arc! Goodshop donates 50% of our affiliate proceeds to charity, to-date raising close to $12 million dollars. We love Fashionably Ill and how you represent the socially conscious advocate.
I would love to work with you to raise awareness among your followers for The Arc. I think this would add value and another facet to your ever inspiring brand. Please let me know if you are interested in a guest post about the best wheelchair accessible beaches to visit this summer to help promote The Arc, or if you have any questions. To learn more about the non-profit, click on the link above! Looking forward to speaking with you!
Cause Outreach Associate, Goodshop
e: firstname.lastname@example.org w: http://www.goodshop.com
Hi I have just seen your Ted talk about depression and I wanted to talk to you by email preferably I am looking into a career in the military but for some reason I seem to be lacking motivation to get myself ready to as far as physical training goes I’m not in bad shape I just want to be in great shape and yet in restless and can’t seem to make every day a productive day please email me I need help so I can be the best I can be and live great instead of good and pursue my career at full throttle
I work at Healthline and we’d like to invite you to a patient panel event in NYC. I’d like to email you the information and try to set up time to chat.
Keep up the great blog. Thanks for sharing your experiences.
About Us: http://www.healthline.com/health/about-us
Hey just wanted to say from one Filipino to another. Your TED Talks video is featured as one of our “Learning Time” videos for work and I really enjoyed it. Keep doing what you’re doing beautiful.
Hi Ariel, Thanks for your encouraging words! So glad you found my TED Talk helpful–I have a book coming out on the same subject–getting stuff done when you are depressed–and it will have a special section on being an employee with depression. What kind of company do you work for? Blessings, Jessica
Is your book out? Looking forward to it. 🙂
Your Ted Talk has been one of the best I’ve seen this year – I felt that you really “Got It” if that makes sense… Aside from simply having a lot in common with you haha – ie from the highs from being bipolar (which I am just realising I probably am, not just depressed) when I get creative and write, draw, make music etc, and have been captain of my debate team…
Your talk just really spoke to me and I’ve just come out of a year and 8month depressive slump, finally feeling that things are gonna be ALRIGHT. Your talk has been incredibly reassuring and I want to say thank you for that, can’t wait to read more of your stuff.
I was just wondering if you had any thoughts on coping with depression and addiction as I find myself now having to cope with addiction problems. When depressed, it seems all hope is lost and I wouldn’t even dream of trying to combat the addiction, but I have this brief window, and I don’t know how long this is going to last but I want to do something about it.
It’s naturally a long story but seeking treatment in the country I live in is very difficult due to harsh south east asian laws and cultural norms, so I’ve got to do this on my own. And I know a few other friends who are also presently battling depression by using drugs/alcohol, so any thoughts you have on the matter would be highly appreciated.
Once more, thank you and you’re such a champion for having done everything you have and for putting this out there to help people. Lots of love.
My Sophomore year of High School, I was in a wheelchair for a disorder called POTS (Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome). It started my Freshman Year of High School with just taking a lot of naps after school. Then, for about the first 6 months of my Sophomore Year leading up to my diagnosis, I became ill with all kinds of viruses, one after another, as my immune system became weaker and weaker due to putting out more energy than I had to give. I was suspected of having “Whooping Cough” during that February and was quarantined to my house for a week. During this time, I also had multiple ER trips from ovarian cysts that caused me a lot of pain. Following that, I had several days where I just could not make it through the school day out of migraines and crushing fatigue, until I needed help getting from my couch to the bathroom. My friend at school actually told me about POTS, and my mother and father are a Nurse and an Internal Medicine Doctor that had never heard of the disorder before. Until I was “couch-bound”, I felt very alone. I wasn’t sure what was going on with my body, but I had an idea. When I was hospitalized, they officially diagnosed me with POTS, and thereafter came the series of visits to 10 or more departments in the hospital. I’d go in, explain my life story. They would draw labs, and send me on to the next specialist. Anyhow, I later found out that my inability to walk was due to severe deconditioning, and thus, I had to work intensively with a physical therapist on reconditioning myself. It sounds easier said than done to some people, to just “workout”. However, when existing is exhausting, sometimes just 5 minutes on the recumbent bike was enough to make me cry. I still have my bad days, probably every 2 weeks I have 1-3 bad days, and once a month, 2 days where I can not physically get out of bed. Everyday brings it’s new challenges, but I’ve learned to appreciate just how good it can feel to not feel bad. For some people, something that feels great is getting a massage at the spa, or the adrenaline rush of a roller coaster. A lot of days, my sense of “feeling good” comes from simply not being in pain or exhausted.
I started college last semester, and given the fact that my POTS has improved since High School, I didn’t think anything could go wrong. But, something was still missing from my life and I wasn’t happy. More was being expected of me, but despite my ability to stand up and get dressed for the day without my heart pounding, I still felt down. After a trial and error of several different medications and opinions from psychologists and a Psychiatric NP, I was diagnosed with Major Depression and possible Dysthymia. It made a lot of sense, given that my mother struggled with depression and my biological dad struggled with depression and potential bi-polar. My new struggle came when I began to feel my depression lift on medication. I didn’t know I had depression for most of my life, because it’s just kind of how I lived my life. The most difficult think with relief from my depression, was having 3 bad POTS days in a row. The emotional pain from that experience was indescribable, but grief and trapped are what come to mind. I finally had a break from the cloud hanging over my shoulders, and had motivation to go and do thing and explore and live my life, and yet I was stuck in bed. When I was more depressed with POTS at it’s worst, the struggle wasn’t as real emotionally because nothing sounded fun anyways. But once I had a taste of life without depression, my POTS became far more devastating than I could have ever imagined. I battle both and some days are better than others. Depression on it’s own and Physical Illness on it’s own, I feel are a different perspective or type of pain than the experience of both at once.
I found your Ted Talk during the darkest point of my depression in college, and I finally felt like I wasn’t alone. Every now and then, when I’m in a rut, I think back to some of the things you spoke about. Knowing that there are other’s struggling with Physical and Mental Illness at the same time who are trying to live a normal life just like I am, gives me hope and a sense of belonging.
That was super long, but truly, Thank You for all you do and stand for.
hey, i am currently listening to your ted talk & i also have bipolar disorder & myasthenia gravis – i know how hard it is & your incredibly brave.
I am a leader at a large public safety net health care system that serves several hundred thousand very poor and underserved patients. We recently have been awarded an opportunity to develop new models of care that have the potential to reverse the cycle of some of the people suffering among this segment. My team has worked hard to find patients that are most at risk for following further and further out of our reach due to a combination of some or all of the following: homelessness, substance use disorder, severe mental illness, and multiple chronic conditions. They number around 5-10K at any given time. While in theory our system is highly progressive, many care providers lose empathy over time, become frustrated that patients do not comply, and are skeptical that patients are capable or deserving of multiple opportunities to redirect their lives. I came across your work some time ago and have been wondering how I could convey that what is missing from these patients is the resilience, hope, and self-confidence you have developed. If everyone believed that they deserved health, happiness, and respect things would change. It’s our job to help them.
Although it is known that everyone can transform if we can create an environment where hope and improvement is possible, we aren’t always able to operationalize it. I notice that while some staff start strong they soon become tired and forget that recovery is not linear. There are a few very special people that have endless empathy. They don’t care that that this is the patient’s 40th attempt to change. This could be the one. I’m not sure what makes them able to do this, but it’s inspiring.
When I see or hear about stories of the opposite, I review your talk and tools to remind me that as caregivers we can shape the course of a patient’s life. People are not designed to be perfect, we all struggle, but not everyone has a supportive system that believes in them. It’s our job to build these patient’s sense of worth to a level where they want to recover because they are worthy.
I have been thinking of various ways to acknowledge the importance of these principles – respect, hope, unconditional regard, and acknowledgement of the patient’s own self-knowledge.
I’d like your thoughts on an approach. You are great at tool kits to reinforce the evidence that empowering, respecting, and listening to our patients — without conditions can lead to a far better outcome than a prescriptive plan that includes prerequisites, conditions, and where failure results in termination of a service. While I do find other things online non are quite as impactful when delivered by someone as determined, caring, and heartfelt as you.
I am open to suggestions, but would ask you consider sharing your work if possible. While the number of staff that may come away with a better understanding may be small, we can focus attendance on those who interact the most with the patients who are most at risk for spiraling down.
Thanks for reading and consideration of the request .
hi, you talked about a book in your interview on voices for change can you please put the name of the book i really need a better diet thank you
You have an inspiring story, Jessica!
Thank you, Angelica! Nice to meet you 🙂
Hi Jessica, I found your PilsenWomen Ted Talks lecture online and found the video very useful. We have many of the same symptoms. Thanks for the encouragement and insight. Frank
Thank you so much, Frank! I’m happy to hear that my TEDx Talk encouraged you. Nice to meet you.
I’m h my goodness Jessica – I don’t know if you actively monitor these responses anymore, but I hope so, because right at this very moment you may be literally contributing to saving my life.( I know that sounds super dramatic but…) I’m really struggling at the moment, and turned to YouTube while stuck in one of those spirals where I just can’t focus on what I really SHOULD be doing because the background roar of depression is so loud right now I can’t feel/think/do anything else. I stumbled onto your YouTube video on getting stuff done with depression, not really expecting much more than another of the many videos that don’t.. quite… hit the mark. I only got 1/4 of the way through the video before I realized that yours might be truly different, with your focus on ‘practice’. And THEN… you went on to talk about the other things you cope with, and I thought to myself ‘oh, okay, I guess she kinda gets it’ . And THEN you said you’re coping with PCOS. AND THEN you said you’re also coping with Myasthenia Gravis!! I’m also coping with (struggling with) both of those along with the depression (plus anxiety disorder). So for reasons I m sure you can understand, my mouth fell open in shock— finding a first person account from someone who knows what it’s like to try to keep moving forward with that particular trifecta is extremely rare. I am so grateful to you for putting yourself and your experience and advice out there!!
Hi Terry, I am deeply touched by your comments. I am speechless. I am so glad that my TEDx Talk has resonated with you and made you feel less alone. (You may find my free Depression Tool Kit for subscribers to my newsletter helpful.) Every day with these illnesses is challenging but I hope you find some respite during this season. Happy holidays to you and your loved ones! God bless you, Jessica