Chronic Illness, Imagination, & Freedom

Psalm 27:13, "I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living."
Psalm 27:13, “I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.”

Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday of this week I have doctors appointments and physical therapy.  I’m in a hurry to finish physical therapy before I have one (or two) medical procedures next month.  In many ways, living with chronic illness can be suffocating.  I admit that there are times when I feel trapped inside this body.  I know for sure that I will be stuck in traffic today because my PCP’s office is far.  This year, however, I’ve been more intentional about “me time,” finding time to rest.   On Monday, I finished this painting I call, “Goodness of the Lord.”   (The right side is cut off a little in this picture.)  Per my little nephew Mikko’s request, I put his initial and his older brother, Tyson’s initial in the painting.  The “M” appears on the left side of the first mountain range and the “T” is on the right side mountain range.  I painted a picture I saw in a calendar; I get my subjects from calendars.  There have been many times this week where I’ve been stressed out as I try to fit in work between all my doctors appointments.  But when I was stressed, I focused on my painting and got lost in the snowcapped mountains and clear waters.  I imagine that wherever this place is, words like “biopsy,” “blood tests,” and “local anesthesia” do not exist.  As a Sci-Fi lover, painting is kind of like time travel for me.  With art, I can travel anywhere.  I am no longer trapped in the confines of my bedroom at the mercy of my body and the weather.

48033Imagination is a powerful thing

Yes, I still want a cure–actually, several cures because I have five illnesses (myasthenia gravis, bipolar 2, polycystic ovarian syndrome, psoriasiform dermatitis, and asthma).  But, imagination and a sense of humor are some of the most under-appreciated tools we have in fighting illness.  As I previously blogged about, I vacationize my hospital visits.  I bring the vacation to the doctor’s office by wearing a lei, putting a flower in my hair, and taking pictures around the hospital like a tourist.  My late friend Jess, who had muscular dystrophy, used to post itineraries of her imaginary vacations on Facebook.  She went to Greece…With John Stamos!  Jess was hooked up to a machine but in her mind, she was enjoying spanakopita with Uncle Jesse on the Greek Islands.  Recently, I gave my friend Victor, who also has muscular dystrophy, a gift. He doesn’t travel much.  In Christmas, he asked for postcards from friends around the country.  I had this idea to give Victor a travel book of Chicago.  But this travel book became a scrapbook of our imaginary trip to Chicago.  I added notes all over the book to remind him of our trip like getting deep dish pizza at Pizzeria Uno, seeing Michael Jordan’s handprints and statue, laughing at Second City, riding the ferris wheel at Navy Pier, and eating at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. On our vacation, we had no restrictions.  His wheelchair and my cane don’t matter; we can ride anything.  And I don’t have a dozen food allergies; I can eat seafood or whatever I like.  No long lines at the airport or bags to unpack after the trip.  Victor was happy with our imaginary vacation.

Your Turn?

Where can your imagination take you?  What outlet can you find to escape your stress?

–Your Stylist, Jessica Gimeno


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.

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