Today, I continue my daily posting for WEGO’s National Health Blog Post Month. (But don’t worry, the party isn’t over for us just because this month is coming to a close; I’ll still be answering WEGO posts for another six days and of course still blogging! My goal going forward is to grow FI’s new Facebook page–join us here–and interview people with all different kinds of chronic illness about their symptoms, strategies for surviving pain and fatigue, and answering any questions they have about style.) Today’s WEGO question is: Nominate someone for a Health Activist Award and write a post about why you nominated them! MY ANSWER: The website, Ability Chicago Info Blog at http://abilitychicagoinfo.blogspot.com. I chose this blog because it creates awareness for both visible illnesses (ex: Spina Bifida), disabilities (ex: blindness, wheelchairs, Down Syndrome), and invisible conditions like mental illnesses (ex: depression and Bipolar Disorder).
All Kinds of Sick People Face Discrimination
I used to work for a mental health nonprofit and I loved my job. While we often talked about the stigma of mental illness, sometimes people said insensitive things about living with visible illnesses like neurological disorders or cancer. They insinuated that those diseases were easier to live with than mental illness. As someone living with Bipolar II, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, and Myasthenia Gravis (a rare neuromuscular autoimmune disease), this irritated me to no end. I carry a cane for Myasthenia Gravis (MG), and sometimes, like today, am forced to wear a medical mask in public because my immune system cannot withstand a cold or the flu.
Today I experienced an ignorant saleswoman at the mall who made a tactless comment about my mask–just another painful reminder of the ignorance that meets people who are “obviously” sick. As I wrote about on Natasha Tracy’s blog Bipolar Burble in my guest post, Myths That Increase Mental Health Stigma and Decrease Compassion, people with all different kinds of illnesses experience discrimination, both intentional and unintentional. The first time I met the admin–Jim–for Ability Chicago was on Twitter (@AbilityChicago). He retweeted several articles I wrote about coping with mental illness at school and work when I was the host of Flipswitch podcast and blog. One day we spoke over the phone about articles of his I could share and I told him in passing that “I had an autoimmune disease, a pretty rare one called Myasthenia Gravis.” The very next day Jim posted an article on Ability Chicago about MG’s symptoms and treatment complete with diagrams! Since MG only happens to 1 in 100,000 people, I find it extraordinary when people not directly affected by MG create awareness.
Ability Chicago Has a Big Heart
It takes a person with a really big heart to understand how all pain is pain. And how we are all, at some point in our lives, in need of compassion. Ability Chicago doesn’t just talk about the symptoms of an illness but also tells people about great resources they can use in Chicago. Ultimately, suffering comes in all packages but empathy is universal.
Stay tuned! Tomorrow I’ll be answering another WEGO question: What are your favorite health apps? Did you know we’re also on Twitter. Find me here; my handle is @JessicaGimeno.