6 Tips for Staying Sane Despite Trials On Top of Illness

looking-at-the-sea-1282219-mI haven’t posted anything in two weeks. It’s because my emotions have been up and down—I’ve vacillated between feelings of sadness, hope, depression, and peace. Three friends were diagnosed with cancer within a ten-day period including a friend of mine, “K,” whom I’ve known since I was a teenager. One of those friends, “L,” passed away several days later. Because of my autoimmune issues, I did not get to visit him at the hospice. My aunt was also hospitalized. And I sprained my arm.  When a person has a neuromuscular disease, spraining your arm is adding insult to injury.   I have lived with bipolar disorder my whole life and these were not the worst two weeks of my life. Still, they tested me.

As If Chronic Illness Isn’t Hard Enough

Indeed, the daily grind is hard for many of us with chronic illness. Sometimes it feels like I’m treading water. So when death, accidents, and tragedies happen it feels like a hurricane ripping through me. I’ve previously blogged about living with five illnesses (bipolar disorder, polycystic ovarian syndrome, Myasthenia Gravis (MG), asthma, and psoriasis) in 5 Ways to Maintain Mental Health Despite Chronic Pain & Fatigue. Now I want to talk about, Staying Sane Despite Trials On Top of Illness: 6 Tips. This is what’s worked for me; I know some of these tips are not for everyone.

6 Fs For Surviving:

  1. Forgiving Myself–I felt bad about not saying goodbye to L but I found peace by reminding myself it’s beyond my control. The other day, I wanted to write cards for sick friends but I couldn’t do it. I had to take a break. I will finish the cards gradually.
  2. Forgiving Others–Learning about my own limitations has helped me better understand others. The morning I found out Kay had cancer, I cried for thirty minutes. Leaving her is not an option.   But it made me think back to a conversation I had with my cousin Bong two years after I was hospitalized for MG. He told me he actually came to the hospital to visit but did not enter the building. He left because he couldn’t bear to see his “little cousin in a hospital bed.” I now know how he felt. (Related: 5 Reasons People Abandon a Sick Friend.)
  3. Finding the funny in it—Something funny did happen in the midst of this madness. I woke up from an intense dream because of an asthma attack. I dreamt that Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather actually had the “Mega Fight,” which has eluded boxing fans for five years. While they were reading the scorecards (115-113 Pacquaio, 114-114 Draw, 115-113, Mayweather), I had an asthma attack. I’ve had some serious nightmares (I once dreamt I was at the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre!) but this is the only dream that’s taken my breath away!
  4. Family and Friends–I’ve had conversations with different relatives and friends. It’s important not to rely on one person because that’s exhausting for a loved one. People with chronic illnesses need to build support networks.
  5. Following through on my “Survival Kit”–As someone with bipolar disorder, I have developed tools for surviving mood swings. I saw my therapist, which helped. Also doing my mood charts has aided me. On a scale of 1 to 5, my moods have vacillated between 2s and 3s. The charts reminded me that I’ve weathered far worse storms than this month. Getting sleep has also been key.
  6. Faith–These past few weeks, my faith has been my anchor. I was inspired by K’s faith. She wrote a lovely two-page letter to loved ones. This is a small portion of that letter:

After finding out my diagnosis, I’ve cycled through many emotions. DABDA – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance… At first, I was genuinely sad and couldn’t hold back the tears… But a phrase has stayed with me through my pessimism: What if… Even then.

What if the cancer spreads and I need to have more treatment… Even then, God is good. 

What if I cannot have children safely and what I’ve been dreaming of is dashed… Even then, I will praise Him.

What if this is just the start to a lengthy battle with cancer… Even then He will use it for my good and His glory…

He is the God who turns my mourning into gladness, light in my darkness, and hope for the future…

–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.

6 thoughts on “6 Tips for Staying Sane Despite Trials On Top of Illness

  • July 29, 2014 at 9:52 am

    It is so encouraging to read your blog. I also have depression, and of course anxiety, obsessive thoughts, go along with that. My diagnosis is Dysthymia.
    I had a breakdown at the age of 28; I’m now 73, but with faith in God, counselors and medication I’ve had a life. Stigma isn’t pleasant, but I can deal with it; I’ve had to realize people don’t understand. Knowing I’m loved, having support of family and friends have helped me greatly. What I see that is so crucial is not worrying about what people will say, but getting the help a person needs. Honestly, you know if you need help. Don’t delay!

    • August 17, 2014 at 11:08 pm

      Hi Phyllis, It makes me so happy to hear this blog has encouraged you. Thank you for bravely sharing your story. Indeed, God and medication have been paramount to my own success with mental illness. (Not sure but have you seen this article I wrote about stigma/discrimination: http://jessicagimeno.com/?p=2298 ) I totally agree with you and your philosophy. –xoxo, Jessica

    • August 17, 2014 at 11:09 pm

      Hi Mike,
      You too are an inspiration. I hope we get to meet in person some day. And collaborate. Bless you, Jessica


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