Jim Curtis and the Stimulati: Changing Your Story to Help Yourself and Others

Patient Expert
Jim Curtis and Odie

Credit: Peter Hurley

Jim Curtis wants “to make dreams a reality.”

His book The Stimulati Experience: 9 Steps for Getting past Pain, Setbacks, and Trauma to Ignite Health and Happiness, is a guide to help people who have experienced a trauma through an experience or illness become empowered to change their story. In it, he shares his own story of chronic illness and explains that the motivation for writing the book was to make his suffering meaningful. I recently spoke to Jim about the book, living well with chronic illness, and the idea of the “Stimulati.”

Undiagnosed after 20 years

When Jim, now 41, was 20 years old, he developed a chronic illness that is still undiagnosed. “One day, I got into the shower and couldn’t feel the hot water on my left foot. Within a month, that numbness had gone up to my waist.” An MRI showed “lesions that looked to be wrapped around my spinal cord,” but doctors were unable to find the cause of lesions. “It progressed so much that one day I woke up and couldn’t walk. I became more and more numb and pain in the muscles and the joints set in.”

After seeing multiple doctors, he finally found one who treated him with intravenous medications. “The progression stopped, but I am left with the trauma of it,” Jim says. “I still walk with a limp now and I have a lot of pain.”

The road to wellness

As he looked for answers and relief for his symptoms, Jim explored a variety of treatments, alternative medicine, and philosophies. “I started to just say yes to anybody who said ‘you should try’ or ‘I met this guy.’” This led him to a class on Buddhism and meditation, which he still attends six years later.

“The study of Buddhism and meditation really help me, but I have gone everywhere. I’m really interested in exploring and I’ll try anything once,” he says.

That includes everything from cryotherapy, Reiki, an Ecuadorian shaman, to chiropractic work and acupuncture, the latter being especially helpful to him.

Broadening the people and communities he connected with was useful to Jim, and he also found help in his work, guided by his experience of chronic illness. He worked for a number of health media companies, and is now the president of Advertising, Strategy and Operations at Remedy Health Media (the parent company of HealthCentral).

“It was a real inspiration that while I was dealing with these things, I was creating content and businesses to help people who were dealing with the same things,” he says. “I really found that there was an intersection there and it was so inspiring.”

This was when he began to create a collection of what “I learned in my own struggle and also what I learned from them.”

Stimulating inspiration

One of the people Jim met in this journey recommended free association writing. “It really was helpful for me in terms of feeling better, getting rid of the anxiety,” he told me. It also inspired him to work on writing a book.

He developed the term Stimulati when thinking of all the people and experiences that had guided him on his journey with chronic illness. “They ignite something in you, they inspire you, they stimulate you to take the next step or find your way out of something. They are stimulants,” he says. Dipping into Latin, he used the past participle of ‘stimulate’ and found the Stimulati.

Jim recommends that you seek out your own Stimulati. They “give you important innovative information and next steps, as well as inspire. Combining these elements can give you hope and a game plan” to make your dreams a reality. He suggest that you start by reading books (his own includes a list of recommendations) and looking “to those people around you who show passion, excitement, and resiliency — anyone can be a Stimulati.”

Including you yourself!

In his book, Jim suggests that the last step “to living with purpose and sharing your story allows you to be a Stimulati to someone else.”

Illness, purpose, and a good life

Jim lives in New York with his 9-year-old son Aidan and a rescue dog called Odie. He was named one of the top 100 most inspirational in health for 2017, receiving the Red Jacket Award, by the magazine PharmaVoice.

Jim views his illness as a positive force in his life. “It was for the benefit of me and other people, even though it was a tough, confusing, and ambiguous issue,” he says. He continues exploring new treatments and philosophies and is dedicated to continuing his work.

“I’m going to continue to inspire through storytelling,” Jim says. “I’m really focused on is how can I reach the most amount of people that are potentially suffering and tell them a story that can change things.”

The Stimulati Experience: 9 Steps for Getting past Pain, Setbacks and Trauma to Ignite Health and Happiness is available in bookstores and online.

See more helpful articles:

How to Find Health and Happiness When Living with Chronic Illness

How I Stay Positive with RA: the Habit of Happiness

How I Learn to Redefine Myself As an Athlete with RA