To the Nurse Who Let Me Cry When I Needed It Most


I have been struggling with depression and bipolar disorder for most of my life. I have been hospitalized more times than I’d like to remember, and there is really only one hospital to which I would ever go.

The reason is because my favorite nurse works there and she always talks with me and treats me with respect. Her name is Martina and she has helped me through so much in the times that I’ve been to “her” hospital.

The first time I was hospitalized there in 2001, I just remember that it was one of the worst times in my life, and she just listened. She really heard what I was saying and didn’t give advice unless I wanted her advice.

I have since been to “her” hospital many times and usually she is my nurse. (I haven’t been hospitalized in almost five years.) I love to see her smile and I get happy when I know she is coming on shift and will be my nurse.

There was the time that I told her that I thought I was gay and was so scared about what she would say. She just said “Okay” like it was no big deal and told me that she would talk with one of the social workers (who was gay) and ask him about support groups and such. Next thing I knew, she came to me with lots of information and said that if I needed more, she would help me any way she could.

She told me that it was okay to be gay and that she really didn’t think that God had a problem with it (I was afraid that God wouldn’t love me anymore). She reassured me and said that she would be there if I needed anything.

Then there was the time in 2006 when I had tried to end my life and was living in a group home. I had been in the ICU and then was sent to the psych unit at her hospital. I was miserable, even though a very healing thing happened to me there. I was going to have a meeting with the director of my group home and I knew that they were going to tell me things I didn’t want to hear. I didn’t know exactly what they were going to say, but I talked with Martina about it. She told me to just sit there and listen and accept whatever they were telling me.

Then I went into the meeting and it was bad. They told me that I couldn’t have my car. I was going to be moved to a very restrictive house. Someone would be give me my medications. Basically, all my perceived freedoms were being taken away and I felt like I was being punished for attempting to end my life. (Although now I know that it was for my safety.)

After the meeting, I sat and ate my lunch and, through sobs of tears, talked with Martina about it. I’ll never forget this: she sat with me and let me cry, but she also was steadfast in her responses to my thinking that now my life was REALLY over. She said that it was okay to cry now, but that I needed to be strong and get through the next few months if I really wanted to get out of the group home. She told me to just do what I had to do (do whatever they said) and get things in order so I could leave the home for good.

She said that she believed in me and she knew that I would do it in a few months because it’s really what I wanted to do. She let me cry, but she also gave me the support and love that I so desperately needed at the time.

A few days later, I gave her a hug as I left the hospital and told her that I wouldn’t be back. The only time I ever went back was in 2010 for a brief “tune-up” and I haven’t been back since then.

She has always been there for me, though. She was the first person I called when my wife and I got engaged, and she was the most treasured guest at our wedding. These moments that she and I have shared have kept me on the straight and narrow for a long time and I’m so grateful for her support.

If you or someone you know needs help, please visit the National Suicide Prevention LifelineHead here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

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‘Real Housewives of New Jersey’ Mom Responds to Vile Comment About Autism


To the person who suggested people with autism are a waste:

When your appalling and uneducated comment appeared on the Facebook wall of the Autism Behavioral Services page, I couldn’t believe that a human being could have such a lack of compassion and empathy for others by having the audacity to say something so vile — and so publicly — about the life of another. I thought to myself, ”What a hateful, hurtful and ignorant thing to say!” For a moment, I found your comment extremely offensive, and I felt anger towards you.

For a moment, I allowed your words to upset me, but I quickly chose to take that power away from you. Instead, I began to feel sadness for you. I have no idea what challenges in life you’ve had to endure or what kind of mental programming you’ve grown up with for you to think the way you do. I don’t know what caused the anger and bitterness that compelled you to lash out to hurt others the way you did. I just know that hurt people… hurt people.

I began to think that maybe I could help you in some way. Maybe if I educated you, just a little, I could open your mind to a new way of thinking and possibly open your heart to allow in a little more compassion. I believe it’s worth an effort.

As a proud mother of a beautiful, intelligent, loving child with autism, I want to provide you with an answer to your seemingly seething question that you so boldly and publicly asked:

“Why do people give birth to autistic kids? Waste of societies resources.”

Well, let me educate you.

1. There’s no medical detection or prenatal test to predict that your child will be born with autism. Even if I had known of my son’s autism prior to his birth, I would have still chosen to give him Life.

2. Autism signs and symptoms are usually discovered within the first few years of life. (The life you believe should never exist.)

I’m a mother who waited six and a half years and went through five miscarriages to finally give birth to, who I consider, my miracle child. I couldn’t wait to hold him in my arms, look into his eyes and love him forever. The love for my child is immeasurable, and I will continue to love him unconditionally regardless of any challenges he may have. He’s a joy to our entire family and has taught us more in life than we ever imagined we would be teaching him. Thank God he exists. He’s worth every resource we can get that will help bring out the best individual he can be. He’s worth every skill we can teach him that may make his life a little easier in the future.

3. In case you’ve never done the research, autism is a bio-neurological developmental disability that affects the brain’s normal development of social and communication skills. People with autism can also exhibit some self-stimulatory and repetitive behaviors. These individuals process and handle information in their brain differently than other people — differently, not less than other people.

4. Autism is the fastest growing developmental disorder, affecting approximately 1 in 68 children in the U.S. It’s also underfunded. (So we need more of those limited resources you say are a waste.)

What makes you feel that you’re more entitled to life and the use of our society’s resources than someone with autism? (Different, not less!) What makes you feel superior? I’m curious… what useful and positive lessons do you feel you’re teaching the world from the resources you’ve already received?

5. Although there’s no known cure for autism, with the right early detection, intervention and treatment services, the challenges autism can present can be lessened.

I believe every life is worth fighting for and improving on… even yours.

6. Every child — with or without autism/some other challenge — matters. Every human being has something to contribute to this world if people would pay attention to the lessons to be learned from each individual.

7. Many well-known people who have been “suspected to have” or diagnosed on the autism spectrum have successfully contributed to this society. Imagine if none of them had been born.

I hope you take some time to understand how your insensitive words may have affected families, such as my own, who choose to see the beauty of children with autism. We love our kids unconditionally and endlessly. As parents, we will continue to fight hard to give our children whatever we can to give them the skills they need to help make their lives easier. We’re parents who will continue to believe that these bright souls not only have the power to continue to learn but also have plenty to teach the world. Raising a child on the autism spectrum is a joy and challenge every single day, and we appreciate any information, resources and support we can get from others. I hope in the future, you choose empathy over your lack of compassion.

Jacqueline Laurita

jaqueline-laurita

This letter was published with permission from The Real Mr. Housewife, where a longer version of it appeared exclusively, with an introduction from Editor Matt Richards.

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The Moment My ‘Limiting’ Wheelchair Became My Favorite Toy


When I was about 15 years old, I spent my days on YouTube watching videos of the professional skateboarder Ryan Sheckler and skateboarding tutorials. I knew my dream of becoming a skateboarder would never come true — I have cerebral palsy. I can barely walk on crutches, but I’d always wanted to skate. I dragged myself around every day with the help of my crutches or a walker. Then I closed my eyes and imagined my life without a disability and with a board under my feet.

When I was 15, I got my first wheelchair. I can’t walk for long distances, so before I got a wheelchair I was pushed around in a baby buggy whenever we had a long ways to walk. I didn’t like the fact that I couldn’t decide where I wanted to go, but walking was so exhausting that I really needed to sit down every once in a while. One day, my physical therapist asked me if I would like to get a wheelchair to replace the baby buggy, since I wasn’t a baby anymore. I agreed, so she told my family about it. It was not easy for them — they saw the wheelchair as something “very disabled” people use, and they didn’t see me that way. That is why I didn’t use the chair much in the first year. Walking, though tiring, was still less limiting.

Around the time I got my wheelchair, I was trying to learn German. One day, I was watching a German movie online and I noticed one of the main characters was in a wheelchair. I always read the names of the actors after watching a movie, and one name caught my eye: Aaron Fotheringham, wheelchair stuntman. I wondered what a wheelchair stuntman could do, so I Googled his name. The first results were YouTube videos, and the titles were things like “Wheelchair in a skateboard park.” Needless to say, I immediately pressed play.

That was the moment that changed the way I see my disability. I couldn’t take my eyes off this kid shredding the park on his chair with a motocross helmet on his head. At the end of the video, I was so happy I almost cried. It was possible; I could be a skater. Wheelchairs can be cool.

In that moment, I knew I needed to talk to that guy. I found a contact form on his website and sent him an email. I told him how his videos had opened the door to a whole new world for me, a world where dreams do come true. He replied the next day, and seeing his name in my inbox made me the happiest girl on the planet. There was someone telling me it was OK to have a disability. He was telling me there was nothing wrong with me and that the wheelchair was something to play with; it was not a bad thing. I found out he was not the only one hitting the skatepark on his chair. There was a whole team, a big family. I started dreaming about becoming a member of that family.

A few weeks later, Aaron told me he would be coming to Italy, where I live, for a TV show. They were filming in Rome, a six-hour drive from my town. Not close but not as far as his hometown — Las Vegas. I begged my parents to take me there. I knew I had to meet that kid. Eventually, they agreed to drive me to Rome.

When I met him, I was blown away by what he could do on his chair. Even my parents were impressed. We talked, played and had fun together. When I left Rome, I knew everything was going to be OK. My dreams could come true, and I could become the person I always wanted to be. That was only the beginning: I could also be independent and happy. My wheelchair became my favorite thing to play with. My disability was a blessing.

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 This post originally appeared on Ila’s Crazy Thoughts.

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When a Girl with Down Syndrome Needed Help, My Daughter’s Response Took My Breath Away


It took having a second child for me to understand that disability did not mean inability. I am guilty, like many others, of seeing the chair before the person in it. I would look at those with a disability and not see the person first.

After my second daughter was born, my definition of disability was reborn. This wasn’t a child to be pitied or thought to be unable. This child could accomplish anything she set her mind to, whether it was walking or climbing up the wrong side of the stairs. She would defy doctors and our own expectations too often for us to begin putting limits on her ability. I wanted everyone to see Bridget, not the things that set her apart from her peers.

However, having a child with a disability wasn’t how I learned to “see” the person first. It was having a child without a disability.

When Bridget was in the NICU, Abby saw first-hand how this long awaited baby sister would change our lives. Abby has spent countless hours in waiting rooms doing her homework while her sister is doing her therapy. She has always known her sister had “special needs” but characterized it as just another quirk, like Bridget’s red hair. One would think this inequity would lead to either jealousy or disdain. But the opposite is true.

The long hours she has spent caring for her sister has created an empathetic soul. One who slows down to her sister’s pace not because she has to, but because she wanted to walk with her sister. Abby will unthinkingly adapt a playground activity so a friend who cannot run as fast as the others will be able to participate with her classmates at recess.

Early on, Abby created her own narrative about her sister. She would tell classmates (and teachers) that Bridget had a “funny” pattern in her brain or that it just took Bridget longer to do things. When asked about including her sister in events, Abby’s first response is: “Of course, she is my sister!” Abby redefined special needs to be anything that makes life harder for her sister and others. It was through watching Abby nurture her sister that I began to see a pattern forming.

Abby treats all children as if they are able. Abby may question why a person is using a cane or a child may act in a disruptive manner, which is only natural. She will inquire in a way so as not to embarrass herself or the person who has prompted the question. What is not natural is her unwavering ability to see the person first, disability second.

Recently Abby was at a 4H visual presentation. A child with Down syndrome got up to present and encountered difficulty managing her posters. The 4H presentation must be conducted solo, without parental assistance. The judges showed kindness and asked the child if they required assistance. Eyes full of nerves, the child said yes, please. The judges had barely finished giving permission when Abby was out of her seat asking the girl what she needed.

She did not tell the girl how she was going to help; she asked the girl how she could be of help. Abby asked the girl where she wanted her to stand. She asked the girl what sequence the girl wanted to posters in. And after the presentation was finished, she asked the girl if she was okay with how Abby helped her instead of letting the girl’s friends assist her. (Thankfully, the answer was yes.)

But I learned something much more important. Too often I see someone with a disability and move quickly to assist. I now follow the steps Abby displayed naturally:

1. Ask if they need/want help.

2. Ask how we can help.

On the drive home, I told Abby how proud I was that she stepped up to help. She replied, “Of course, Mom” (with an exaggerated sigh). Then she asked if the girl had special needs, like Bridget. When I replied yes, Abby said she thought so, but she wasn’t sure until she sat back down. She took my breath away when she added, “She just looked as nervous as I felt.”

When Abby looked at the girl on stage she didn’t see a girl with Down syndrome. She saw a girl on stage that was nervous and thought she might have special needs. It wouldn’t have mattered if the girl did or did not, Abby would have reacted the same way.

The way we all should: see the person first and offer assistance.

This post originally appeared on Undiagnosed But Okay.

The Mighty wants to read more stories about siblings, whether it’s your favorite memory or a tough moment that taught you something. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio.

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A Letter to the Word No One Likes to Hear From Doctors


Dear “Interesting,”

Yes, Interesting, you’re not the word people like to hear from their doctors. You fit in with “Rare,” “Hmmm,” “Exceptional” and “Will have to look into.”

So why, Interesting, must you be with me? I have a diagnosis of leber’s hereditary optic neuropathy (LHON)? That itself is Interesting, but I also didn’t follow the way it typically develops. Of course. So Interesting within Interesting. I lost my vision in my left eye when I was 20. Typically, the other eye is affected and loses central vision, but I’ve remain stable for more 10 years, which is Rare.

When I went back to the neurologist for other problems, he stated, “I already diagnosed you.” Within a week I heard, “It’s Unlikely that you have LHON and multiple sclerosis (MS)” and then, “Yes, you definitely have both.” Interesting.

It’s Unfathomable that my first son was stillborn after a normal pregnancy. It’s Unfortunate that it took me awhile to get pregnant both times.

It was Unforeseen that I had a MS relapse after my son, Reece, was born. My vision deteriorated, and I became legally blind months later.

Yes, Coincidentally, there’s some kind of connection among all my medical ailments, but my condition is too Rare for any answers.

Now, Reece has been diagnosed with autism, which is Ironic because LHON been connected to sensory issues. It’s all too Complicated.

I may not visually see everything, but above all, I know Reece and I aren’t just Interesting. We’re Special.

Sometimes I wish you would try out Normal, Interesting. (Or simply, Easier.) I would love to meet Cure.

Sincerely,

Marci Belk

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Paramedic Rescues Pediatrician Who Helped Save His Life 30 Years Earlier


Chris Trokey made a special rescue on March 29, 2011. The paramedic based in Orange County, California, was among those who responded to a car crash where Dr. Michael Shannon was badly injured and stuck inside a burning SUV along the Pacific Coast Highway, KTLA 5 News reported.

After the rescue, when Shannon was recovering in the hospital, Trokey realized how the two were connected — Shannon was the pediatrician who helped save Trokey’s life 30 years ago when he was born prematurely.

Born weighing just 3.2 pounds, Trokey was given a 50 percent chance of survival. But Dr. Shannon stayed with him around the clock to help the infant survive.

It’s amazing to watch them all grow up, but to have one come back in your life on a day you really need it, that’s really incredible,” Shannon told KTLA 5 News.

The two were recently reunited again at a local cancer fundraiser.

Watch the video below for the full story:

h/t Reddit Uplifting News

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