Transitioning from high school to college is no easy task but, for students with physical disabilities, the switch can be even more difficult. For 35 years, the Swim with Mike organization has helped athletes with physical challenges go to college. Inspired by Mike Nyeholt, an NCAA college swimmer who broke his neck in a motorcycle accident, this event has grown to include more than 85 schools and 178 scholarship recipients. But Swim with Mike is more than an annual event; it’s a community of college athletes and alumni.
“Without Swim with Mike, I would have never gone to USC. It really jump-started my career,” Daryl Holmlund, a 2011-2012 scholarship recipient, told The Mighty. “As a person with disabilities, you have lots of other expenses to deal with so I never could have done it without Swim with Mike.” Holmlund is now a teacher at the Conservation Corps of Long Beachand swam 3500 meters for the event.
The 35th Annual Swim with Mike event was held at the University of California’s Uytengsu Aquatics Center, Saturday April 11. The swim-a-thon raises funds for students with disabilities to attend college.
Sharon Lee attends the University of La Verne in La Verne, Californiaand told The Mighty Swim with Mike gave her the ability to pursue her dream. She studies biology with a pre-med concentration and plans to attend medical school. “This wouldn’t have been possible without Swim with Mike,” Lee said.
Spencer Fox is a freshman studying chemical engineering at the University of Southern California and current recipient. “It’s pretty overwhelming for some people with a disability to come to a big school but Swim with Mike provides the framework for us to succeed,” he told The Mighty. He and his sister, Ruby Fox, have been involved with Swim with Mike in San Diego for the past 2 years.
Swim with Mike involves the entire community. Dick Hunsaker, the grandfather of a recipient, has been supporting Swim with Mike for the past 10 years. “It’s great,” he said. “Seeing the smile son these students faces really warms your heart.”
Sarah Reinertsen, former recipient told The Mighty, “I’m still living the dream as an athlete.” Not only is she the first woman with a prosthetic leg to complete the Hawaii Ironman, but she’s training for the 2016 Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro. She’s been an active member of the Swim with Mike community and continues to attend swim-a-thon events. “It’s important to always give back,” she said. “People can become disabled at any time, what empowers us is education. It empowers us to have an independent and successful life and, together, we can lift each other up.”
Swim with Mike has raised more than $15 million dollars in scholarships. For more information and to find the swim-a-thon a you, visit the Swim with Mike website.
Veronica enjoys good food, good company, and good music. She is a journalist and photographer for international and Los Angeles-based publications with an emphasis in arts reporting and op-ed social commentary. Her favorite place to write is under the California sunshine.
The Mighty is home to more than 5 million people every month, so how can you find that special handful of kindred souls who really get you? Groups! We have hundreds of them, built around shared health conditions and hobbies/interests.
Our community is powered by people sharing their lived experiences and passing along the resources that help them. You landed here today because you clicked on one of their stories. Keep scrolling down to find a few more you may like.
Mayim Bialik: Messages to My Younger Self About Mental Health
My younger self was a mess. I mean, she was also a lot of fun. Very organized. Very funny. I was a full-time actor at a young age so I had a ton of practice balancing many demands at once and tolerating a lot of uncertainty. Younger me loved music and poetry and French existential philosophy. See? She was so fun! But. She was also a bit of a mess. We didn’t talk about mental illness when I was younger. Terms like “manic depressive” and “depression” were whispered with a sense of secrecy and shame if ever anyone mentioned them. We just didn’t talk about mental illness or tools for emotional health. While this cultural hush over a topic that affects millions of people all over the world has gotten a bit better, mental health resources have remained unavailable to the populations that need them most, and mental health as a topic is still shoved into the corners of our collective social consciousness. We talk about it more , but still not enough. And not in the ways that I think would benefit the most people. We all struggle — parenting, relationships, loss, grief and the tools to live the lives we want aren’t always clearly understood. My podcast “Mayim Bialik’s Breakdown” seeks to change that. We’re creating safety and normalcy around mental health and sharing our own journeys to build our emotional management toolset. We are hoping that by talking openly, we can get more people to talk openly. As my partner in mental health crime, Jonathan Cohen, and I continue to grow our audience and talk honestly and openly with guests with compelling stories and perspectives, I think often of the younger me. And I ask questions and seek answers that I wish my younger self could hear. The Mighty’s No Shame community is a safe space to talk about the things that tend to make make us feel bad about ourselves. No topic is too taboo. Here are the main messages I hope my podcast — and my public presence in talking about mental health — can get across to anyone like my younger self. 1. Get help . If you broke your leg, you’d go to the hospital. You would rehabilitate that leg. You would do exercises. Take medication when appropriate. Go to check-ups. Mental health is no different. It needs the assistance and guidance of a professional. Shame keeps us from getting help. There is nothing to be ashamed about. You are human and you are struggling. Get help. 2. Do the work . So many well-meaning people told me of my struggles, “It’ll be OK!” “Stay positive! Smile more! Chin up!” or “It’s not that bad.” These things made me feel even more alone and isolated and “crazy.” Here’s the low down: It can get better. But it takes some work. There’s no magic here. You have to put in the footwork. That means pushing fear aside and doing the work presented to you. If a therapist tells you to do writing assignments, do them. If you are told to make a lifestyle change, be open to it. Have faith things can get better, and they get better when you put in the work. 3. It’s not always a straight path . Mental health for many of us is a lifelong commitment to not giving up and to doing the work. But progress isn’t always linear. You may feel better for a bit and then feel crummy again. You likely will have ups and downs. This is normal. The notion that mental health is a linear process by which you do something and get better and never have that problem again sounds great on paper, but it’s not typically the experience of those of us who have been in the trenches. Lose the idea that you’re on a straight path and don’t stress about it. This path is going to wind all around. That’s what it does. Stay in the middle of the path and you won’t fall off the edge. Do not give up. 4. Nothing is forever . Well, some things are. My love for dark chocolate is forever. But everything else? Not so much. The fear we have that all mental health challenges are terminal is only partly logical. We may live with the challenges of our diagnoses forever, but we get to keep evolving and growing and working hard to thrive. Sometimes, we may need medication to help us move from one mental frame into another. Medication isn’t always forever. You may get support from a medication and then go off it. It happens a lot. The judgment you may have about “people who take medication” is likely based on cultural judgments surrounding people painted as weak, out of control and unable to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. This old thinking is just that: old. You may have times in your life when therapy three times a week is helpful (guilty as charged!); other times, once a week may do the trick. Sometimes you have to check in with your psychiatrist for medication management and it feels like you’ll always be paying all of this money all the time. Everything shifts with time. Don’t get hung up on outcomes. 5. Don’t trust your mind . Well, don’t trust it all of the time. Having a mental illness, or even intense emotions, means our minds can play tricks on us and on reality. Catastrophic thinking — “I’ll never figure this out!” — is your mind being ruled by fear. “I’m a mess and no one will ever love me.” Fear. “I’m such a mess and no one is as messed up as I am.” Also fear. I suggest you borrow my faith in you right now. You will figure it out. Set fear aside. Your mind is trying to make sense of a lot of pain and confusion; don’t trust it when it tells you that you can’t get better. Younger selves out there: we hear you. we see you. I hope I can do my part to help you set aside your fear and increase your faith in yourself and the possibility of change and growth. I’ve done it. I’m still doing it. You can do it, too.
15 Things People Said That Were Code for 'I'm Struggling Today'
Oftentimes, when someone is struggling with their mental health, they won’t come right out and say it. Some may hint at what they are feeling, hoping others pick up on the clues. Others may use language that means “I need help” without actually saying the words — because saying them can sometimes make it feel too real, or you might be afraid of how others will react. No matter what reason someone has for using “code words,” it’s important we talk about what kinds of phrases to look out for. Talking about these phrases can help us identify loved ones who are struggling and get them to the resources and support they need. To find out what people said when they were having a hard time with their mental health, we asked members of our Mighty community to share one thing they said that was really code for “I’m struggling today.” Here’s what our community shared with us: 1. “I’m not feeling well.” “It’s not untrue and I don’t have to explain myself. People automatically assume I have a cold or something.” — Mackenzie C. “It’s true. Majority of the time, depression keeps me exhausted and anxiety keeps me awake, so I get no respite from my brain. Top that with the stress of nursing school, and I literally don’t feel well.” — Bria M. 2. “Well, I’m alive!” “ I just realized that whenever people ask me how I’m doing, I say, ‘Well, I’m alive!’ or ‘Well, I’m here!’ It’s basically my way of saying that somehow, I am still alive and carrying on even though I am so exhausted and fight every day.” — Kellyann N. 3. “I didn’t sleep well last night.” “ It’s more acceptable to be tired from a bad night’s sleep than it is to be too exhausted to deal with life today.” — Ciara L. “It’s an immediate response I turn to because I’m just always tired of my depression, but I’m not the best at lying.” — Max W. 4. “Eh, you know.” “ No, they probably don’t. But are they still able to identify with you? One hundred percent. And that makes them think you’re OK.” — Josie S. 5. “It’s too much.” “I say this whenever all my thoughts overwhelm me and I have no way of truly telling anyone how bad I really feel.” — Erin R. 6. “I’m exhausted.” “Just not the kind that can be cured by sleep. Some days I get so tired of fighting to survive and don’t want to fight anymore.” — Alecia F. “It’s the truth, every illness I have exhausts me to the core, but they usually brush it off as mom exhaustion (which also plays a part).” — Joanna G. “‘I’m tired’ usually means a lot from not feeling well to being emotionally exhausted.” — Breeanna M. 7. “I’m just out of it today.” “Code for: I really don’t feel myself right now and it’s scaring me. Those days don’t happen often but when they do, I’m afraid I’m relapsing and I will need to readjust my medication.” — Christa M. 8. “I’m fine.” “‘I’m fine, honestly.’ There are many times I’ve been struggling and even though I’ve been asked if I’m OK, I just can’t always seem to be honest and explain that I’m not. Usually because I can’t even make sense of it myself to tell someone else. Then I kick myself afterwards for not saying something. Can’t win.” — Amy W. “[For me], fine never means fine. If I’m vague like that, then I’m hurting but won’t admit it. If I’m good, I’ll say that but won’t openly admit to struggling.” — Jackie S. 9. “I’m bored.” “ Meaning that I’m so sick and tired and I’ve had too many struggles today and I don’t feel very good.” — Denisa 10. “I’m having an ‘off day.’” “Code for I don’t feel like me today, today is harder than other days. I may not act like I need you checking in on me, but I actually really do.” — Jenna L. “‘Off’ means I need time off from any responsibilities and wait for the feeling to pass. Hopefully.” “I’m just a lil off. It’s my code for: ‘I feel like I’m imploding but I don’t want to burden you.’” — Jace P. 11. “I’m hanging in there.” “Usually said because I don’t want to bother anyone with the things that are going on in my head.” — Katie S. 12. “I’ve been listening to music a lot today.” “Music is how I get away from the nightmare in my head. And when I can’t listen to it, I’m just quiet. Unfortunately the people around me don’t recognize either of these. Ever.” — Megs G. 13. “I don’t want to be alone.” “That’s when it’s really bad and I really need someone. Otherwise I’m usually silent and not my bubbly self.” — Milly S. 14. “I’m all good, don’t worry about it.” “It’s just what I do. [I] don’t want others worrying about me — gotta help fix them before I fix me.” Alexis D. 15. “I just can’t today.” “ [When I’m] not feeling too good.” — Scarlett E. What would you add? If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page. If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741 . Unsplash photo via Timothy Paul Smith
Seeking a therapist can feel overwhelming, daunting and a little bit scary. What will they ask me? How will I feel? Do I need to tell them everything? What if I feel uncomfortable? The questions we ask ourselves are often what hold us back from making that first appointment. However, professional counseling is often the missing link when it comes to managing our mental health, and sometimes the best person for you might actually be online. Two therapists from Talkspace , Kate Rosenblatt LMHC, LPC, and Amy Cirbus PhD, LMHC , answer some of the most common questions from The Mighty community regarding online therapy. Talkspace’s mission is to provide more people with convenient, affordable access to licensed providers who can help those in need to live a happier and healthier life. Talkspace aims to present more people with the opportunity to utilize and benefit from therapy in a stigma-free environment. Learn More See their answers to the community’s questions below: Is there a difference in treatments if I see someone online versus in person? Online therapy has similarities and differences to in-person therapy. The biggest difference is how you communicate with your therapist. In-person therapy typically involves meeting in an office for a 50-minute or 1-hour appointment (frequency can vary depending on your specific needs). With online therapy, you can often send a text, audio or video message to your therapist anytime you like. Depending on your plan and insurance, regular live video sessions can happen too and can conveniently take place from almost anywhere. One of the distinct advantages of online therapy is the ability to reach out to your therapist more frequently instead of waiting for your weekly in-office appointment. Being able to get support, work on your goals and check in with your therapist throughout the week can make a significant difference. How do I know if my therapist is a good fit for me, especially in a virtual setting? Therapists vary in their specialities and offer different types of treatment, regardless of whether you see them in person or online. The best way to understand what to expect with your therapist is to ask questions about their qualifications, approach and areas of expertise. Finding the right fit can be really hard; it can take some trial and error. Therapists are human too, which means they may not be aligned with your wants, needs and values. And that’s OK! It’s important to find someone who is possibly in a similar life phase (so they relate to some of the experiences you have) and specializes in treatments that are relevant to your needs. Having followers, reviewers or other clients attesting to their competence helps too. After the first few sessions, whether in-person or virtual, start to ask yourself some important questions. Does your therapist spend more time listening than talking? Is this a person who demonstrates empathy and tries to “walk in your shoes?” Do you feel like they are open-minded and fluid? In therapy sessions, clients should be encouraged to lead the way, so it’s important that your therapist is a gentle guide, mentor and facilitator to help you move toward your goals. If they seem to take over the conversation, lack empathy in their responses or appear close-minded to your life situation, they may not be the best fit. I’m not sure how to articulate my feelings. What if I can’t express myself? Everyone is different in how they express their feelings. Some find that activities like art, movement, music and spoken word are the best ways to convey emotions. One of the great things about online therapy is that it allows you to use these mediums (and more) to communicate your feelings to your therapist. Try breaking the ice by sending your therapist memes, videos and songs that resonate with you. It’s also important to always go at your own pace when it comes to sharing what’s on your mind. Will they be able to understand/read how you are feeling on just a computer screen? If you are writing to your therapist, you may need to be more direct about how you are feeling since your therapist won’t be able to hear your tone of voice or see your body language. Consider using other methods of communication, too, like leaving your therapist a video or audio message or sending them some photos of your life. This can help your therapist get to know and understand you better. I keep talking about the same things over and over in therapy — is this normal? It’s completely normal (and typical) to repeat conversations in therapy until you reach a resolution! Sometimes you find it right away, and other times disclosing details can reveal it’s way more complex than you thought and will require more time to work through. That being said, if you feel like you’ve spent too much time on one particular subject, and it’s taking away from your ability to work through other things, tell your therapist you’re feeling stuck. We love your feedback! I’m feeling OK (I’ve felt worse). How do I know if I should start therapy or wait? Even if you are feeling OK overall, therapy can still be beneficial. It’s a great place to find non-judgmental support outside of your friends and family. Being in a fairly stable place in your life, as opposed to being in crisis, is also the perfect time to focus on creating and maintaining healthy habits and coping skills. Your therapist should also support you in identifying and achieving personal goals. Therapy is a space where you can reflect on your core values and use those values to create a meaningful life. It’s not only for times of urgency (although that’s important too!). Can I choose my therapist? What if I want to change therapists? Online therapy is, in many ways, like in-person therapy, so you can always choose your therapist. The client-provider relationship is an important factor to ensuring a successful outcome, so you’ll also be able to select a better match for you if it isn’t working out. However, it’s important to give your therapist a chance to work together for at least a few sessions before making the switch. Is an online therapist available nationwide? I plan to travel in the near future and wonder if it will allow me to get care on the go. Talkspace online therapy is available nationwide. If you are on a trip or traveling, you can stay in touch with your therapist and continue working on your mental health goals. Where can I go to try online therapy? Interested in trying online therapy? Talkspace partners with some insurance plans. Even if you don’t have an insurance plan that covers mental health services like Talksapce, online therapy is typically less expensive than traditional face-to-face therapy. You may find that it fits your budget even if you are paying out-of-pocket . To help you get started, T he Mighty has partnered with Talkspace to give Mighty members $100 off Talkspace services with code MIGHTY . Learn More
Dear Parents: Please Let Your Kids Ask About My Disability
I am physically disabled. I have cerebral palsy, and I am an amputee and a wheelchair user. All my life, I have gotten questions from curious little kids. I mean why wouldn’t I? They quite possibly have or will not see someone that looks like me again. So, when they ask me questions, I have been asked and will be asked a million times more, “What happened to your leg?” I always simply give my answer: “I was born that way.” My aide was recently getting me out of bed and her young daughter asked me that age-old question, “What happened to your leg?” I replied as I always do. She then asked again, and her mom told her I had already answered and she did not need to ask again. I then said to my aide, “She can ask as many times as she wants.” It seemed clear to me that she had an issue with her daughter asking the question more than once. When parents react this way, I want to ask them, “What’s the big deal?” If your child wants to talk to me and ask me questions, it is my personal preference that they do that. Others may feel differently, but I have and always will welcome it because it’s an educational moment for a parent and their children. Why not encourage that instead of dismissing it or not letting them ask the question? When parents do not allow kids to inquire, they’re doing them a disservice by not allowing them to learn from and interact with someone who is different. In my experience, when a parent doesn’t allow questions to be asked, it’s usually not because they’re afraid of what their child might say to me, but because the conversation makes them uncomfortable. Maybe when you were a kid your parents told you to not stare or ask questions because they didn’t know how to react and interact with someone with a disability (visible or not), so you do the same with your kids. But as a person with a disability, when a child asks me a question, that shows me that they want to learn and they’re brave enough to speak up. Sometimes their parents might be embarrassed or think we do not want to answer. Trust me, I will answer their questions to the best of my ability. I think deep down some parents don’t want kids to ask questions because they don’t know how to talk about disability themselves — because they never learned about it when they were kids. It is OK to not know what questions they will ask you after meeting me. It’s never too late to start educating yourself and your entire family in the process. There are a bunch of resources out there — videos, books, articles etc. Parents, if your child sees me and wants to ask me a question, let them. Trust me, there is nothing to be scared of.
What to Tell Family and Friends About Living With Chronic Illness
If someone were to ask me to describe what it’s like to live with a chronic illness, I honestly wouldn’t know what to say. Perhaps it’s the expectation of living a normal life and remaining “active” with drained out batteries. The fear of being bedridden or dependent on other people, the guilt of letting people down, the pain of feeling left behind and missing out on things, and the unpredictability of the illness itself. In addition, it’s the constant struggle to educate and create awareness amongst family, friends and co-workers, all the while hearing insensitive things since nobody has any idea how disabling it can be. To be honest, nothing I say will actually do justice to what it’s like, however, there’s certain things I can tell you for sure. All of these things I’ve thought about and wished I could tell my own family and friends, but have never been able to. Maybe because my chronic illness never becomes the topic of conversation. Maybe because I’m used to keeping that part of my life to myself, or maybe because I’m used to suffering in silence — or maybe because I just don’t have the energy to educate. You know what? It feels good to finally get it off my chest, and I hope this will resonate if you’re sick too. Our lives are very different from your lives. How so? In addition to all the regular challenges that are part of adulthood, we also have to worry about pain, fatigue, nausea, migraines, physical limitations, brain fog, sleep difficulties, medications, a ton of appointments – with the doctors’, chiropractor, massage therapist, physiotherapist, acupuncture – cancelled plans, and most importantly, trying to keep up with people’s expectations of us. It’s not fair to have the same expectations from us as you would from a perfectly healthy person. This is a never-ending struggle! Most people tend to forget that a chronic illness is something you have to deal with every day of your life. So just because you see a smile on our faces doesn’t mean we aren’t in pain. And that certainly doesn’t make it OK for you to have the same level of expectations from us as you would from a perfectly healthy person. Think about the time you empathized with someone who got sick just for a few days. Didn’t you cut them some slack? Now imagine being sick for weeks, and months and years. Don’t you think we deserve the same? If you see us “enjoying ” ourselves, it doesn’t mean we aren’t sick. You see us put up a picture on Instagram. We are laughing and having the time of our lives. You automatically start judging and think to yourself, “She looks absolutely fine there. It doesn’t seem like she is in any kind of pain. In fact, she is out and about, having fun! Yet she has no time for me.” But did you know that I had to save my energy all week long just to go out that one night? Or that it took a lot of convincing from my family and everything in me to drag myself outside in an effort to feel better? And that the entire time I was out, I was trying super hard to forget about the physical and emotional pain I was in? Can a picture ever tell you the struggles behind that moment? Definitely not! We pay the price for it each time. We absolutely love catching up with you; those long phone calls and all our time together, but it can be very draining on us. Unfortunately, we always have to pay a price for all the fun we have. Every time you see us dancing it up at that party or spending an entire day outside, you will find us trying to recuperate for the next few days. We spend every single day of our lives making decisions on what we are able to use our energy on that day. Every single interaction takes from the very limited amount of energy we have. Fatigue is different than being tired. I think fatigue is harder for healthy people to understand than pain because everyone has felt pain at some point in their lives, even if it’s not as bad as our pain. However, healthy people can’t wrap their heads around what it feels like to be exhausted even after 12 hours of sleep. Or feeling the need to take a nap just after freshening up and having breakfast. But hey, thanks to fatigue, it is totally possible for us to be way more exhausted than you even if you have had a five-day work week and we have only had a two-day work week. Or if you’ve been having super long days in comparison to our super short days! We are going to live with this for the rest of our lives. There’s no “cure” for our illness. This is going to be our life for the rest of our days. If you decide to stick around, make sure you’re able to handle being there for us through our ups and downs. Unfortunately, cancellations and disappearances may be part and parcel of being friends with us. That actually has nothing to do with you and everything to do with our health condition! We understand if it’s too much for you to handle, but please understand that it’s not fair for you to take it personally and expect us to explain ourselves each time. We don’t want to sound like we are complaining. Being tired or not getting enough sleep the night before can easily come off as ” complaining.” This is the reason why most chronic illness warriors aren’t vocal about their struggles. We would rather keep things to ourselves than have people think that. But please keep in mind that there is a huge difference between feeling that way once in a while or feeling like that every day of your life. We just want acceptance. Honestly, we just want to be heard! We want people to stop pretending like there is nothing wrong with us, to recognize our challenges, listen to us when we feel the need to vent and maybe just give us a hug at the end of it all! What’s one thing that you’d like to get off your chest about living with a chronic illness? Let us know in the comments below.
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