Some days, I see this:

He can’t make himself a snack. I have to prepare and supervise every meal.

He can’t stomach new foods. I have to cook the same limited menu.

He can’t use a knife. I have to cut up his food before he eats.

He can’t hang out with friends on his own. I have to hover and facilitate.

He can’t shave his face, brush his teeth or wash his hair independently. I have to take over those tasks.

He can’t match his clothes. I have to lay them out for him.

He can’t organize his time. I have to micro-manage every step to get him ready for his day.

But, this is also true:

He can’t make himself a snack — because I prepare and supervise every meal.

He can’t stomach new foods — because I cook the same limited menu.

He can’t use a knife — because I cut up his food before he eats.

He can’t hang out with friends on his own — because I hover and facilitate.

He can’t shave his face, brush his teeth or wash his hair independently — because I take over those tasks.

He can’t match his clothes — because I lay them out for him.

He can’t organize his time — because I micro-manage every step to get him ready for his day.

My son can’t do many things — because I still do too much.

He can’t do them — because I have not taken the time to teach him.

He can’t work through his mom-enabled challenges — until I make it a priority to get out of his way.

He can’t learn to do these things — without strategic teaching and creative modifications that take his sensory, fine motor and communicative needs into account.

He can’t complete these tasks independently — without time and patience and belief.

He can’t do these things today — but not because he can’t.

He just can’t — yet.

Robin LaVoie the mighty.1

Follow this journey on Stay Quirky, My Friends.

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Frankly, I’m used to it. So used to it, I’m almost numb to it. You’ve always judged me for my pronounced speech impediment. I’ve never said my r’s correctly or talked normally at all for that matter. You’ve always judged me for my coordination differences. I’ve caught countless balls with my nose and glasses in my day, but what’s it to you?

This is a horribly hard letter for me to write, but here I am working on it for the second day in a row because I believe healing can come from speaking the truth even if it’s imperfect. This letter will be nothing less than very imperfect, just as I’ve always been.

I’m tired of always feeling like I’m less than what you think I should be. I’m weary of getting sympathy instead of respect. I’m exhausted from trying so hard and never being good enough.

Why do you always insist on judging me?

I’ve figured out through lifelong experience that when I open my mouth, you make certain assumptions about me. These assumptions aren’t accurate.

I not only graduated from college, I have a Masters of Fine Arts in poetry. That should be enough. Now I speak on stages to audiences of hundreds of people about finding the courage to truly be yourself. That should be enough. I’m always working so hard to go the extra mile to prove myself to you. That should be enough.

Yet, you with your ideals of perfection are a harsh and unrelenting judge.

Why does it seem the farther I get into this letter that the “you” I’m writing to is me? Just for the record, I’m not at all sure I like where this is going.

Sometimes people I’ve just met naturally make quick judgments about me, but in the course of our conversation they come to realize that I’m smart, daring and different.

As you can probably imagine, I’ve become an expert at putting myself in context for other people.

They understand me and who I am.

But still I judge and judge and judge myself.

So if I can’t blame you, the person reading this, for my life, who do I blame?

Me?

At this point in the letter, the junior high boy in me whose highest wish was to save the world wishes I had a neat and tidy answer for us all.

But I don’t.

The only thing that I can say is I’ve found tremendous freedom in beginning to love the judge who is me.

Actually, I will say one more thing.

Please do everything you can to learn to love all of you, even the parts of you that habitually judge you.

You are perfect and I am, too. It’s time for us both to recognize and delight in this.

Jason Freeman the mighty.1-001


Alexis Cain is now a proud Alpha Sigma Alpha ladybug.

Cain, who has Down syndrome, is a senior at Murray State University in Murray, Kentucky, where she was recently accepted into the Beta Nu chapter of Alpha Sigma Alpha, The Odyssey Online reported. This makes her the first person with a disability to join a sorority at her school, according to the description on the YouTube video below.

Cain went through formal recruitment earlier this month. Best Buddies Kentucky, an inclusion organization Cain participates in, posted the video of Cain accepting the bid online on August 20. It’s since been viewed nearly 40,000 times.

The excitement in the room is a testament to the supportive, positive community of Murray State that has truly embraced the Best Buddies mission of respect, friendship and inclusion,” reads the YouTube description on the video below.

We are cheetah girsl, cheetah sisters!!

Posted by Alexis Cain on Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Hi my name is Alexis Cain and I am a ASA: a baby ladybug.

Posted by Alexis Cain on Thursday, August 20, 2015

 

It felt really good to know that the girls wanted me to join their sorority,” Cain told The Odyssey Online. “They make me feel accepted and really welcomed me into their group already and they feel like the sisters I’ve never had.”

Watch the crowd go wild when Cain accepts her bid in the video below: 


When someone endures a spinal cord injury, his or her life can dramatically change in an instant. A broken spinal cord may result in paralysis and, in some cases, the person affected can lose the ability to stand, walk or function independently. As a result, people who’ve sustained this kind of injury can feel like a lot is out of their control.

Now, a photography workshop series aims to turn that feeling on its head. “Imagine Me” is a program that teaches people who live with spinal cord injuries adaptive and modified digital photography skills — free of charge. Workshop participants also learn about the technical aspects of photography like photo editing, shutter speed and ISO, the project’s founder, Sue Murray, told The Mighty in an email.

In turn, workshop participants develop the skills to create unique, imaginative self-portraits that reveal the person beneath the injury.

ImagineMe2
Photo from the Imagine Me Facebook page

“[The photos] show the strength and individuality of people with spinal cord injuries that is often overlooked,” Murry, a photographer who lives in Sydney, Australia, told The Mighty.

In addition to providing an outlet for self-expression, creating these self-portraits can help people who’ve sustained spinal cord injuries come to terms with the ways their lives have changed — something they may not have found a way to do.

“When I got [to the workshop], the whole idea of creating a self-portrait was really quite scary. I’d never looked at myself or tried to look into myself like that after the injury,” Brett Henman, one of the first “Imagine Me” workshop participants, says in the video below. “The process was awesome. You didn’t really realize [you’d been] looking into yourself the way you were.”

Henman added that his self-portrait, which he calls “Rising,” encapsulates how he’s felt about the entire process of working through his injury.

ImagineMe5
“Rising,” Henman’s self-portrait. Photo via the Imagine Me Facebook page

By creating these self-portraits, people like Henman whose lives have drastically changed since their injuries get to decide how they want to represent themselves — and their disabilities — to the rest of the world.

People always see you in a wheelchair and have pity,” Richard Kramer, another workshop participant, says in the short documentary about the project below. “I want to use the symbol of a dragon [to show that] even though I might be in a wheelchair, there’s a mighty powerful beast riding around in my wheelchair.”

Take a look at some of the compelling self-portraits below.

ImagineMe6
Photo from the Imagine Me Facebook page
ImagineMe1
Photo from the Imagine Me Facebook page
ImagineMe3
Photo from the Imagine Me Facebook page
ImagineMe4
Photo from the Imagine Me Facebook page

Learn more about this project in the short documentary below.

Murray is hosting several free “Imagine Me” workshops in New South Wales, Australia, throughout fall 2015. Take a look at the schedule here.

For more information about “Imagine Me” and to view more portraits, visit the project’s website and Facebook page.


Dear Doctor,

I didn’t want to meet you. In fact, I was angry on the two-and-a-half hour drive to your office. See, I was told the heart defect of my son, Anderson, would most likely not require open-heart surgery. Then, all of a sudden, it felt like a bomb went off and the explosion sent my husband and me to your office a few days later.

I came prepared. The journalist in me researched articles, stalked heart groups on Facebook; I was armed with a pen and notebook. I was not going to let you cut open my son’s chest just because you were the closest pediatric heart surgeon.

Jillian Benfield the mighty.4-001
Anderson hours after surgery.

I asked you, “Have you ever lost a baby from this heart surgery?” You looked down and said, “Yes.” There was one little girl, one among thousands, who also had Down syndrome, who went home and died in her sleep. Even though the loss was more than a decade ago, I could tell it still pained your heart. That’s when I knew you were the one.

On the day of surgery, you saw I was emotional and gave me a tissue and assured me it would be OK. You were more than confident. This is what you do. Day in and day out, you save our children’s lives.

If my son were born in the ’80s, his life expectancy would have been around 25 years old. Now, his life expectancy is 60. This is in large part because of people like you.

I know you went to four years of undergrad, four years of medical school, multiple internships, residencies and a fellowship. You spent about two decades of your life sacrificing and learning so that you would know how to perform near miracles.

Jillian Benfield the mighty.1-001
Eight weeks after open-heart surgery. Anderson put on four pounds!

I saw you come in both Saturday and Sunday with your khaki pants and your wind-blown hair. I know you were trying to have a piece of normalcy, but that you had to check on all of your patients before you could try to enjoy yourself outside of the hospital’s fifth floor. I know your wife sees very little of you. I know you have dedicated your life to saving others.

For however broken our medical system seems to be, you are the bright spot. You spend the majority of your life surrounded by either the walls of the OR or the CICU (cardiac intensive care unit) because of a calling, a calling to change lives and enhance futures.

When we were kids, we were taught that superheroes come with big muscles and capes. As an adult, I’ve realized they often times come in surgical caps and scrubs.

Thank you for your enormous dedication. Thank you for all of those years you sacrificed perfecting your craft. Thank you for making my son’s broken heart whole. Thank you for making your life about making his better.

Follow this journey on News Anchor to Homemaker.


My name is Emily. I’m 19 years old and I have bipolar disorder. Last year, I ran away from home, driving nearly 254 miles away from my family and friends. I was ready to drop out of high school, live off of the clothes on my back and somehow survive with no income and my car.

I felt like I didn’t have a place in this world, but that wasn’t the only thing that drove me away. Living with bipolar disorder is no joke, and neither is any mental illness. The best way to describe my brain is comparing it to static on a television. The constant white noise with black and white pixels jumping around on the screen makes it hard to find the balance between manic and calm. My thoughts jump around, making it hard to focus and relax on one task at a time. 

Finally when I decided to come home, I placed myself into a psychiatric hospital where I could find the proper tools to help cope with this disorder. 

A dear friend of mine told me the day before admission into the hospital, “You are not your illness. You have a bipolar disorder, but Emily isn’t bipolar. Emily has bipolar disorder.” Those words rang through me like a bell. Those words still resonate with me and anyone else I know personally with this disorder. I repeat those words to others in the hopes it will be as helpful to them as it was to me. 

After being in the hospital for a week, I still was not finished with my treatment. I lived in an inpatient facility where I had my own apartment and an amazing roommate for three months. My first step was to graduate. I had a tutor in the mornings while my five-hour afternoons were filled with therapy. I was prescribed medication that at first I refused to take. But when I finally started to take them, I noticed the static in my brain was slowly starting to fade. My thoughts were finally calm. Therapy and medicine were the best choices I made. 

Here I am, a year later, finally understanding my place in the world. I have a new outlook on life, and living doesn’t feel miserable anymore. Time helps healing. It’s been a long, grueling process, but I did it.

This message is not for sympathy, but simply to help bring awareness to mental illness. My only goal in life is to be happy for myself and to help the world in the most positive way I can. I know saving the world isn’t possible, but if I can help even one person, I’ve done my job here on Earth. There is help out there, and you shouldn’t be ashamed to reach out for it. Giving up isn’t my choice, and it shouldn’t be anyone else’s either. I hope my story can help you reach out and remember you are not your illness.

Watch the original video here

The Mighty is asking the following: Tell us about the first time you reached out to someone about your mental illness. Whether it was a friend or a professional, we want to hear about why you opened up, how it went, and why you’re glad (or maybe not glad) you did it. 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. Check out our Share Your Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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