A Letter to Jimmy Fallon, Who’s Inspired Me as an Adult With Autism


Dear Mr. Fallon,

You may not know it, but you have many people who look up to you as a role model. A great deal of my inspiration has come from your career both on- and off-screen. When I was 4, I was diagnosed with autism. During my life I had to overcome many obstacles to get to where I am. One of my biggest obstacles was public speaking.

While growing up, watching movies helped me build confidence. Watching the different characters opened me up to learning things from other people’s perspectives. Seeing people do things I wanted to do on-screen made me think one day I could do them as well.

This was around the time I watched your movie “Taxi” with Queen Latifah. I truly admired your confidence. You seemed comfortable in your own skin, and that’s something I wanted for myself. Being bullied in school for being different was always tough for me. On “Saturday Night Live, you inspired me by being able to take on many different characters. This is something I always wanted to do, too  trying to understand other people and their perspectives. Seeing your energy in the show really had an impact on me.

As years passed, I acted in several plays, and once I got to college, I became an autism advocate. I used the courage I built after watching many of your movies (along with your hilarious SNL skits) to do things I wanted to do in my career. Thanks to you, years later I even started my own TV show right after you premiered “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.” With the “Tonight Show,” you also gave me more confidence when it came to things like talking to others and making eye contact. That’s something I’ve strived to do with my show with every single guest I have.

I think all of this played a part in why I wanted to become a public speaker. The confidence you showed in movies and television made me try to reflect that in my own abilities.

After seeing the popularity of your talk show, my hope with my TV show is to do the same for those who’ve been bullied for being different. I called the show “Different is Beautiful” to let people know that “normal” in our society is just a dryer setting.

If you ever read this letter, I hope you reach out to me one day just to say hi. I always wanted someone to look up to growing up, and you were there for me when there weren’t many autism advocates in the mainstream media I knew of.  Now I hope one day my show can become as popular as yours to share the beautiful stories we have in our community.

Keep being yourself and doing the things that got you to where you are, because I believe that message is going to help a lot of people. I know it helped me.

Your friend,

Kerry

For the readers at The Mighty, if you would share this on your social channels in the hopes of Mr. Fallon seeing this one day, that would be amazing. Thank you.

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46 Photos of Brothers and Sisters Helping Their Siblings Through Challenging Times


A sibling bond is like no other — especially when one of you is going through a challenging time. Sometimes, all you need a sister or brother nearby to let you know everything is going to be all right.

We love to celebrate the big and little brothers and sisters who offer a hand, shoulder or silly face when we need it most. Below are just a few of those special sibling moments our Mighty readers captured and sent in to us.

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Photo via Tammy Whittle Westfahl

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Photo via Destany Jones

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Photo via Terri Wilson

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Photo via Christen Toothman

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Photo via Heather Monica

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Photo via Katie Ball

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Photo via Revell Whittock Martin

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Photo via Christine Bauer Schueler

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Photo via Felicia Souza

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Photo via Krista Foulds

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Photo via Stephanie Burkum Peterson

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Photo via Niki Marsden

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Photo via Michelle A Schwindler

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Photo via Jean Marks

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Photo via Geraldine Renton

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Photo via Amanda Stanley

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Photo via Darrcie Inman

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Photo via Karen Rodas

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Photo via Lauren Wunderlich

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Photo via Bec Quigley

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Photo via Bobbyjo Bouza-Hohn

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Photo via Emma Bouza

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Photo via Stacie Liter

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Photo via Tania de la Ossa-Rucker

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Photo via Steve Hendrickson

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Photo via Kellie Luke

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Photo via Lisa De Luna

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Photo via Veronica Jane

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Photo via Kaci Haberthur Schwalk

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Photo via Nicole Luk

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Photo via Savannah Orth

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Photo via Lisa Latiff

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Photo via Andrea Kay Holt

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Photo via Heather Larson

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Photo via Chickie Tammy Schill-Messlein

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Photo via Larry King

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Photo via Nicole Luk

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Photo via Kendra Kattau Smith

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Photo via Shandra Tymchuk

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Photo via Katy Brennan

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Photo via Sandra Martorano Tentler

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Photo via Jayne Thompson

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Photo via Raadhiyah Matthews

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Photo via Claire Moss

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Photo via Kristin Conway Baird

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Photo via Lana Dobson

Do you have a siblings photo you’d like to share with us? Post one below or email us at [email protected]

This Woman’s Viral Picture Is Inspiring Women to Share Postpartum Stories


When Danielle Haines posted a topless picture of herself three days postpartum, holding her newborn to her chest, she was hoping it would reach maybe 10 to 15 women on Facebook. She’d also posted the photo in a private Facebook group for a birthing class she teaches. The group members were talking about postpartum that week, and she thought the picture would be a great example.

More than 21,000 shares later, the photo has resonated well beyond her birthing class. Now, she’s using it to send a message to all women: embrace your postpartum experience and all the emotions that come with it.

This is a picture of me 3 days postpartum. I was so raw and so open, I was a fucking mess. I loved my baby, I missed...

Posted by Danielle Haines on Saturday, 12 September 2015

 

“I was really raw and open,” Haines, who’s currently a student midwife, told The Mighty. “I was missing my husband who had gone to work. I was processing deep anger from my relationship with my mother. I was wishing I could get my dishes done. I had just let a baby out of my body — I was feeling everything. It’s powerful because women are powerful. It’s vulnerable because I had no where to hide.”

The picture was taken by Haines’ sister Sarah, who’d come to visit and drop off food. Her good friend and fellow birth doula Katie DiBenedetto, who’d also been helping Haines during her postpartum time, was tagged in the picture’s caption. As she started reading the comments flooding in, she knew she had to do something with them.

“A lot of the comments were long and beautiful stories that also deserved to be heard,” DiBenedetto said. “I’m a writer, I’ve always liked to document things. I thought, ‘These stories are too good not to go somewhere.'”

So they started Postpartum Confession, a space for woman to share their postpartum experiences. The site’s tag is, appropriately, “Raw. Honest. Unfiltered.”

“After helping Danielle postpartum, it made me wish every woman could see this, because we romanticize motherhood,” DiBenedetto said. “Let’s just be real.”

With her baby boy Ocean now 10 months old, Haines hopes new mothers will learn to accept help during their postpartum time. According to Postpartum Support International, while many women experience mild mood changes during or after the birth of a child, 15 to 20 percent of women experience more significant symptoms of depression or anxiety.

“We’re embarrassed to have someone come into our house because it’s not clean, so we shy away from help,” Haines said. “It’s OK to be vulnerable. It’s OK to be emotional. It’s OK to say yes to help and yes to people.”

To submit your story to Postpartum Confession, click here. Visit Postpartum Support International to learn about postpatrum and mental health.

 

To the Person Staring at My Feeding Tube


Yes, I see your gaze fall to my waist as I walk past you. I see the confusion in your eyes as you try to slyly glance at the small tube threading its way from under my shirt to my heavy backpack. The way you stop what you were doing briefly then remember to try and act inconspicuous while clumsily attempting to pick your book back up, type at your computer or play on your phone. Like a statue, you had forgotten to move. You’re frozen in place, completely perplexed by the sight in front of you.

I often wonder what you think my feeding tube might be and what this view looks like to someone who has never been introduced to medical devices. To be honest with you, I had never met anyone with a feeding tube before I was thrust into the world of illness so I truly have no idea what your perspective might be. Though from what I can gather by your astonished gaze, you are very intrigued by this small purple apparatus.

When I first received my feeding tube, your stares truly bothered me. They made me feel alienated. I felt uncomfortable in my own skin every time I left the house because I knew your eyes would be waiting for me. It was as if I had suddenly lost all the confidence and self-acceptance I had worked so hard to build over my 22 years of life. Your obvious gape made my insides churn with a mixture of embarrassment and, truthfully, irritation. Didn’t your parents ever teach you not to stare at strangers?

I know you didn’t mean to invoke these feelings in me; you simply were curious and not considering the emotional impact your gaze may have on me. Staring is part of human nature, a primal drive that takes over when we are alarmed or bewildered, and I understand that; I truly do. You had no idea what I was going through at the time, no idea how difficult my life had suddenly become after the failure of my digestive system.

At 22 years old, I was told I would never again eat my favorite meal. It was a tempestuous time in my life. Feelings of alienation were already stirring inside me before your curt glimpse. How would I go out with friends? How would I handle holidays? But how could you have known I was already an emotional mess. The fact is, you knew nothing about my life, my circumstances, my struggles or the repercussion your nonchalant glance would ensue. At times, I honestly contemplated walking right up to you and asserting myself. I wanted to march over and demand your gaze be directed elsewhere. I’d insist you were being rude and that you had forgotten your common courtesy.

Chanel White the mighty.1-001

I want you to know, person staring at my feeding tube, that I no longer feel that way. What I have realized over the past year is that it’s not your fault for staring. Yes, a few of your “glances” may have been a bit ridiculous and extended in length, but you weren’t trying to hurt me. I am in no way exempting you from your need to better your manners when it comes to staring, but I want you to know I am not insulted by them any longer. Let’s be honest with ourselves, we all stare. I find myself staring at people all the time — and I am not the only one. An odd hair color, an eccentric outfit or an interesting makeup choice may induce my wandering eyes for a moment too long. Embarrassed, I realize I, too, made the mistake of letting my gaze linger on those that implore my curiosity. So how can I debase your stares when I myself am guilty of this crime? Truthfully, a random tube jetting out from under your shirt would prompt me to stare at you I am sure!

I decided I wanted to write you this letter to express how I believe we can both change our actions to benefit everyone involved. I promise I will do my best to help you understand just what my tube is for, and you can make the effort to simply inquire. Instead of ogling next time you see me out at the local grocer, you can politely ask what my device is used for. If you are too shy to speak to me, I understand, but then please remember, if you are really that shy, you probably shouldn’t be staring so obviously. If you are going to make the decision to stare, try to make it modest and maybe shoot me a smile afterwards, acknowledging that, yes, you did in fact gaze my way and know that I saw you. This will cut down the awkward intrusion I feel when you distinctly gawk, then pretend you didn’t. That is honestly what frustrates me the most. I would much rather have the mutual recognition.

So since I have you here, let me explain what the interesting device connected to me is. That small piece of plastic is a life-sustaining medical device called a feeding tube. This device is given to individuals young and old who are unable to get enough nutrition by mouth. The reasoning behind the placement can be anything from oral aversion to failing organs. In my case, almost my entire digestive track is paralyzed due to a degenerative autoimmune disease known as systemic scleroderma. This disease hardens the soft muscle tissue in my digestive track, resulting in a lack of peristalsis (the small waves that move food along) and an inability to absorb nutrients. My feeding tube is located in my abdomen and bypasses these malfunctioning organs. It provides my body nutrition in an easy to absorb, pre-digested formulation, constantly supplying me with formula that I carry in a backpack along with the special pump that regulates how much enters my system by the hour. You may hear a small “whirring” if you are close enough to me. This is the sound of my pump busily buzzing to keep me fed.

I personally am more than happy to talk with you about the device that keeps me alive or about the condition that caused me to be reliant on the tube. This is actually a great opportunity for me to spread awareness about my disease and to educate other individuals like yourself about respectful ways to interact with patients like me. With my hectic medical schedule, I have little time to speak to anyone besides doctors, nurses or front desk staff, so our conversation could actually be the highlight of my day.

Looking forward to our next encounter,

The Girl You Are Staring At

Follow this journey on A Day in the Life of a Tube Fed Wife.

What I Want Tell My Patient Who’s Frustrated With Therapy


I know you feel like giving up right now and as though everything is unravelling. You are suddenly experiencing a heightened awareness of your feelings, and it’s not pleasant. Sadness, anger, despair and self-loathing might dominate your moods, and you can almost physically feel it, cutting like glass through your body and stirring up a storm inside. Pandora’s Box has been opened and you have no idea how to manage the deluge thrown out. You would like to slam it shut again and have it taken away.

I understand recently every day has felt like another Everest to climb. You can’t even see where the path is going. It must be hard to trust someone else is going to help you climb this mountain and support you on the twists and turns. How can anyone else really know what it’s like for you?

When you started therapy, you may have held high hopes I was going to tell you what to do and dispense some sound, constructive advice. It may feel frustrating and disappointing I haven’t come up with the solution. You might wonder if I’m holding back with a golden nugget of information, leaving you stuck and unable to move on. Instead, I’m encouraging you to talk about how you feel and become more accepting of it. If this doesn’t meet your expectations, you might feel dismayed and confused.

Understandably, you desperately wish to be make progress and begin seeing results. Therapy often doesn’t feel like that – more like sand running through your fingers with nothing tangible to cling to. In other areas of your life, when you decided to learn a language or master a skill, you just planned it out and got on with it. Now you’re perplexed as to why you can’t simply transfer that approach to the therapy room.

Before you run away, please pause. Stop to breathe. Be kind to yourself. You have taken an incredibly brave step in wanting to address your current difficulties. Many people never even begin this journey. Acknowledge yourself fully for doing this.

As your therapist, I recognize therapy is exceptionally difficult at times. It’s understandable you might want to run and hide to protect yourself. That’s OK. You don’t have to conceal your apprehension or fears. At times, we all feel unsafe and unsure.

I appreciate it’s not easy to experience distressing feelings while trusting this is going to be helpful. I understand you might feel ashamed or upset in opening up to me. It’s not surprising you may have doubts.

Some of your feelings and thoughts may have been buried for a long time. It can be an extremely uncomfortable ride when we lift the lid and start to explore the contents. Slowly and surely though, at a pace that feels right for you, this can be the beginning of healing.

I will not always get it right, but I will endeavor to be with you and support you on your journey.

As you begin to accept your pain — your shame, your sadness, your upset, your guilt – it will allow you to also tap into your joy, contentment and happiness on a far deeper level than you may ever have experienced before. Freedom to be your true authentic self can be liberating and worth every pitfall along the way.

It’s often only when you look back on therapy that you begin to notice how far you’ve come. So hang in there with all the hope, faith and belief you can muster. I believe it will be worth it.

A version of this post originally appeared on Rethink Your Body.

Watch This Man Serenade His Wife in Hospice With Their Special Love Song


It’s moments like this that remind us of the enduring power of love.

Howard, 92, and Laura, 93, have been married for 73 years, according to the description on the YouTube video below. At the time the video was taken, Laura was in Haven Hospice, a hospice care facility in Gainesville, Florida.

During a visit to the facility, Erin Solari, Howard and Laura’s granddaughter, captured a moving moment between the couple — Howard singing to Laura.

See the video below:

I love you, OK? Always have,” Laura says in the video below.

The song “You’ll Never Know” is their love song. It comforted Laura when Howard was away fighting in World War II and the two of them would often sing it together at family gatherings, according to the description on the YouTube video. They even performed the song as a duet for their entire family on their 50th wedding anniversary when they renewed their vows.

Laura is now blind due to macular degeneration and too weak to sing, but once had a voice that people compared to Rosemary Clooney. This is why the couple prefers Clooney’s version of the song. Even though she can no longer sing the words to her love, Laura still says them to him occasionally, like at the 1:00 minute mark.

Solari posted the video to Facebook on September 12 and since then it’s been shared more than 77,000 times. As of September 20 Laura is now back home and spending time with her family in the days she has left.

After posting this video to Facebook, it began to go viral and all the outpouring of love lifted everyone’s spirits, including Grandma’s,” Solari wrote in the description of the video. “Hospice eventually deemed her well enough to go back home to live out her remaining few days. As of this posting my beautiful grandma Laura Virginia is still with us resting peacefully at home. Our family along with the wonderful people from hospice are taking care of her and making sure she remains as pain-free and comfortable as possible while she prepares for her nearing departure. We all thank you so much for the love and kind words.”

h/t HuffPost Good News

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