Is TLC’s Controversial Show Helping or Hurting People With Medical Conditions?

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TLC’s second season of “Too Ugly For Love?” airs on Jan. 13 in the U.K., and though the show has been met with negative responses due to its title and attitude towards people with medical conditions, it’s also garnered praise.

The show describes itself as an “observational documentary series” that follows the lives of 10 single adults who are “ordinary people living with extraordinary medical conditions” on their quest to find love.

Last year a casting producer approached Crystal Hodges, one of our Mighty contributors, but they wouldn’t tell her the name of the show. Hodges has a birthmark covering part of her face, and when she later found out the producer worked for the company behind “Too Ugly for Love?” and “The Undateables,” she wasn’t happy.

“I know a few people in the U.K. who enjoy the shows; however, a majority of the people from the U.K. that I’ve connected with are strongly opposed to them,” Hodges wrote. “Having limited access to the shows, I only want to focus on the titles. I’m not fond of them. Maybe the show helps educate others about different conditions by raising awareness, but I still don’t like the titles.”

In one of the first teasers for this season, we meet Chloe, a 29-year-old beautician with alopecia, who’s had one relationship in the last three and a half years, according to the show. Chloe allowed television cameras to tag along with her as she got ready for dates, and she spoke about some of her insecurities.

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“One of the things that’s important to me is honesty,” she said on the show. “But when I go on a date, I have alopecia, which I hide, so I’m not being honest.”

The National Alopecia Areata Foundation (NAAF) told The Mighty they “applaud the producers of ‘Too Ugly for Love?’ for once again bringing awareness to those with alopecia areata.”

“As the previous series did with Jen, this new series shows us Chloe’s humanity, beauty and strength while teaching viewers about this autoimmune skin disease which has affected, presently affects, or will affect some 147 million people worldwide,” a spokesperson for the organization added.

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This season also features Matt, a bodybuilder with a colostomy bag and Michelle, who lost 20 percent of the skin on her legs and feet after battling a rare form of meningitis, according to the Daily Mail.

We want to hear from our Mighty community: Tell us in the comment section below what you think about this show and the message it sends.

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Maintaining Your Cat’s Litter Box When You Have a Disability

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Tonight I put on a pair of long johns, long socks and a T-shirt. Nope, I wasn’t testing out my Halloween costume — I was doing my job as a cat parent and preparing to enter the “litter box room” for the bi-daily scoopin’ of the poo. I acquired this task after becoming a full-time housewife more than a year ago. As a person with a disability, there are some household tasks that I have to modify to be able to do. Today I thought I’d go through the steps I take to scoop out our litter boxes. I hope this encourages you if you are disabled and thinking of getting a cat.

Getting Started

Before I even step one foot inside our litter box room, I change into a pair of long pants (ones that are usually reserved for an evening at home), an old T-shirt and a pair of long socks. I also remove my shoes. Now, I do not wear plastic gloves, but that is a good idea for added protection from Toxoplasma gondii. The last thing I do is grab a plastic bag.

Removal

Now here is why the long pants and socks are a must. I am unable to stand and scoop out our boxes, so I have to sit. This means that I make contact with litter that has been kicked out of the box. To keep things as sanitary as possible, long pants and socks are a must. If I kept my shoes on, I’d have more of a chance of tracking litter around the house. With a scoop, go through each box until all the clumps are gone. Put clumps into the plastic bag and seal it up when you are finished. Throw away immediately. If you managed to throw out litter, add a bit of fresh litter to the box. It should be two to three inches deep at all times.

I usually scoop the boxes out every other day. The litter is fully changed by my husband every few weeks. Since I am unable to lift the boxes, this job has been left to him. We keep track of how long it’s been fully cleaned on a whiteboard in our kitchen as a reminder for when it’s time to change it fully. Our cats seem completely happy with this arrangement, as long as it’s scooped regularly. Another added benefit of scooping every other day is that you can inspect the poo for any changes that might indicate a health issue that warrants immediate attention.

If you live alone and need assistance with lifting the boxes, I suggest asking a close friend for help. You may even offer to pay them.

Finishing

When you are finished scooping all the clumps into the bag and it’s sealed and thrown away, carefully take yourself to the laundry room (I’m lucky because our litter box room is right next to the laundry room) and take off your pants and socks and shirt. If your laundry room is not next to where your litter boxes are, take a few steps outside the room, strip down and take your clothes to the laundry room. If this is the case, you may want to have another plastic bag with you to put your clothes in so you don’t drag them over the floor. Finally, wash your hands thoroughly and you are done!

Taking care of a cat when you are disabled can be a challenge, but it’s not impossible. I hope these tips help you better care for your cat. Cheers!

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Laura’s cats Phoebe and Cathycat

Follow this journey on Be Anxious About Nothing.

The Mighty is asking the following: What’s one thing people might not know about your experience with disability and/or disease, and what would you say to teach them? 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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23 Texts Special Needs Parents Would Love to Get Any Day of the Week

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A text message doesn’t take a lot of effort, but it can have a big impact.

We asked our Mighty parenting community what text messages they’d love to receive when they or their kids are having a particularly overwhelming day. Maybe you know someone who could use a few words of encouragement, a little reminder or a small favor. Go ahead — shoot them a text.

Here are 23 text messages parents of children with special needs would love to receive:

1. “Haven’t talked to you in awhile… How are you?”

Text message that reads "Haven't talked to you in awhile... How are you?"

2. “Saw your son at school today… He had a huge grin on his face!”

Text message that reads, "Saw your son at school today... He had a huge grin on his face!"

3. “Dinner is done, thought you deserved a break after this appointment-filled day.”

Text message that reads "Dinner is done, thought you needed a break on this appointment-filled day."

4. “Don’t be so hard on yourself.”

Text message that reads "Don't be so hard on yourself."

5. “Even if you can’t come, I wanted to invite you out tonight!”

Text message that reads "Even if you can't come, I wanted to invite you out tonight!"

6. “You’re not alone.”

Text message that reads, "You are not alone."

7. “Let’s meet for coffee.”

Text message that reads "Let's meet for coffee" with a coffee emoji and donut emoji

8. “I know you’re overwhelmed, but you’re doing a great job.”

Text message that reads "I know you're overwhelmed, but you're doing a great job."

9. “I want to learn more about your child’s needs so you feel safe leaving her with me.”

Text message that reads "I want to learn more about your child's needs so you feel safe leaving her with me."

10. “I’ll babysit tonight.”

 

Text message that reads "I'll babysit tonight."

11. “Loved watching your kid.”

Text message that reads "Loved watching your kid."

12. “Just wanted to let you know I’ve been thinking of you a lot lately!”

Text message that reads "Just wanted to let you know I've been thinking of you a lot lately!"

13. “Life is tough, but so are you!”

Text message that reads, "Life is tough, but so are you!"

14. “I get it.”

Text message that reads "I get it."

15. “I’m on my way over to help with whatever you need.”

Text message that reads "I'm on my way over to help with whatever you need."
16. “You’re an awesome advocate.”

Text message that reads "You're an awesome advocate."

17. “Play date? My kid is asking to play with your kid. I’ll bring the wine.”

Text message that reads "Play date? My kid is asking to play with your kid. I'll bring the wine."

18. “You got this.”

Text message that reads "You got this."

19. “We cleaned the house while you were at work.”

Text message that reads "We cleaned the house while you were at work."

20. “I’m taking my kids to play at the park, would yours like to join?”

Text message that reads "I'm taking my kids to play at the park, would yours like to join?"

21. “You can do this!”

Text message that reads "You can do this!"

22. “I’m here if you need to talk.”

Text message that reads "I'm here if you need to talk."

23. “Stop whatever you’re doing right now and read these words: You are enough.”

Text message that reads "Stop whatever you're doing right now and read these words: YOU ARE ENOUGH."

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A Letter to My Children’s IEP

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Hi there! It’s me again. Once again it’s January, and in a few days, we will be meeting along with several others. They call us a team. Your drafts have already been sent home for my review. My notes and questions have been made.

In a few days, a copy of your more-than-25 pages will be passed out to each member of the team. We will start by introducing ourselves, and then the real fun begins. Over the course of two hours (sometimes longer), we will discuss my parent concerns and then your present levels of functioning. We will discuss your goal data and determine whether the goals written on your precious pages have been met. If your goals haven’t been met, we will discuss the possible causes, brainstorm solutions and reword the goal until the verbiage is intricately precise, all in hope of giving my son and daughter the best chance possible to achieve academic success. We will then discuss and determine each of their classroom accommodations:

“Will a 4×6 or a 3×5 index card be allowed to be brought to class to remember math and science formulas?” Yes, your words are that specific.

You state that you do not allow double-sided worksheets/articles to be given to my son or daughter because flipping back and forth is too distracting.

You make it clear that study guides are to be given no less than four days in advance.

You state that tests are to be read to my children, there are to be no true/false questions and they are to get the double allotment of time to take assessments, because their processing disorders make all of the above challenging.

I won’t bore you with the many other speech, occupational therapy and social work accommodations you hold. You know exactly what it says.

We both know an enormous amount of time is dedicated to combing through your words, because, as nit-picky as it may seem, these important details help ensure that my children achieve academic success. A few more loose ends are tied up. And if everything goes well and everyone is in agreement, signatures are obtained and your new pages are ready to be followed. That’s in a perfect world.

Now don’t get me wrong: Most of the team takes you back and painstakingly begins to implement your every word immediately. But there always seems to be that one team member — the one who thinks it isn’t their job, but someone else’s, to read you or even acknowledge you. The one who thinks they don’t have time for you. The one who takes your precious pages and tosses you aside or throws you in a drawer. It’s funny how that one team member is always the first to roll their eyes at my children and get frustrated when they aren’t understanding or performing. And they are always the first to call and tell me. It has to be an awful feeling to be abandoned like that after the entire team worked so hard to create your pages. If only your words were read. If only you were heard.

Honestly, as much as I truly love and appreciate you, I wish you were not such an enormous part of my life. Oh, how I wish I could send my children to school and go about my day without you being on my mind, every hour, heck, every minute for that matter. How I wish I did not have to use up precious vacation time to meet with the team or field phone calls and emails. I mean, a beach and an umbrella drink sounds so much better than a board room; if given the choice, I think you would much rather still be a tree.

And then there’s my reputation that you have indirectly helped me to achieve. I know I am “That Mom.” I know I have been called a b*tch. I also have heard through the grapevine that I am a “piece of work.” That’s been my favorite phrase to date. But no worries — as the old “sticks and stones” adage goes, names will not hurt me. You and I both know my children are entitled by law to receive a free and appropriate education, so therefore, you are the law. You are to be followed. I guess together we will have to continue to be that reminder. If only we were all a part of the team.

So, in a few days, the team will be gathering to pour over your precious pages. We will review you, discuss you, dissect you and sign you. I just sincerely hope that this year everyone spends time with you and really gets to know you. Because after being a part of an IEP team for 13 years, I know you truly do have a lot to say. You really do know how to make the lives of all those involved a whole lot easier. You just need to be heard.

The Mighty is asking its readers the following: If you could write a letter to the disability or disease you (or a loved one) face, what would you say to 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 Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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To the Person Who Thinks I Can’t Be ‘That Sick’ All the Time

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I want you to remember the last time you were sick. It might have been the flu, a common cold, etc… You might have had some warning signs, signs of your sickness before it hit you with a vengeance. You felt miserable, right? Had to call off work, and cancel any of the next several day’s plans and activities. You laid low, rested and took it easy. The symptoms and pain that seemed to take control of your body made you nothing short of miserable. Probably making you feel as if you had just gotten run over by a semi-truck.

Now imagine that you’re still sick. Imagine that you never bounced back from that sickness. You’ve spent every day for the past several months, or the past several years, feeling the same way you did when you were last sick. Can’t imagine it, can you? You think to yourself, that’s no way to live life. You can’t be that sick or that miserable all the time.

But you can. I can. I do. I spend every waking moment being chronically ill. I spend every waking moment with pain. I spend every waking moment fighting against the raging wars inside my body. Every morning when I wake up, I want to go back to bed. (Even when I haven’t left it yet.) I want to go back to sleep, dreaming of waking up healthy. I don’t want to wake up into sickness. That’s a nightmare. I’m supposed to wake up from nightmares, not into them.

So while you bounced back from your illness, while you recovered from being sick… just remember, I didn’t, I haven’t and I never will. Do me a favor and try to take it a little easy on me. Remind yourself, I may look like you, but we’re two uniquely different individuals. Just because you can’t see the sickness taking over my body doesn’t mean it’s not there. Just because you see me in my wheelchair doesn’t mean I’m an “irresponsible teenager just messing around.” Just because you see me taking pills doesn’t give you the right to judge me or make assumptions. When you see me limping, walking extremely slow or struggling to lift my arm above my head, it doesn’t mean I’m lazy. I push through things that would affect others more. I carry on with my everyday struggles that might land someone else in an ER. You see, most people say, “You couldn’t last a mile in my shoes.” I say, you couldn’t last 10 yards in mine.

I’m not telling you these things to brag about what I can do or what you can’t do. That’s not my intention at all. What I am trying to do is show you a glimpse into my life. That just because I’m a “young” girl doesn’t give me a “get out of jail free card” for having chronic illnesses. They don’t discriminate, they don’t give any leniency or breaks, and believe me when I say, they don’t care.

The trials, struggles, mountains, brokenness, all made me who I am today. The person I am today is incredibly stronger than you’ll ever know.

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A hospital room
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When People Ask ‘Is She Yours?’ Because I Have a Disability

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“Is she yours?”

I think my daughter looks nothing like me. Other then being short and female, she’s a tiny, adorable clone of her daddy. I wish with all my heart I actually believed that this is the reason I am almost never in public with her long before I’m asked if she’s mine. If the questions stopped there, I could probably convince myself it’s because her hair is blonde and stick-straight while mine is dark and a mass of unruly curls. The problem is, too many times the questions don’t stop when I answer, “Yes, she’s mine!” with pride in my voice. Some bolder strangers will ask if I actually gave birth, how I gave birth or the one that always turns my stomach and makes me feel a bit queasy: “Did you mean to have a child?”

Yes. My husband and I planned for and actively “tried” to have a child. We had sex! I felt disappointed each time I felt the cramps that meant another month had passed without success. I felt guilty about the surge of envy that came over me when my sister-in-law called to announce her pregnancy. I did not believe the first time I saw two lines on the test strip (or the second and third time). I cried tears of joy and anxiety when I did believe.

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Christine playing with her daughter at the park

Why do these facts shock people so much? Because I’m a person with a disability. I have lived all of my years in a body that doesn’t quite get it right. I need special equipment to drive, I need help to put on socks and I cannot walk independently.

I’ll never really understand why so many people assume a person with a disability is synonymous with an asexual person. People seemed genuinely shocked when I was visibly pregnant. They seemed baffled by the concept of how I got that way. I answered some extremely bold (and rude) questions during that period.

I have spent my life encouraging the curiosity of children I’ve encountered. I have a well-rehearsed speech about how my crutches help me walk the way glasses help some people see. I don’t want them to see me as different or scary. I want them to be comfortable with our differences. I’m not quite so comfortable with the prying questions from adults.

My marriage, sex life and family planning choices are the business of exactly two people: my husband and me.

Sometimes I laugh it off and answer their questions because it’s an opportunity to educate someone about people with disabilities. Sometimes I am short and not subtle that I think they’re crossing a line. Sometimes I try to ignore them.

Soon, ignoring it won’t be an option. At almost 2 years old, my bright and sunny girl doesn’t miss much. She’s wise beyond her years and incredibly empathetic. She points to me and states in her clear, sweet voice, “That’s my mommy!” I dread the day she asks me why people ask if she’s mine so often. I hate that her life will make her far too aware of the prejudice in this world.

I know at least on some level she knows her mommy is different. She’s my biggest helper and guards my crutches like they’re precious (because they are, they help Mommy play!). I cannot wait to see who she becomes.

I hope as she grows the questions will become less frequent and less invasive because more people in our society will accept and understand that people with disabilities aren’t all that different from themselves.

But to answer the question…

Yes, I am her mother. And I’m damn proud of that fact. Now stop asking questions because I have a toddler to chase!

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Christine with her husband and daughter

The Mighty is asking the following: What’s one thing people might not know about your experience with disability, disease or mental illness, and what would you say to teach them? 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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