Woman, shirtless with her back to the camera.

We Challenged People to Write Honest Captions for Their Facebook Photos

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Our social media identity is a carefully curated version of ourselves — and unlike real problems, an unwelcomed Facebook photo can be rid off with a single click.

While a picture is worth a thousand words, how often do we use photos on social media to tell the whole story? Those who live with mental illnesses or other conditions are familiar with the concept: There’s the you shown to the world, and there’s the “real” you, the messy you, who often doesn’t get as much airtime online.

To get some transparency on the web, we teamed up with PostSecret and Active Minds to collect Facebook photos with truly honest captions.

You’ll find these pictures are worth so much more: 

A girl in a bus. Text reads: I look happy in this picture, but it takes everything I have every single day not to kill myself because being alive hurts so, so much.

A man looking down at a gun in the dark. Text reads: "I still don't know why I chose to live that night. I still don't know if I'm going to keep choosing it, and I reenacted this photo to show it."

Red-headed model. "In this photo I may look very confident and self-assured, but behind the facade is this immense fear that because of my thyroid scar I cannot pursue modeling and performing as I will not be wanted. I'm trying to soak in every moment now and hope that there is a future for my passions. I was also managing my anxiety with the stranger who was my photographer."

Woman at the beach: I'm broken, sometimes drowning in unreasonable fear. But there are some moments when I remember, it's all going to be OK."

selfie of blonde woman. Text reads: "My face is haunted with exhaustion, stress and worry these days since cancer attacked my 10-year-old daughter."

Woman taking a mirror selfie. Text reads: "I've gained 100 pounds since this picture. People have asked me what happened to my diet. It wasn't a diet, I just stopped doing drugs and replaced them with food."   selfie of a woman laying in bed. Text reads: No one wants someone who is chronically ill.
cat. text reads: This gorgeous ball of fluff, and her predecessor, healed my soul in ways medication will never be capable of.   selfie of a woman. Text reads: I have terminal breast cancer, I smile so other people feel better. Behind this smile I am wondering when my last breath will be taken.
woman with a baby. Text reads: "In this picture I may be smiling because that is what I am supposed to be doing with my newborn sleeping on my chest, but in reality I just want to get up, set him down and run away. I was miserable in this picture struggling with PPD...I just thought I wasn't cut out for motherhood."
diagram of a brain. text reads: "I'd give anything for a safe treatment, let alone a cure, for my beautiful little girl. I wish I could take it from her brain and put it in mine. I'm angry at the world over this. Quit calling me strong. She doesn't deserve this. I live every day with fear of a rupture."
woman with sunglasses. Text reads: I wear them on days where I don't have the strength to meet the eyes of others. I wear them when I'm so exhausted my entire body hurts and I don't have an explanation yet because nobody will tell me what's wrong with me. I make sure I look well on the outside even if I'm half dead on the inside. I'm chronically exhausted, and hiding it.   woman and her daughter. text reads: I may seem like a totally normal hip Mom. But inside I am crippling with fear every day.
  woman on a carousel: This picture was taken at Disneyland just hours before my first ever anxiety attack. Being at ‘the Happiest Place on Earth’ made me realize how unhappy I was. I didn't get out of bed for days after. I look like I'm having the time of my life but I know how sad I really was.
  Woman outside. Text reads: "This is one of the rare moments that I wasn't filled with crippling depression while I was homeless with an abusive partner. It was the day I decided to change my path in life. Two woman kissing. text reads: This beautiful woman saved my life, more than she will ever realize. She pulled me out of a very dark place and showed me how to live and love and trust. She will forever have my heart. dark selfie of a woman. Text reads: I put this pic up and everyone thought I was just being artsy. I was just really sad and in a dark place. I guess I was hoping someone might get it.
  Selfie of a woman: Text reads: This was one of the many suicidal faces out there. This was someone who tried killing herself not even a month ago.
  Woman holding a sign that says.: I won the war against depression. Text reads: Keep living.. life can get better.
  planes. text reads: Just minutes before I took this picture, I had a panic attack in front of about 30 women and men I had just met. I got this amazing opportunity to fly on a military jet and watch it refuel other jets from 27,000 feet up. I'm not afraid to fly as I live 2,400 miles from home and do it often. As soon as they closed the door to the plane, the panic set in. I'm trapped. Chest tightens, vision goes blurry and my hearing starts to fade. They told me I had 30 minutes to make the decision of whether or not I wanted off the plane before takeoff. With deep breaths and my head between my knees...we ascended and this ended up being one of the most memorable days of my life so far! Proud moment of someone diagnosed with GAD and OCD!
  Group of guys at a party. Text reads: This is me, in yellow, at my birthday party. This is the face of a guy who wants so badly to enjoy his birthday, but is being torn apart on the insides. This was one of the worst nights of my life. As the party started, my guest list of 20ish people all showed up, but then the people kept coming. Which wasn't a big deal, I knew and grew up with them all, except that it was a big deal, because it was unexpected. The anxiety absolutely crushed me to the point of leaving my own party early. But not until it tormented me for several hours. I was devastated for days. Photo of a lady at the hospital: I put on a funny ‘I got this face’ but inside I'm screaming to be normal and weeping for the life I used to know and love.
  A woman and daughter showing their semi-colon tattoos. Text reads:Mental health issues run in our family. I will not let this mental illness own me like it did my mom until she took her last overdose. Here I am with my daughter with our new semicolon tattoos. We both struggle with mental health. We are surviving and sometimes thriving. Our story is not over; we will continue to chose life.”
Picture of family with their faces blurred out by marker: Every morning I wake up determined to be a happier, healthier, more positive wife and mom...and every night I go to bed telling myself I can just try again tomorrow
selfie of a woman. text reads: PTSD looks like this. Just trying to get outta bed every damn day. Selfie of a woman. Text reads: Depending on the angle, you can see the sadness in my eyes.
  two girls spinning. text reads: I was in agony - my walking stick was out of shot but every twirl tasted like freedom
  woman. text reads: I wish I could hear my own voice instead of hearing his voice telling me I'm not good enough.
man. Text reads: Introverted, no real social life, no one to hang out with, no life, depressed. a woman playing guitar. the text reads: I just want to live out my dream and share my music with others...but my anxiety consumes me
  Woman, shirtless with her back to the camera. She has many tattoos. Text reads: I've hated myself and my body my entire life--until this year. Now I'm killing it.
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To the Child Who Didn't Hear Your Name Called at the End-of-Year Award Ceremony

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Ah, end of term.

Sports days, shows, school trips, report cards and of course the all important end-of-year award ceremony. Proud parents just as excited as their children, relieved teachers glad to show someone really loved their teaching, and halls full of eager little ones hoping and praying their name will be called.

You already know social media and family gatherings will be all about little Jane who had a distinction in math or young Brian who scored the most goals for the school football team this year… but what about all those children sitting through the ceremony year after year longing for their name to be called yet never hearing it.

What about the children who have found the school year exhausting, who have struggled to master 10 new spelling words a month and who have needed support every single term? What about the child who’s had huge difficulty focusing and whose grades have reflected that? What about the child for whom just getting through a single day with the noise, bright lights and confusing smells is a huge achievement? What about the child whose health issues mean getting to school is an achievement in itself?

What about the children like mine?

Each year they become more and more disappointed.

More and more children with special needs are being educated in mainstream schools. It has huge advantages, but at this time of year of competition and recognizing achievement it can be so hard for a child who has tried his best day in and day out and still never hears his name at the award ceremony.

I wish I could speak to every one of those children. I wish could hug every one of their parents. I know the heartache of seeing your child feel left out.

Stay strong, children. Stay strong, parents. In cheering on others and noting their successes, you are developing character, and if that was ever measured you would win without a doubt.

One day the world will realize a person cannot be measured in awards.

Until that day, if your name is never called at that award ceremony, stay strong. Your worth is not measured by certificates. Your importance is not measured by how many people cheer.

You are important. You are worthy, and you are special. You are the best at being you, and that is better than any award any school can offer.

I’m not sure if you can hear it, but I am cheering you on. Keep up the great work!

A version of this story first appeared on Firefly.

Follow this journey on Faithmummy.

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The Things I Sense Right After I’ve Had a Seizure

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I’m participating in everyday rudimentary tasks, from sitting in class, running a mile or hanging out with my friends. Until I’m no longer participating.

My body is present, but my mind has checked out.

All of these things fade into darkness.

Silence.

Oblivion.

There is nothing.

***

Sensation overload.

Too many things at once. My head hurts. Too much noise.

There are sounds. Voices calling out a name. Who are they calling out for? Wait, that’s my name.

One of the voices asks me to wake up, to respond.

I can’t.

I want to go back into the darkness. I’m exhausted, and I want to sleep for the next three weeks.

More voices. This voice is familiar, but I can’t quite place it. Who is speaking to me? I think I’ll take a nap and worry about it later.

The voices won’t let me. They coax me to wake, but everything in my body tells me to succumb to the silence residing inside the dark crevices of my mind.

I want to cry.

My head hurts.

My body aches.

I’m exhausted.

The voices are incessant in asking me to wake. I decide to muster the will to do so.

My heavy eyelids flutter open.

I immediately close them back.

It’s too bright.

They’re too heavy.

I’m too weak.

This small movement has alerted the voices that I’m in here — they have a field day.

Now I really have to get up. I try my eyelids again. It’s too much. They shut back.

But the voices won’t stop. I try again — this time keeping them open.

There are objects. They must be people, but my eyes won’t focus just yet.

One of the voices asks me to tell them my name?

What did they say my name was earlier? Tayler?

Yes.

My name is Tayler.

My voice is quiet. Barely a whisper. It’s comes out with a raspy exhale, sounding unnatural to my ears. The name feels foreign on my lips. I begin to wonder if that is really my name or just a figment of my imagination. I test it again. “Tayler.”

The voices smile down at me with glee — it must be correct.

They ask me to tell them their name. How would I know who they are? I can’t see them yet. My vision is blurry and out of focus. It’s making my headache worse.

The voice, whose familiarity I still can’t quite place, repeats the question.

My vision shifts.

I startle.

Too many faces.

I need to focus on the voice speaking to me. It’s gentle. I have a nagging sense I know this person. Their face is eerily familiar, and I must’ve heard their voice a thousand times over. Who is it?

They ask me again to tell them who they are. The answer is hiding along the outskirts of my mind. I know it’s there, but I can’t quite reach it.

I keep silent.

My eyelids flutter closed again.

The voices won’t quit talking. Why won’t they hush?

All of a sudden I’m bombarded with information. I know who the voices are. I know where I’m at. I know who I am.

I’m embarrassed.

Why here? Why now? Why me?

I’ve had another seizure. 

Imagine someone Googling how to help you cope with your (or a loved one’s) diagnosis. Write the article you’d want them to find. If you’d like to participate, please check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images

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The Before and After of a Mom to Children With Special Needs

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Before.

Before is a life captured in old photos that have been shoved in a box instead of displayed in frames. Before has no wrinkles, sleeps 10 hours a day and ponders ambitious career directions. It’s best to ignore Before..

And then came a 15-year college reunion, which despite my resistance of acknowledging Before, sounded liked a good idea. A girls getaway, a break from reality! So I went, and there was Before staring right at me in the face. There was no hiding from her.

Before was sleeping in an un-airconditioned dormitory with old friends, drinking cheap beer and reminiscing muddled stories from years past. Before was wearing last night’s makeup and ratty sweatpants, eating runny eggs in the dining hall and recounting the jokes from the night before. Before was running into an old boyfriend and remembering
how it used to feel being 19 and obsessed with an old love. It was Before.

Before marriage and mortgages.

Before three stressful pregnancies.

Before the in-utero diagnosis.

Before cerebral palsy.

Before multiple online support groups.

Before the calendar full of doctors appointments knowing there would be lots of questions answered by blank stares.

Before IEPs and four different therapists.

Before hours on hold with health insurance companies and doctors offices.

Before a plateaued, dangling-by-a-thread, career.

Before constant worrying, insomnia, and chronic headaches.

Before watching a friend lose her baby with the same diagnosis, knowing it could
have been mine.

It was Before.

I cried on the drive home. I missed Before. Why did I not understand how amazing Before was when I was actually living it? When broken hearts and midterm papers were my biggest problems, but easily solved? I wanted to strangle naïve and ignorant Before. I missed my exit. I nearly missed my flight.

And then I got home, and was greeted by After. After is raw and relentless. After doesn’t allow for sleeping in, has no sick days and gives no time outs. After cries in the car. After is constantly threatening to add on more complications. After has changed me so much that it is hard to remember Before. How can Before and After be the same person?

And then I realized…

After is three beautiful children, who by some miracle are here today and have chosen me to be their mother. After is achieving hard earned baby milestones that make me want to simulatenously cry hysterically while doing a cartwheel. After is a marriage
that could have been broken by pain but has held its cracks together with industrial strength super glue of love and trust. After is knowing a happy ending may not be guaranteed but making the best of a situation and living here and now. I love After. I am so lucky to have After! On some lonely nights, I long for Before. But there are so many people out there jealous of my After.

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What a Game of Operation Revealed About My Medical Journey

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Ages 6 and up and 15 minutes to play. On a muggy morning at a summer camp laid a board game: Operation. If I’m being honest, I never enjoyed the game as a kid, but another girl, Jess’s enthusiasm for it swayed me and we took a seat at a cleared table and opened the box.

We didn’t know each other.

The competitiveness took over and soon we had been playing for hours.

Until this point, I would have not wanted to play a game that reminded me of the woes of my health. I was having trouble walking into doctor’s offices because hearing that you have a significantly shortened life span is not what a 19-year-old wants to hear.

The bell in the head and the bird in the ear.

Through laughing and frustration, I learned that Operation is just like my medical journey. Sometimes there is an urgency to fix things in time, sometimes there is not, and sometimes there is nothing you can do. Sometimes the buzzer will sound when you are in trouble and sometimes it doesn’t, even when you need help. Sometimes you need to let people into that struggle and sometimes you need to power through on your own. Sometimes all someone can do is be present through the struggles and the triumphs.

Looking past our highly competitive spirit, we both wanted each other to succeed. The opposition’s improvement only helped better ourselves. There was a camaraderie present in that moment.

It was a simple game on a simple day, but the lasting effect of a $20 board game is one that will stay with me. I remembered what it means to fight. I remembered why it is important to. Most importantly, I learned I am never alone at the operating table.

Follow this journey on Miss Bailey Mae.

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Why 'Accessible' Public Bathrooms Often Aren't for Dads and Their Daughters

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My daughter, who has caudal regression syndrome, needs her wheelchair. She can walk short distances in her walker, but for most trips outside the house — grocery shopping, field trips, playdates, and so on — we have to bring her wheelchair. Unfortunately, more often than not, that also means dealing with bathrooms too small to accommodate it.

Accessible bathrooms are not all created equal.

First off, let’s talk about so-called accessible bathrooms. There is a wide, wide disparity between how they’re built and what people may need. Sometimes they’re wide, but not long. Sometimes they’re long, but not wide. Sometimes they’re wider than the other stall, but just not wide enough. Sometimes you luck out and find one that does have enough room all around, but the toilet paper roll is placed where you can’t reach it when you’re sitting on the toilet.

So you might be able to get a wheelchair in the stall, but there are plenty of times when you have a caregiver and a wheelchair-using person, like me and my daughter. More often than not, it’s difficult getting around the chair after having pushed it from behind, in order for her to transfer to the toilet. She’s fortunate that she has the upper body strength to do so. But what about caregivers who help people who can’t transfer to the toilet? And if there isn’t room for an adult, a small wheelchair, and a child, then how in the world can anyone expect two adults and an adult-sized wheelchair to fit?

For the time being, I can force my way through this problem because I can pick my daughter up. If there are no accessible stalls — or if said stall is just not big enough for the two of us, or if someone is using it — I can leave her wheelchair outside the stall and carry her inside. So far, I’ve never had to worry about people trying to steal her wheelchair.

But Namine won’t be a child forever. She’s already gotten too tall for her wheelchair (it’s been extended twice already), and there will come a time when she is on her own and unable to use the bathroom because they just don’t build all of them with more than a single subset of disabled people in mind.

Family bathrooms are awesome.

Imagine, for a moment, that instead of there being a male bathroom and a female bathroom, there are just two bathrooms. My daughter goes into one and finds all the stalls in use. So she goes into the other bathroom and finds an open stall. I’m failing to see a downside here.

This is precisely what family bathrooms are. Those are few and far between, though, and they’re just a single room, for the use of one family at a time. We need more of them!

I’ll admit that most dads probably don’t bring their daughters into public bathrooms at age 7. Under other circumstances, I’m sure the dad would send his daughter into the women’s room by herself. But even though she’s fully capable of transferring herself to and from her wheelchair and a toilet, the unpredictable state of bathroom stalls gives me pause. So most times, I still go into the bathroom with her. I, being the male adult, can’t go into the women’s bathroom, so she and I go into the men’s together.

There is much that can be improved when it comes to disability and bathrooms, both in terms of construction and attitude. But with more awareness, I believe we can make a more accessible future for our children.

This post was originally published on eichefam.net.

The Mighty is asking the following: Describe a moment where you experienced intolerance or inaccessibility. What needs to happen to change this? Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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