Chase A.

@chasestarbreeze | contributor
Finding community and ways to cope with my various medical conditions.
Community Voices

Giving Until You Can't No More

Trigger warning for alcohol/substance use, overdose, medical negligence and hospitalization

I went to therapy with a goal in mind: managing and conquering my anxiety about socially transitioning from female to male. As the months went on we talked about other things that happened that were challenging: a family member visiting, the struggles my friends went through, realizations of trauma from my childhood. Things were being sorted out. I was realizing why I did certain things. I was identifying triggers that were always there and utilizing techniques to live a life not controlled by anxiety.

Then there was the vacation that really wasn’t.

As it happened all I could think was “man I can’t wait to tell my therapist this, it’s wild.” I went to a convention out of state with two dear friends, who I’ve known cared for years. One friend, A, brought a college friend along. We had a great time, meeting friends that had moved across the country and enjoying our long weekend. We all needed a break from our stressful jobs, problems in our own lives we struggled with. This was a space I could be out and no one questioned my name, pronouns or identity.

Saturday rolls around. We did an escape room together and beat it in record time. We each had our own sphere of knowledge we excelled at and were able to break up tasks and puzzles to the people who could solve them best. It was an awesome feeling and something I was proud of everyone for. As the night goes on we split up and do our own things. Me and my friend decided to be boring and get some sleep while A and his friend were going to drink and dance. We had brought our own alcohol and the hotel had plenty for sale as well, but this was something that happened every time we went on these vacations. A would probably be super hungover in the morning, maybe throw up later tonight, but it happened so often I didn’t think anything of it. It was the sort of thing you’d expect to see in an 80’s movie about college students.

I’m woken up at 3 in the morning by a commotion in the room. There are 5+ people in the room, including paramedics. A is laying on the other bed unresponsive. He and his friends had come back at some point after I was asleep and passed out, but A hadn’t woken up. He panicked and had called 911.

One of the paramedics asked us if he had any medical conditions, like heart disease or diabetes. No, he was perfectly healthy. He points to all the pill bottles on the bathroom sink, who are those? They’re mine and my other friend’s, I explain, we both have depression and ADHD and are medicated as such. He writes the names of all of them down, asks us if we knew exactly how many pills were supposed to be in each container. No, I’ve never kept count like that before. The paramedics get A to the point where he can moan and they use that to ask some yes/no questions. They asked him if he took any of our meds and he moaned yes.

I knew things were bad but they had just gotten so much worse. Wellbutrin and alcohol can lead to seizures, Adderall is powerful stuff and I could only imagine what that would do to someone who shouldn’t have it. They pack A up and tell us the hospital he’s going to. We put ourselves together and spent the next 20 minutes wandering the huge parking lot trying to find where A had parked the car a few days before. The cold, high desert air cleared my head and I only felt one thing. Frustration.

When we got to the ER A was awake and about as lucid as one could be. He immediately yelled at us for taking him, do you know how much this was going to cost? You were unconscious, we said, you weren’t responding. I was fine, he said. You could have died, this is literally textbook “this is when you call 911.” F you, go to h, I hate you. A nurse came in and talked to him, told him what was going on and he grumbled. She asked questions that he couldn’t answer or speak clearly so I answered for him. I’m all too familiar with the medical system with my issues and I knew everything about him, he was my best friend.

At one point he ripped off his pulse oximeter and the station beeped frequently about it being disconnected. No one came and did anything about it, he yelled about the annoying beeping. I asked what tests they did. He had a bandaid on his fingertip where they did a blood sugar test, came back normal. They hadn’t taken blood or other samples to see if he had actually taken any of our medications, the fact that he was talking was good enough for them. As we were getting ready to head back once they released him I asked the front desk if they could call us a taxi, since we had taken one to get there. We’re not like your California hospitals, the nurse said, we don’t got the tax dollars for that. It was 6 am, I was too tired and drained to argue that placing a call for us would cost them $0 and got a Lyft instead.

We decide we’re just going to go home. There were things we had wanted to do on that last day of vacation but we didn’t have the heart to do it. The room smelled disgusting since A and his friend had been sick not even 12 hours earlier, the bathroom was destroyed. The room was on A’s card, another hefty charge atop the ambulance ride and the ER visit. He has a big-name HMO for insurance, so all of this was going to be out of network. I made a mental note to tell him later that I’d be happy to help him sort this all out.

The drive home sucked. We ended up going through a snowstorm (in May!) and had to fork over $100 in cash to some guys on the side of the road to put chains on the tires. Nothing was open for breakfast so we had to deal with gas station snacks. I text my roommate that we were going to get home way earlier than I had said earlier and would explain later. The first house we get to is mine, we take out my bags and the food/drinks thrown hastily into a box to sort out at my place. Everyone lines up to use the bathroom and I go through the stuff.

There’s alcohol, of course, but a lot of it. I bought one bottle of liqueur and a tall can of beer. A’s friend bought another bottle and a six-pack. My friend bought a bunch of root beer, as he had stopped drinking months ago because he realized he was abusing alcohol to deal with stress and mental health issues. A had brought 5-6 bottles, a crate of beer, a bunch of smaller bottles of expensive stuff, including some he got on his recent trip to Iceland. I knew people at the convention who threw room parties or had fancy whiskey-tasting events. This alcohol was just for us and maybe a friend or two that hung out in our room.

I was starting to put 2 and 2 and 2 together. A and I were still hurting from being unemployed for over a year in 2017-2018. We were both in a bad place, watching our bank accounts shrink and worrying about looming homelessness. We didn’t have insurance, I was down to only one medication, the only things we had were each other and alcohol. It’s cheap and easy to get, you can’t put marijuana on a credit card. I hate to admit it but I did drink myself to the point of being sick a few times when my roommate was gone and things were bad. I knew I could do better and just had to hold out until I got a job, got insurance, could get back on my medication and see a therapist again. I had no hopes of transitioning without a job, all I could think about were the statistics of how transgender folx have so much higher unemployment, substance abuse, homelessness, suicides. I just had to keep myself functional until I had the chance to move forward with my life again.

A drank too much, too. So much that he threw up on his laptop, destroying it. He had to borrow one from a friend since he needed it to apply to jobs. He would pass out or go missing and couldn’t get him to respond to messages. He was clearly depressed about many parts of his life, more than just unemployment, had been ever since I got to know him to that level. I had told him to seek help, things weren’t like a movie and would magically get better once a singular good thing happened. He said there was a chance therapy or medication wouldn’t work, so it wasn’t worth the time, money, and effort to get those set up. I tried explaining some of the techniques I had learned in therapy that could help him, he said he was already doing those and they weren’t working. He didn’t need someone telling him things he already knew. Right before our trip, he told me to never bring it up again because he wasn’t going to change his mind. I agreed because he was my friend and I didn’t want to hurt him.

So I look at the $150+ worth of alcohol, almost all his. The whole trip back he was silent and ashamed of what he did, I knew he was in a bad place mentally and would be for the next few days. He would be again once the bills started coming in. I decided to keep it at my place. I knew he would be mad but I was willing to give it back to him, the earliest he’d be able to do so was next weekend. The only way he had to cope was to drink and I didn’t want to make it easier for him to hurt himself again. I explained it to my friend while A was in the bathroom and he agreed with me; he couldn’t keep it at his place since he was sober and refused to have any around.

Once they left I recount the whole story to my roommate. I told her how this was a pattern that I hadn’t realized was escalating. He was an angry drunk, the opposite of his quiet, bookish everyday self. This was a messed up situation and I was still processing it. My entire therapy appointment that week was sorting out this event and how I kept thinking I was the bad guy for keeping the alcohol. I knew he was going to ask me about it and I was dreading the argument it would cause.

He asked me a few days after my appointment about it; he had been hungover for most of that week from his case of, and I quote the ER nurse, “having a little too much to drink” and only then felt good enough to do so. I told him I was fine giving it back to him but I asked if he knew why I did it. He said it was because I wanted to control him. I was flabbergasted. I explained my reasoning, but he wasn’t having it. You know I could always buy more, right? You can’t control what I’m doing. I knew that, I told him, I was just worried about what would happen with him being alone and feeling horrible.

Honestly, he said, it disturbs me that you care so much and I’m not okay with it.

I had no idea what to say. He could have died that night, and being worried for him was unacceptable? He had no memory of saying he took our medication, had no memory of yelling at us, no memory of us explaining all this to him the day after. It was like a 24-hour chunk of his life was gone from his memory. The veil was finally lifted, I had to accept that this person who’d been my best friend for years was a toxic person and wanted to control me to ease his own suffering. I couldn’t talk about my girlfriend around him, as it would make him depressed. He mocked me when I found a spiritual community that gave me great support and comfort. He pointed to one of the metaphysical aspects of it that was important to me and said “You know the only reason that’s in there is because it was a major part of the dominant religion at the time, right? He didn’t want to alienate them, he only wanted to convert them.” He was an academic in those cultures and it confused me why he would say such a thing.

I’m not going to apologize for being worried about you, I said. You’re my best friend, I care for you deeply, I want you to be happy and healthy and if that’s unacceptable to you then that’s your decision. So that’s it, he said. And we hadn’t talked since.

It’s been almost 3 months and it still hurts. When my girlfriend says she’s going to drink I catastrophize and imagine her ending up in the same situation, but she’s across the country and I’m helpless. I question how I can practice lovingkindness and generosity by stopping being friends with A. I hurt him, I made him upset, and a part of me knows that my leaving him was a gift in some way but I still doubt myself. I could pretend it never happened, go back to the ways thing were, but what if this happened again? What if it didn’t and threw this all away for nothing? I’ve been accused of being selfish growing up, my mother gaslighting me for asking for comfort or support. It’s selfish of me to not want to see a friend hurt himself, since that happening would make me feel bad. It’s twisted logic, to guilt me into enabling him, but I can’t do that anymore.

Caring for someone isn’t something that you should have to apologize for. And sometimes, caring for yourself means making others feel bad. One of my teachers told me that the ultimate generosity you can give is to yourself. You can give and give and give, but if you never give to yourself there won’t be any of you left to give to others. Everyone suffers, that’s part of existence, but absorbing the suffering of others will only make you drown. You need to balance the give and take, and sometimes that means giving no more.

Juliette V.

What to Know About the Problematic Pete Davidson Meme

If you haven’t already heard, actress Kate Beckinsale and Saturday Night Live performer Pete Davidson locked lips at a hockey game last Sunday night. What’s more, they did so while sitting next to the visibly uncomfortable “Queer Eye” star, Antoni Porowski. Needless to say, meme creators everywhere rejoiced after seeing the photos paparazzi snagged. And let me tell you, some choice memes were born from that awkward moment. Check out some of the greats here. But one problematic meme has been making the rounds, prompting even Beckinsale to reply to it. The meme, created by the Instagram account @dietbroke (pictured below), says the words “Me” over Beckinsale’s picture and the words, “Guys with problems from childhood who I can ‘fix’” over Davidson’s. The words, “Wholesome guys with good paying jobs who text back and have no baggage” superimposed over the awkward-looking Porowski. In response to the meme, Beckinsale commented on Instagram: “Antoni is gay, if that helps clarify at all.” View this post on Instagram repeat after me: u are not bob the builder. u can’t fix him, periodt.A post shared by Diet Broke (@dietbroke_) on Mar 4, 2019 at 5:40am PST But this meme is problematic on a few different levels, and it’s important to talk about why. Here are three things we’re missing when we share this meme: 1. People who have emotional wounds from childhood are worthy of love. The idea that people with childhood baggage are “too much to handle” isn’t a new idea, nor is the idea that women are “lulled” into the belief that they can “save” men from their demons. And it’s certainly not the first time this theme has surfaced in a meme. But before you jump to saying I’m taking a joke too seriously, let’s pause and dissect this. It’s not just any guy in this meme — it’s Pete Davidson, a man who has publicly shared about losing his father in 9/11 and how it has impacted his mental health, specifically his borderline personality disorder (BPD). This meme functions on the “joke” that Davidson is a prime example of being “too damaged to date.” Davidson himself commented on this kind of criticism when he started dating Ariana Grande. “i been hearing a lot of ‘people with bpd can’t be in relationships’ talk. i just wanna let you know that’s not true,” the comedian wrote in an Instagram story. “just because someone has a mental illness does not mean they can’t be happy and in a relationship. it also doesn’t mean that person makes the relationship toxic.” Having a mental illness or childhood baggage doesn’t mean you’re “undateable.” In fact, a common lie people who have emotional baggage from childhood believe is that they are unlovable. Memes like this can reinforce that harmful narrative. Let’s give Davidson a break. The guy has been through the wringer in the public eye recently. And to all the folks out there with childhood baggage, hear this — you are worthy of love. 2. No, we shouldn’t date to “fix” someone, but… Relationships can often be a place where people work through emotional baggage together. This doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to enter into a relationship in order to “fix” someone’s childhood issues, but it would be silly to believe that you have to reach a level of emotional perfection before getting into a relationship. No one would be in relationships if that were the case! While relationships aren’t a replacement for working on yourself individually (in therapy for example), we can’t ignore the fact that oftentimes real, healing work can be done in the context of a relationship as well. Having a mental illness or childhood baggage doesn’t mean you’re “undateable.” 3. Everyone has baggage. The meme implies that as women, our choices are “emotionally damaged person with childhood issues” or “well-paid, ‘good guy’ who has no baggage.” I don’t know about you, but I’ve yet to meet someone with no emotional baggage at all. It’s just part of being human, y’all. While it’s true that many women choose partners that ask more of them than they can give, it doesn’t matter who you date — everyone has baggage. It’s never a question of, “Who do I date, perfect Antoni or troubled Pete?” Let’s stop shaming Davidson for having childhood issues (or anyone else who does!). We all have issues. Let’s treat one another with respect. What’s your take? Let us know in the comments below.

How Cannabis Can Affect People With Mental Illness

The Mighty Community asked: “Will cannabis affect chronic pain patients who also have mental health issues, such as anxiety?” One of the things you’ll hear from psychiatry and the media is that THC might potentially cause psychosis. That is definitely a concern and certain people with certain mental health conditions might not be a great fit for THC. That’s why using CBD products might be better. Have questions about medical cannabis? Join Cannabis Corner and connect with other medical cannabis users and share your experience. However, there’s also evidence that suggests patients with disorders thought to be THC-adverse could find it effective. In fact, I know a doctor who has bipolar disorder and uses THC-rich cannabis to treat it. Often people hear they shouldn’t treat some of these disorders with THC because it will make people more manic. W hat we’re finding is it’s really a person to person decision. If you have a history of schizophrenia or bipolar, I would suggest trying CBD first. Start with low doses of CBD and make sure it won’t interact with any prescriptions you are taking. You’ll want to start slow and monitor your symptoms to make sure everything is OK. Don’t believe anything you see out there that one cannabinoid is good or one cannabinoid is bad. It really is all about the patient. If you live with a mental illness, please let your doctor know you’re considering THC or CBD and work with your doctor. Because CBD can interact with some medications, you’ll want to make sure whatever you decide on — THC, CBD or both — is safe to take with your current medication. Having too much of a drug in your system could cause or flare negative symptoms. It is a real risk. If you have minor anxiety or depression it’s not going to be a big issue, but if you struggle with more significant symptoms, please work with your doctor. Be safe and make sure you have someone you trust checking on you to make sure you are OK. Some patients don’t do well when they’re first trying it, and for some patients, it’s just not a good fit. Glossary of Terms Cannabis: Also known as marijuana, weed and pot, cannabis is a plant that can be eaten, brewed, smoked and vaporized. Its oils can also be extracted and consumed, or incorporated into topical creams. Cannabis is consumed for its psychoactive and pain-relieving properties. It is currently a Schedule 1 drug in the United States and is illegal at the federal level, but is legal for recreational and/or medical use in 33 states. THC: Abbreviation for tetrahydrocannbinol, one of the compounds, or “cannabinoids,” found in cannabis. It is responsible for the plant’s psychoactive effects, since it binds to cannabinoid receptors in the brain responsible for pleasure and pain. CBD: Abbreviation for cannabidioil, another cannabinoid found in cannabis. CBD is non-psychoactive and, unlike THC which binds to cannabinoid receptors, stimulates the body’s own endocannabinoid system. This can lead to physical benefits like reducing pain and lowering inflammation. Endocannabinoids: Neurotransmitters produced by the body that bind to cannabinoid receptors. Endocannabinoids help control functions like pain and inflammation and maintaining homeostasis in the body. Strain: A variation of cannabis that has been bred to enhance certain characteristics and compounds. Terpenes: Aromatic oils secreted by the cannabis plant, which give its particular strain unique flavors and scents. Over 100 types have been identified. Terpenes also interact with other cannabis compounds to produce various physical and psychoactive effects. Indica: A type of cannabis plant characterized by short stature and broad leaves, which grows better in a colder climate. Previously believed to offer relaxing and pain relieving-benefits, it’s now understood to offer similar benefits as other cannabis varieties. Sativa: A type of cannabis plant characterized by its tall height, narrow leaves, which grows better in warmer climates. Previously believed to offer invigorating, energetic benefits, it’s now understood to offer similar benefits as other cannabis varieties.

Chase A.

Anxiety Is Keeping Me From Transitioning

Transness is a funny thing; it was there the whole time but I only connected the dots recently. I identify as non-binary, which I have to explain to people outside of the Internet as to what it means. It means I don’t fit in the classical gender binary of male and female. With my friends or in queer communities, I’m able to say my name, my pronouns and have those respected, but in the day-to-day, my anxiety has me frozen. For multiple reasons, including mental health, I’ve had issues having a steady job over the last few years. Presenting myself as appealing as possible to employers and stress over having enough money to survive for another month has traumatized me in ways I couldn’t have expected. From the outside, my life is stable and I should be perfectly happy, but a core part of my identity requires putting that all on the line for my own happiness. You can see the issue here. Transitioning is expensive. Hormones, frequent lab tests, specialist appointments. Surgeries that will take me out of work from several days to several months. Knowing I’ll probably have to buy all new clothes and shoes as hormone replacement therapy (HRT) starts to take effect and my body shape changes. Legal costs of updating my state ID, passport, federal records such as my social security number and birth certificate. Of course, this means telling my boss and my HR rep who frequently (unknowingly) misgenders me. My company is very small. Everyone will find out. I’ll need to have my email changed. I’ve been dragging my feet asking for business cards because I know I’ll have to throw them out and change them someday. I hesitate to reach out to business partners, knowing I’ll have to tell them, too, that I’m trans. While I live in a state that has strong protections for people like me, I know I’ll have no such luck on the federal level in this administration. Even if the law is on my side if I get fired, I’m still out of a job. And I can’t go through that again. At my past jobs, where a number of managers had portraits of Jesus in their office and Bible quotes on their desk or I had to keep my mouth shut at coworkers using transphobic slurs, I had panic attacks whenever I thought about coming out to them. Even things that have zero risk to my stability, like the name I use at Starbucks, trap me in the fear that I can’t risk it, I can’t let people know, I can’t throw away the stability I worked so hard to get, where I had to put my birth name and gender on countless job applications and introduce myself time and again as someone I’m not just so I wouldn’t be homeless. I constantly think of the statistics, of how so many trans people are homeless because of their gender identity, the higher suicide rates and their worse career prospects. Every time I try to plan any facet of transitioning, I have a panic attack and then I’m mentally spent for the day. It can happen from so many things, from seeing my own body getting ready in the morning to seeing a cisgender person being happy with how they look. I’m so very tired of this and I know I can’t keep doing this forever. As of writing, my first appointment with my therapist is tomorrow. They’re nonbinary as well and will help navigate me through this process and put a stop to my anxiety blocking my progress. I no longer want to feel that my long-term happiness isn’t worth it, that I’d be fine hiding who I am every day for the rest of my life. For every worst-case scenario, I’ve read of there are hundreds more where things go well. I know I’m strong enough to get through this, I just need to silence my anxiety on the matter.

Jamie R.
Jamie R. @jamier343

My Anxiety Makes Me Feel Like a 'Mean Mom'

I never pictured myself as a “mean” mom. I pictured myself as the mom who is carefree. The mom who can do fun things and enjoys being around her kids. The mom who can joke with her kids. I pictured myself as a mom my kids love to be around. Unfortunately, that’s not how it is. I can’t tell you how long I’ve had anxiety. It’s been a number of years. It started out not so bad, but gradually over the years, it’s gotten worse. Right now, it’s at the point where I feel anxiety has taken over my life. I have three kids under the age of 12. I’m lucky enough that, for the first time, I’m able to be a stay-at-home mom. As sad and awful as it is to even say aloud, my two oldest kids trigger my anxiety. Every morning we “start over” from the night before. Anxiety has two effects on me. One is constant and obsessive worry, and the second is anger. We have a playground right outside of our patio. My children cannot go out without me sitting on the patio because I fear they will get kidnapped. If my kids go anywhere in a car with anyone besides myself, I sit in constant fear of them getting into a car accident. I call my oldest non-stop until I know he’s safe. If my kids are sick, my mind goes to the worst case scenario. I think they have some deadly disease, so I sit and research every symptom. If my son has headaches, I believe he has a brain tumor. My son can’t play football for school because I fear that he’ll get a concussion and have brain damage. When my kids go swimming in the summer, I fear they will die of dry by drowning. I worry constantly about my son drinking and driving, doing drugs, etc., but he’s only 12 years old. The anger side of my anxiety is what makes me sad. My kids make any sounds such as mouth noises, and I snap. They don’t listen and I have to repeat myself, and I snap. They argue, and I snap. They make a mess, and I snap. They don’t help clean up, and I snap. I am living in a state of anger. How unfair is this to my children? They aren’t allowed to be kids because of my anxiety. I’m either scared to death for them or I’m angry at them. Anxiety consumes a person. It turns you into someone you don’t recognize. It makes you a person you hate. This isn’t the mom I want to be. I spend every day saying sorry. I spend every day starting over. And I will continue to apologize and start over until I can find my inner peace.

Community Voices

What's the hardest part about living with #FoodAllergies ?

For me, it's the mental cycle food allergies puts me through. I'm constantly on high alert about whether I can or can't eat something... am I going to get sick... what if I'm out/traveling and they have nothing I can eat / or get sick because someone gave me the wrong info... but I really want to eat what everyone else is eating...

Since food is such an integral part of the human experience, food allergies become this mental game I play that have direct consequences on how I feel physically.

Can anyone relate?


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KB @unicornwoman

How the Office Air Conditioner Affects My Migraines

I hope you’re feeling cozy and comfortable since I’m not in the office today. Yes, you’re free to lower the temperature of the air conditioner in the office. And you can thank the debilitating migraine attack I’m experiencing today for it. I get to stay in bed under a blanket with the AC shut off. I know the temperature outside is over 95 degrees Fahrenheit and the humidity is more than 20 percent, but I still find comfort under my blanket with my socks on because of my migraine. You may not understand my migraines and what they have to do with the air conditioner, so let me explain. “Migraine attacks can cause significant pain for hours to days and be so severe that all you can think about is finding a dark, quiet place to lie down,” according to the Mayo Clinic. And a 2008 study of 200 migraine sufferers found “26 percent blamed air conditioning” as a factor that led to migraine attacks, according to Now this can be hard to explain to someone who has been lucky enough to not experience a migraine and the discomfort it causes, so imagine working with ants crawling all over you head, shoulder and neck. Imagine writing with an ice-cold palm. Imagine having to wear a thermal layer, a formal shirt and a cardigan on top of it to work. The air-conditioned environment in the office acts a catalyst to this distress. The cold air hits my head hard like a hammer hitting a rock. My feet feel like they’re in Antarctica. Switching off the AC just makes it a little easier for me to push through all this — if not more. After work, I think of what to wear the next day so I won’t feel as cold. Now you know why I wear a sweater, a cardigan or a blazer almost every day. I have a wardrobe full of winter wear, socks, jackets, stockings, thermal wears and closed shoes. It really hit me hard when I asked you to switch off the AC, and you replied, “I feel hot. I just had a cup of tea and need the AC!” You spoke with no empathy, switched on the AC and walked away. Also, I only asked you to turn off one out of the four air conditioner units in our small area of the office for 10 minutes. My intention was not to put anyone else in discomfort, and our other co-workers did agree it was getting too cold. By no means do I intend to make you feel guilty or blame you, but I want you to understand how people with chronic pain strive to get through a challenging day. And when I’m polite (yes, I can be rude sometimes) and request you turn the AC off for a while, I expect you to empathize and help me get through my work day. The next time someone asks you to adjust or switch off the AC for a while, please be kind and don’t laugh about their plight. Understand the situation, understand their pain and get up and turn off the AC for a while. It can help make someone feel a little hopeful in times of their battle against excruciating pain. The Mighty is asking the following: What is a part of your or a loved one’s disease, disability or mental illness that no one is aware of? Why is it time to start talking about it? 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