Jessica Naert

@jessica-naert | contributor
Jessica Naert is a resident of Denton, Texas with her guide dog, Makiko. She was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa at the age of 14. Currently, Jessica and Makiko go to work everyday for Texas Workforce Solutions – Vocational Rehabilitation Services where Jessica is a Transition Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor. Jessica also writes a blog: www.thewayeyeseetheworld.wordpress.com. Check it out!
Jessica Naert

How Ableism Causes Suffering for People With Disabilities

I have retinitis pigmentosa. I don’t suffer from retinitis pigmentosa. Let me explain. Living with retinitis pigmentosa isn’t always easy. I have embraced it and have had a lot of great experiences directly related to my diagnosis of RP and legal blindness. But I still have bad days, such as recently when I was walking and hit an open filing cabinet and had a resulting concussion. But I still don’t suffer from RP. I feel like I suffer more because of ableism. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, ableism is: “the systemic oppression of a group of people because of what they can or can not do with their bodies or minds as the result of ignorance.” In simple terms, it’s when people’s practices around and attitudes toward people with disabilities devalue and limit people with disabilities, or they discriminate in favor of “able-bodied” people. It’s not the actual condition or disability itself that is the limiting factor, it’s society’s perception and treatment of people with disabilities. I have faced a lot of ableism over the years, but a few specific examples come to mind: Even though a PowerPoint presentation is completed in order to present to the audience, the presenter won’t give me a copy of it until after the presentation. Therefore, while people who are sighted can have access to the presentation materials during the presentation, I don’t have access to them until after. Ableism. I’ve also heard the term, and not in relation to me, “the blind leading the blind,” a lot.. Now sometimes, people do joke about it when one of my best friends (who is blind) and I are leading each other… it truly is “Blind leading the blind.” But more often than that, it’s in relation to somebody who is directionally challenged leading around somebody else who is directionally challenged and they just end up going in circles. I am pretty good about getting to where I need to go and am pretty good with directions nowadays, and I am also blind. So this phrase can be offensive. Ableism. I can’t tell you how many times people ask my boyfriend if I want something or if I need something, when I’m right there. They assume because I’m blind I can’t express my own needs or desires and they have to ask him. If you know my boyfriend, you know he is super quiet, so he usually just goes “uhhh…” and then looks at me to respond for myself. Ableism. People have either grabbed my cane or my guide dog harness handle to “help” us across the street or get to a destination. They assume we need help, just because I have a disability, even though they never asked. This usually does a lot more harm than good and is incredibly frustrating. Ableism. I’ve been introduced as someone’s “blind friend” before. Now if my best friend I mentioned earlier who is also blind wants to explain how we met because we both have the same eye condition and disability, that is usually OK. But if someone without a disability introduces me and one of the first things they use to introduce me is my disability? That’s not OK. Ableism. Those are just a few examples of how I’ve experienced ableism. Unfortunately, people with all kinds of disabilities experience ableism on a regular basis. People without disabilities often think that by providing one type of accommodation, it is the right fit for all people with disabilities. That is not true and is ableist. People use ableist language all the time and it is damaging to people with disabilities. For example, how often have you heard, “What, are you deaf?” or “You’re blind as a bat!” These can be insulting to people who really are blind or deaf. “Crazy” is a term a lot of people use when somebody’s doing incomprehensible things, but in the past it has been used to describe people with mental illness. Why is ableism not OK? Besides the fact that it is point-blank discriminatory toward people with disabilities, it suggests that people with disabilities are lesser than people without disabilities. I often compare it to sexism because that’s more widely understood. Sexism is when people automatically think men are better than women. This is not the case; neither are people without disabilities are naturally greater than people with disabilities. I don’t like term “suffers from” in relation to any medical condition in general, because it’s not person-first. However, I do recognize that there are people who truly do suffer from their medical condition and choose to use this language when describing themselves. I, however, feel that in general I do not suffer from my eye condition. I suffer from society’s view of people who are blind. I suffer from ableism. If people would stop assuming that I am lesser and start recognizing me for my abilities, I would not have the struggles I do today and RP would not be a big thing in my life. It would just be part of it. But because I have to tackle ableist views so often, RP is a bigger player than it needs to be. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Thinkstock photo by Otto Kalman.

Jessica Naert

Navigating the Five Stages of Grief With Vision Loss

It always happens… I’m doing well, I adapt to another period of vision loss, not much time goes by and there it is again… sneaking up on me when I least expect it. This is my life with retinitis pigmentosa (RP). RP’s progression can come in many forms. For some, it’s very rapid vision loss very early on in life. For some, there are periods of vision loss followed by years and years of stability. For some, vision loss progresses veryyyy slowly through the years, and then for some, vision loss goes unnoticed for many years until diagnosed later in life. I was diagnosed at 14. I am now 27. Looking back, I can recognize different incidents that were a direct result of night blindness or limited peripheral vision, but I wore glasses and did OK vision wise. I didn’t know I had any problems until my eighth grade year, age 14, when I started having all sorts of medical issues and was eventually diagnosed with RP. Many people in the blindness community have debated whether it is easier for one to be blind from birth or be partially sighted/diagnosed later in life and lose vision over time. Since I’ve never experienced what it is like to be blind from birth, I can’t exactly compare. I’m sure there are “pros” and “cons” to both. However, in terms of emotionally adjusting to vision loss, it seems to me that being blind from both would be easier. With RP, you go through many different stages of vision loss, unexpectedly. It’s not like there’s a signal that goes off that says “OK, you’re going to lose more vision.” No, it’s more like, “Ugh, I can’t see that and I know I would have been able to see that a year ago,” or “Sigh… I sure am falling a lot more… I think I’ve lost more peripheral vision.” One has to continuously adapt and acquire more blindness skills, including adaptive technology, orientation and mobility, and independent living skills, many times in their life if they are living with RP. Many people when they are adjusting to a disability go through the grief cycle: denial/isolation, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Overall, I feel like I’ve reached the “acceptance” stage but can remember when I was in the “depression” stage, especially when I felt like it was affecting friendships and definitely had affected my self-confidence. With RP, many times when your vision loss progresses more, you experience at least part of the grief cycle again. For example, when I started the process at 16 and then 18 of getting my driver’s license, my vision loss wasn’t as progressed as it is now, but I probably didn’t quite realize how bad my vision was. I kept my drivers license until after I got my guide dog and then realized it kind of looked funky to have a driver’s license with a guide dog. I was sort of in denial for a while that I wouldn’t ever drive again. One of my very first instances of denial was when I got diagnosed. I was in 8th grade, going through a lot socially and medically, but when we figured out all this was because of RP, things settled down a bit but I didn’t really care. I would tell people I had RP but I just brushed it off. It was just a name to me, nothing else. I didn’t really get accommodations, didn’t get special assistance or mobility tools. I just had some trouble with tripping over a lot of things, falling down and up stairs, and difficulty transitioning from light to dark and dark to light. I didn’t fully start realizing something was amiss until I was in one of my classes in high school and I couldn’t participate in one of the class activities, taking notes while watching a movie. The lights were off and my notepad just disappeared… I was that night blind. Occasionally, I have been angry about the inability to drive thing, and subconsciously I think I was angry in parts of college when I didn’t feel comfortable going out at night but saw my peers going to parties that seemed fun. I remember when I finally got invited to one of these parties, I was with some attractive young men and a girlfriend and I tripped a little bit and fell in some mud. I managed to catch myself with my hand so it wasn’t on my clothes, but was all over my hand. I didn’t want these cute guys knowing so I managed to hide it and then sneak in the bathroom when I got to where we were walking. I was a bit angry, and embarrassed. I’ve been fearful a few times, like when my mother who was a huge support moved away and I had to be more independent and rely on others more for transportation assistance. I don’t know that I’d take it to the level of “fear” but I’ve often wondered how I would navigate some of the aspects of parenting, if/when I do become a mom. Luckily, I have amazing blind mom role models that I can look to for advice in this area. I’ve grieved some of the things I can’t do as easily anymore or can’t enjoy as much anymore. My boyfriend really loves to go to movies, but I have to sit in the exact right spot to get as much of the screen in my limited tunnel vision, but not too far away from the screen that my visual acuity becomes a problem. My eyes also easily fatigue in movies because I have to move my eyes so much to catch what is going on. My boyfriend understands and never pushes the issue, but it does kind of suck that it is such an ordeal. My life is very fulfilling and quite amazing. I have had a lot of opportunities arise because of my journey as a person with vision loss and the different paths I’ve taken. I am not fearful of RP at this point. I embrace it, and it is part of who I am. I have a lot of supports in place for when I do experience more vision loss, and have an excellent employer and supervisor who understand disability and value me as a person. They are patient and willing to help. However, I do have days where I am frustrated because I am a little bit slower or can’t go at the fast pace I like to live my life, because I have to re-learn or adapt to a new part of my vision loss. I am now a counselor and recognize that going through the grief cycle is healthy. Not everybody goes through all five stages, and sometimes people make steps back. I know many times myself and fellow RPers do when we experience more vision loss — and that’s OK! If you are going through the grief cycle, whether it be with vision loss, disability, or something else, I encourage you to be patient with yourself. Know there is no right or wrong way to grieve, and it will take time. But you need to allow yourself to do it to move on; covering up your pain and grief will only prolong your struggle. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Thinkstock photo by Rohappy.

Jessica Naert

Dealing With 'Inspiration Porn' as a Blind Person

I was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa at 14, but didn’t really start acknowledging the diagnosis and visual impairment until around age 20. That’s also when I started to hear that I was an inspiration. At that time and for a few years after, I didn’t really care; in fact, I thought it was sweet and a compliment to my ability to persevere and keep moving. But after learning about inspiration porn and getting told I was an inspiration many times when I was just doing average joe activities, I started looking at things a little differently. Inspiration porn is when a person without a disability thinks a person with a disability is inspirational just because they live with a disability. That’s it… just them living is the sole reason they are called an inspiration. Living as a blind person with retinitis pigmentosa is not inspirational. Most people would continue to live if they were diagnosed with such. Going through what I have had to go through to continue to live the life I want to live, taking orientation and mobility lessons and using adaptive technology is not inspirational. I did what I had to do to survive. I am OK with you thinking the perspective I have taken on disability, the advocacy work I do related to disability, and the amazing opportunities I have been given and embrace are inspirational. But just because I continue to keep on trekking through this thing called life with a disability — that’s not inspirational. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Photo via Thinkstock.

Jessica Naert

Response to Foundation Fighting Blindness #HowEyeSeeIt Campaign

Dear Foundation Fighting Blindness, Hello! My name is Jessica Naert. I have been a supporter of yours for several years, especially with your VisionWalk. I have co-captained several teams over the years, including “The Way Eye See The World” and “The Eye Catchers,” along with my best friend, Misty Allen. Both Misty and I have retinitis pigmentosa (RP). Misty is now totally blind. I have a little vision remaining. Retinitis pigmentosa is one of the leading causes of inherited retinal degeneration vision loss and one that your organization readily researches to find a cure and fundraises to continue this important research. I support this type of research and applaud you for the work you have done. However, after your #HowEyeSeeIt campaign, I am not so sure that I can continue to support your work. There are many ways to touch people’s heartstrings and encourage them to donate. Instilling fear of blindness into your donors or potential donors should not be one of them. Your campaign is misguided, encouraging supporters to fundraise by showing how difficult certain tasks are under blindfold. It is conveying that blindness is something to be feared, that blind people should have low expectations for themselves, and that society should also hold low expectations for blind people. This campaign has many similarities to the ice bucket challenge to raise funds for ALS. However, that challenge did not have their supporters pretend to have ALS for the day, and the overall premise did not instill fear about the disease. You could have done other creative things to follow the influencer-to-social-followers model. Why this? If it was because you didn’t realize the dangerous impacts it would have, many of us can understand that and forgive. But instead of accepting this might be a problem, you continue to silence us. As previously mentioned, retinitis pigmentosa is the cause of my blindness, but the fear our society has about blindness and the misconceptions surrounding blindness is the cause of most of the issues I have today. The perception that blind people need to be taken care of, that they would be a financial, physical, and/or emotional burden to hire and work with, that they are incapable of safely and effectively parenting, that they cannot be independent and contributing members to their families, communities, and a society as a whole… this is what hurts us. Several of the videos on your campaign webpage show professionals (filmmakers, chefs, football players, DJs, etc.) who put on the #HowEyeSeeIt blindfold and try and do it without sight, many times with the guidance of somebody who is actually blind. This tactic is not appropriate because the blind chef, Christine Ha, has had years of experience and skills training to get to that point, as did Jake Olson with football and Joe Mons as a filmmaker. The campaign has also encouraged more simple tasks be completed under blindfold, such as counting cash. Of course somebody who has not had to every do this before isn’t going to know how to do it, but somebody who has been blind and had to learn how to adapt might pull out their iPhone and pull up the LookTel app, which will tell them what each bill is, or pull out their money reader from the U.S. Treasury, or feel the particular way a bill is folded to know which denomination it is. One of the most spread videos is about how blind people have trouble taking care of their children. This is so deeply painful for me. I am not a parent but plan to be in a few years. I have many friends who are blind parents and have done a fantastic job at raising such sweet, responsible, loving, intelligent, fabulous children. One of my friends once was told that she shouldn’t fight in court for child custody because the judge will just look at her blindness and assume that she’s inept. That is absolutely disgusting and I believe what your campaign is encouraging our society to believe. Through this campaign, you are suggesting that the only “hope” those who have been blinded by retinal degenerative diseases have is to wait for a cure. This is not the case. Depending on your geographic area, there are so many wonderful resources and support services out there to help these individuals be independent, obtain and maintain competitive integrated employment, have families, etc. I was diagnosed with RP at 14. I am now 27. I am a full-time state employee (Transition Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor), helping high school students with disabilities plan for their transition out of high school and into living productive lives. I am a devoted daughter to my beautiful mother, and a sister to my amazing sister in medical school. I am a leader in many organizations. I am a disability advocate. I am a best friend to many beautiful people, a girlfriend to a fabulous guy. I am a volunteer. I am also blind. Blindness is a huge part of me, partially because I choose to let it be, but it does not define me. There has been a lot of research done on these types of simulations. A blindfold simulation by a blind person will never be accurate. Arielle Silverman conducted blindness simulations as part of her research her in Ph.D. program at the University of Colorado. Several individuals were blindfolded, while several were not. The individuals that were blindfolded left the activity left with the perception that blind individuals are less able to hold down basic professional jobs and were less able to live independently. This simulation did absolutely no good for those with visual impairments. As Arielle has said, “Blindfolding yourself is not much like living with blindness. When people develop permanent blindness, they get used to it. Research shows that most people who develop disabilities eventually adjust. The fear, frustration and distress go away over time. It is just part of the human condition to adapt to any new circumstance. Further, when people become blind, they learn techniques and adopt tools, such as the white cane, that give them independence. ” This type of simulation does not help them realize this. I will say that there are a few occasions, I believe, that disability simulations may be OK, but there is a lot of thought and planning that goes into them to make them appropriate and not harmful. While this campaign will end (hopefully sooner rather than later) and the sensation will die down, people with vision loss and their family and friends will have to live with the harmful effects of this campaign for a very long time. Do you employ anybody on your PR/marketing team who is actually blind and actively part of the blind community? If not, I encourage you to do so. Maybe then you can find ways to fundraise for medical advances while not compromising the dignity and well-being of the population you apparently work for. We, thousands of blind people from across the United States, look forward to hearing from you soon to have an open discussion about this issue. Until then, we will use #HowEyeSeeIt to speak against this campaign and post positive, empowering, and accurate everyday depictions of blindness, showing our independence, success (at home, at work, as active citizens in our communities). We hope we can help shine a light for you and your supporters on what blindness really looks like and how teaming up with us will further your campaign and fundraising efforts drastically. Thank you,Jessica Naert A longer version of this post originally appeared on The Way Eye See The World. Image via Thinkstock Images

Jessica Naert

What I Wish I Had Known About Retinitis Pigmentosa

When I was in the 8th grade, I was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa. I had no idea what it was at the time, and didn’t really feel it affected me. I could still see very well, and most of the effects weren’t supposed to happen, or so I read, until one was older. Here is what I wish my family and I had known then… Retinitis pigmentosa (RP) is an inherited disease causing retinal degeneration. It can occur and be diagnosed anytime from childhood to later adulthood, and varies in its speed of progression and severity. Growing up sighted and then losing your vision rapidly can be scary. You will have to make a lot of adjustments to how you do things over time, but with the right support and resources, it is entirely possible to live the life you want to live, and live it to the absolute fullest. Retinitis pigmentosa is a very tricky disease. Night vision is usually the first to go, followed by peripheral vision, and then it gradually closes in, until it also takes out your central vision. The degeneration can come in waves. You can have stable vision for years and then suddenly lose a lot at once. In the advanced stages of RP, you might not be able to read a menu or identify a face, but still be able to tell someone is there and make eye contact with them. This can be confusing to the general public, who may not understand as well as they might if you had a more visible disability. Research says many individuals with RP don’t start losing their sight until they’re in their 40s, but that’s not always the case. I’m 26, and I have lost the majority of my vision. I didn’t always recognize how much vision I had lost, like the time I missed a stop sign during my driving test. I tried to dismiss it, until I would catch myself missing many other things. I didn’t want to stop driving, but a friend with RP put things in perspective. What if I were driving, and a young kid decided to cross the street, and I didn’t see him just like I didn’t see that stop sign? How could I live with myself? I took my friend’s advice and eventually surrendered my license. If you are diagnosed while still in the public school system, it will be highly beneficial to get an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) for services in the classroom and other supports that will affect your development. While I disclosed to principals and teachers that I had a visual impairment, I didn’t know special education or disability services could benefit me until much later, when I was a sophomore in college. I wish I had known. Many of my high school teachers did a great job with accommodating me, but a lot of broken bones and headaches (literally and figuratively) could have been prevented if I’d had a Teacher for the Blind or Visually Impaired and an Orientation and Mobility Instructor in high school. I would have been able to start the process of adjusting to my disability much sooner. Outside of the school system, there are many other supports. Each state in the United States has a Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) program that prepares individuals with disabilities for employment. Most states also have a Division for Blind Services (or a name very similar) for individuals with vision loss. In Texas, our VR program starts working with children at the age of 10 to help them learn everything from independent living skills, to Orientation and Mobility, to specialized instruction in Braille, etc. If you have a significant enough visual impairment and qualify for these services, it is great to start early. However, you can also start as you are transitioning out of high school or college into employment. I found out about VR services after my freshman year in college, and started receiving Orientation and Mobility training, and later Assistive Technology, Independent Living skills training, and more. I highly encourage every family who has someone newly diagnosed with RP to contact their local VR program. There is also Lighthouse for the Blind and similar organizations in many states. The above services helped me make great strides, increase my self-confidence, and develop more independent living skills. However, one of the things that helped me the most was meeting a young lady with RP. She was a mother to two beautiful children, graduated college with two degrees and managed her house independently. She had already been through what I was going through, and had great advice for me. She showed me how creativity goes a long way in terms of figuring out how to do things. She rocked being blind, and as one of the first people I knew with RP, she gave me a lot of hope. She and her brother, who also has RP, introduced me to guide dogs. I always thought guide dogs were for individuals with total blindness, but in fact they can help individuals with RP, who might be able to see a person’s face but will miss every curb and bump or any obstacle that is not directly in front of them. Guide dogs can provide a lot of help in the nighttime, when the weather is bad, and as your vision degenerates. They can be that solid companion to help you with the emotional impact of vision loss. My Makiko has been instrumental in helping me maintain my level of independence. She has adjusted well to the changes in my vision, learning to help me with my new needs. RP can be a roller coaster ride with its periods of stability and then sudden degeneration, constantly learning how to accommodate your new state of vision loss and continuing to do what you were doing. However, there are many resources out there that can make the roller coaster a little smoother. When I was diagnosed, my family and I all wish we had known about all of the services and support available. It would have made the transitions less of a headache. I am now 26 years old. I am a huge family person. I am very active within my community. I am a full-time VR Counselor for the State of Texas and absolutely love my job. I live independently, love to travel, and have a great social life. I also have retinitis pigmentosa, and thanks to the amazing support and services I have now received, I live a very full life. The Mighty is asking the following: Write the article you wish you’d found the first time you Googled your or a loved one’s diagnosis. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to community@themighty.com. 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.

Jessica Naert

What People's Stares Mean to Me as Someone With a Vision Impairment

“Oh! Are you training her?” This is one of the most annoying questions I get asked. I usually reply with, “No, she’s mine,” or, “No, she’s my guide dog. I’m legally blind.” Almost every time, the response to my reply is, “Oh. You don’t look blind.” I haven’t been bold enough to ask someone what blind actually looks like, but that’s exactly what goes through my head. The stereotype and perception the world has about people who are blind is that they a) always wear sunglasses, b) have wandering eyes and don’t make eye contact or c) don’t have a life much outside of the home. Because I don’t fit any of these stereotypes, I get a lot of questions and a lot of stares. I have a progressive, degenerative eye disease called retinitis pigmentosa. I was born able to see and still have some sight, although not much. Most people notice they have nonexistent or limited night vision first. Then comes the loss of peripheral vision. As the disease progresses, you lose more and more peripheral vision and often become completely blind. In my particular case, it’s destroyed most of my peripheral vision and a lot of my central vision, but I can still have some central vision. I can still make eye contact with you, and my eyes do not wander. I wear sunglasses every once in a while, but I don’t wear them inside. I lead an active life and I’m fairly independent (aside from driving). I don’t fit the image people have in their minds of what a person with a visual impairment looks like. I used to take it as a compliment when somebody told me I didn’t look blind. To me, that meant I was functioning well and appeared confident and independent. I liked this, but I don’t like the perception that others who may “look blind” due to their eye conditions are perceived as not having this level of independence, confidence or functioning. I went to Subway recently with my good friend, Kellie. As we moved through the line, the sandwich artist kept asking Kellie about what kind of sandwich I wanted — what kind of bread I wanted, what size, what cheese, what meat, what size drink, etc. She rarely even made eye contact with me. When she did, she told me, “The bread list is over there.” ( Don’t ever say “over there” to someone with a visual impairment, even if they are partially sighted — it’s little to no help.) Meanwhile, the rest of the Subway staff stared at me. Kellie wouldn’t answer the questions for me because she didn’t need to — I’m capable of ordering my own sandwich. When we got back to our table and talked about the interaction, Kellie mentioned that if she and I could clearly hold a conversation with each other, what led the Subway employee to think I couldn’t answer her questions myself? This woman had no idea how to talk to me, and the rest of the staff just stared. While we ate our sandwiches, almost every person who came in the door looked at my guide dog, Makiko. Then they looked up at me and back down at Makiko. Next, many would look at me straight in the eyes. I’ve had this happen enough times to know what a lot of them were probably thinking: “She’s not blind.” They then went back to their tabled and continued to stare while they ate. This isn’t an isolated incident. We get this wherever we go. People stare at us to figure out why I have a guide dog. People will even stare at us while moving forward and bump into other people or objects. I have just enough sight that I’m able to see them looking at me. I don’t take it personally, and the only reason it ever bothers is because of the stereotype and common misconception accompanying those stares. These false stereotypes about people with visual impairments aren’t just insulting; they’re harmful to the wellbeing and livelihood of people with visual impairments. It’s partly due to these stereotypes that so many people with visual impairments live off government benefits because they can’t get jobs even though they’re intelligent and capable of working. I have friends who are blind who have several college and master’s degrees each and are absolutely brilliant but can’t find jobs because nobody is willing to hire them and take the time to learn about the accommodations they need to become successful. The stares themselves don’t really bother me. Getting asked if my guide dog is in training doesn’t really bother me. I’m never bothered when people ask questions and genuinely want to learn more about my visual impairment or how my guide dog helps me. However, people staring because I don’t fit inside the little box they think of when they think of blindness and being frequently told I “don’t look blind” does bother me. People with visual impairments are capable people no matter how they look. These negative stereotypes are harmful to the wellbeing of others and their ability to work and be productive members of society. But I will continue to smile through the stares and ignorant statements I get on a daily basis so I can keep educating the world around me about blindness. Follow this journey at The Way Eye See the World The Mighty is asking the following: “Staring” is a topic that comes up so much in our community. Tell us about one unforgettable “staring” experience you or someone you love had that’s related to disability, disease or illness. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to community@themighty.com. 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.