Margaret Lenker

@margaret-lenker | contributor
Margaret is excited to join The Mighty team for the summer as an editorial intern. She is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Southern California. A California native, Margaret loves going to the beach. She studied abroad in London for the spring semester and has caught the travel bug. In her free time, Margaret enjoys working out, baking and spending time with her family.

Quotes From Athletes Who Live With Mental Illness

If you think you have nothing in common with professional athletes, think again. Mental illness can affect anyone, even our athletic heroes who go for the gold. But mental illness can be especially hard for athletes to talk about because they’re not supposed to show signs of “weakness.” But some athletes have openly discussed their mental health issues, proving strength and mental illness can go hand-in-hand. Here are seven inspiring things athletes have said about mental health: 1. “It took putting one foot in front of the other every single day to get through it to the point where I made it back on the team and won a gold medal in 2008. You’re always going to survive the pain of loss.” — Hope Solo, USA, soccer, on depression 2. “I know talking about mental health problems is a difficult subject matter to many people, but I hope me being honest about my illness offers others some support and helps people realize they are not alone. I have made a full recovery now, but felt a break from the pressures of competing professionally was necessary for my mental health.” — Jack Green, Great Britain, track and field, on depression 3. “ I remember looking at myself in the mirror and wondering where the Olympic Athlete went. She was still there, but I had to find her. I had to learn how to appreciate all aspects of myself — including accepting myself as someone who lives with a mental illness. Bipolar disorder is not all of who I am, but learning to live with it has impacted who I have become.” — Amy Gamble, USA, hand ball, on bipolar disorder 4. “ A lot of people have to accept that psychological and physical injuries are at the same level of intensity. They can do the same level of damage to somebody’s self confidence and their ability to perform.” — Oliver Bone, Canada, sailing, on depression 5. “Mental health is not a very easy thing to talk about in sports. It’s not perceived as very masculine. We’re so trained to be “mentally tough,” in sports. To show weakness, we’re told, in so many words, is to deserve shame. But I am here to show weakness. And I am not ashamed. ” — Mardy Fish, USA, tennis player, on anxiety 6. “Today, guys, I take my medicine every day, and I try to inspire others to do the same. Because I finally listened,” Charles Haley, football, on bipolar disorder 7. “ Nobody wants to feel dependent on something. Nobody wants to think she can’t be in control, especially an athlete. But we can’t control everything. ” — Wendy Williams, USA, diving, on depression

'He Used to Be in a Coma, I Used to Be a Fat Guy.'

It started with a deal. “He used to be in a coma, I used to be a fat guy,” Rick Delashmit wrote on a photo he posted to Imgur of him and his son this week. “If he’s standing, I’m running.” That photo has since earned more than 2.5 million views. My son is recovering from a brain injury. We have a deal now…if he's standing, I'm running. He's up to 90 minutes and I'm down 70 lbs. The Delashmit family was in a car accident in 2008, leaving everyone virtually unharmed, except for the oldest son Reece. The then 4-year-old was airlifted from the scene, fell into a coma and spent almost four months in the intensive care unit. Reece, now 12, has made great strides since the accident. Although he’s still unable to speak, he’s now able to eat and drink normally. Reece uses a wheelchair, but he can walk a few dozen yards with the help of a gait trainer. “He’s come so far from being tube-fed, bed-ridden, unresponsive to stimulus when he came home from the hospital after our accident back in ’08,” Delashmit told The Mighty in an email. “He’s in school, he’s learning, he’s communicating, he’s a chick magnet, he’s smiling and laughing all the time.” Last year, Delashmit realized that his weight was tipping the scales at 215 pounds, heavy for his 5-foot-2 stature. He decided to make a deal with Reece that’s resulted in great progress for both of them. When Reece practices standing up, Delashmit runs on the treadmill. To date, Delashmit has lost 70 pounds, and his son can now stand for 90 minutes. Before the pact, Reece couldn’t stand for more than a half hour, and Delashmit couldn’t run 1.5 miles without stopping. Now, Delashmit can run 6 miles in about 50 minutes. Delashmit’s before and after the deal. The Delashmit home has been completely accessible since early 2014, and their home gym/therapy room has enough space for all of Reece’s equipment, as well as a treadmill and weight machine. “It just occurred to me that I’ve got the most amazing motivation for hard work and perseverance right in front of me,” Delashmit told The Mighty. “Once we could be in the same room working at the same time, there really was no excuse any more not to keep up with his pace.” The pact has brought the Delashmit family even closer, and Delashmit often captures Reece’s determination, as well as his other family moments, and posts photos and videos to Imgur, Reddit, YouTube and Facebook.   A Bond Between Bro’s   My oldest hasn't been able to speak since suffering a brain injury in 2008, but that doesn't stop him from comforting his little brother when he's not feeling well. View post on imgur.com   h/t Runner’s World

This Mom's Response to Autism Being 5 Times More Likely for Boys Than Girls

Dawn and Trinity Douglas. Via Memories Manifested Photography. When Dawn Douglas found out her daughter Trinity has autism, she knew the 2-year-old wasn’t alone. Autism now affects approximately one in 68 children, according to the National Autism Association. Of the challenges autism can present, forming relationships proved difficult for Trinity. “The things I take for granted, like easily making friends, she fights hard for,” Douglas told The Mighty in an email. Douglas knew of many support groups for children with autism, but none of them had many girls in them. Boys are fives times more likely than girls to have autism, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Agonizing over Trinity’s social future, Douglas decided to start My Circle of Girls (MyCoG), a group to foster friendships for girls with autism. Started in March 2014, MyCoG holds monthly programs in Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Via Memories Manifested Photography. One event in particular stands out to Douglas. Last summer, MyCoG had a two-part swimming lesson for the group members. A scary reality of autism is the risk of drowning, which is among the leading causes of death for people with autism, according to the National Autism Association. Douglas knew two lessons wouldn’t ensure every girl could swim, but she and other parents were comforted knowing the girls were introduced to life-saving skills.  “That was when I realized that MyCoG is not only a social and service group, [but also] it is a more holistic approach to addressing the needs of girls living with autism,” Douglas told The Mighty. While Douglas has always had a strong relationship with Trinity, who’s now 6, she acknowledges that MyCoG has given them even more time together and even changed her mindset as a parent. “MyCoG has really changed my life,” Douglas said. “It has given me new perspective on parenting a child with autism. It has offered Trinity new friends, invitations to gatherings and a diverse network of support for our family.” The girls learned about dentist visits during a recent event. Via Memories Manifested Photography. At first, MyCoG held events for girls ages 2 to 6, but in August 2014 it expanded to include girls ages 2 to 11. In the future, Douglas hopes they can include girls up to 18 years old, and she wants to expand throughout the state and country. “MyCoG has opened new doors in the autism community as well as [for] girl empowerment,” Douglas said. Parent NaShonda with her children. Via Memories Manifested Photography.

Free Comic Books Explain Asthma in a Way Kids Can Understand

In the United States, about 7 million children have asthma, a lung disease that inflames and narrows the airways, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. Even though so many kids are affected, not all children understand why some of their classmates may have a hard time during recess or gym class. That’s where Medikidz steps in. This organization created a series of doctor-written comic books to explain medical conditions to children. Their latest series follows a 10-year-old boy named Savion as he learns the science behind asthma and the importance of proper treatment for the disease. The most recent book in the series focuses on the right way to use an inhaler. Medikidz and its partner Meda, a pharmaceutical company, believe education is the key to helping people living with asthma. In the United States, there are more than 3,600 deaths due to asthma each year, many of which are avoidable with proper treatment and care, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. “One of the best ways to help prevent these unnecessary deaths is to ensure that patients and caregivers have a better understanding what causes asthma, how to recognize worsening symptoms and the importance of listening to your doctor and taking your medication on a regular basis,” Stuart Loesch, Vice President of Marketing for Meda, told The Mighty in an email. The books are available for free, and anyone can get them online. Related: Explaining Epilepsy to Your Kids Just Got Easier  

See the Amazing Photos Taken by a Legally Blind Photographer

Via Tammy Ruggles. Tammy Ruggles knew she had trouble with her vision from an early age. She got her first pair of glasses when she was just 2 years old. She remembers holding books close to her face and sitting near the front of the classroom to read the chalkboard. But it wasn’t until she turned 40 that Ruggles learned she has retinitis pigmentosa (RP), a rare progressive disease that affects the retinas, eventually leading to blindness. Ruggles, 54, is now legally blind, and she’s pursuing her passion for art in a completely new way. Ruggles grew up loving art but stuck mostly to sketching. But in 2013, she started her professional photography business, taking pictures and editing photos with the help of today’s technology. With a point-and-shoot digital camera set on auto, a 47-inch computer monitor and her remaining vision, Ruggles photographs landscapes, flowers and abstract objects. She doesn’t usually photograph people, as it’s difficult for her to tell if the subject is looking at the camera or what type of facial expression someone is making. Her process is a little different than most photographers’. Ruggles, from a small town in Kentucky, shoots a bunch of photos, but she’s cannot really view them until she uploads them to her computer. Via Tammy Ruggles. “When p eople look at my photography, I want them to say she’s an artist first,” Ruggles told The Mighty. “I want them to see the art before the visual impairment. I want them to look past my disability.” On Aug. 28, Ruggles’ photographs will be in an exhibit for the first time. Art Beyond Boundaries, an organization that promotes artists with disabilities, is holding the gallery called “My Mind is a Camera” in Cincinnati, Ohio. You can view Ruggles’ digital photography portfolio here and see some of her photos below. Via Tammy Ruggles. Via Tammy Ruggles. Via Tammy Ruggles. Via Tammy Ruggles. Via Tammy Ruggles. Via Tammy Ruggles. Via Tammy Ruggles.

Dad Creates Superheroes Who Use Their Disabilities as Superpowers

Dan White couldn’t find a character anywhere in the media that his daughter Emily, who uses a wheelchair, could relate to. Emily was born with spina bifida, a birth defect that affects the spine and nerves. White eventually noticed there were some characters in wheelchairs, but he none who he felt really showcased disabilities in a way children of all abilities to admire. So, he decided to illustrate his own set of characters — ones who use their disabilities as their superpowers. Aimee, Dan and Emily White. Via Dan White “I wanted a broad range of diverse characters that would be unique, original and be fun for all kids to look [to] and emulate,” White told The Mighty in an email. “[The characters] show the wider world that disability can be a power, that it’s easy for disability to be mainstream without being frightening or misunderstood.” The characters, who are all part of what White calls the “Department of Ability,” include Emily, an alien, a ghost and two animals. They all use what makes them different to their advantage. Pawsy the cheetah has a prosthetic leg, which helps him outrun everyone he meets, and Emily has a multi-functional airborne wheelchair. Her catchphrase is “Eat my wheels.” Emily as a character in the Department of Abilities. Via Dan White. White quit his job to focus on the “Department of Ability” full time. Right now, he’s working with charities in the U.K., such as Strongbones Children’s Charitable Trust, to distribute the comic once it’s done (hopefully in 2016). In the future, White hopes the “Department of Ability” characters will go global, and he wants to turn the comic book into a television show. You can watch the Whites’ interview with the BBC below. They’re the “Department of Abilities” – Comic book heroes whose special powers are their disabilities. Its the work of…Posted by BBC South Today on Wednesday, July 22, 2015

College Volleyball Team Adopts Girl With Epilepsy In Friends of Jaclyn

Sara Robinson loves getting ice cream, watching Disney movies and going to the park with a group of girls she refers to as her sisters — even though none of them are related to her. Sara, 10, who has epilepsy and underwent radiation for a now stabilized brain tumor, was “adopted” by the Colorado State University (CSU) volleyball team through Friends of Jaclyn, an organization that pairs children who have cancer with high school and undergraduate sports teams. Now, she has a surplus of friends. Sara and two volleyball players. Via Jay Robinson. Sara and the CSU volleyball team. Via Jay Robinson. Sara has lived with epilepsy since she was just 10 days old, and due to her seizures, had never had a sleepover with anyone, except when visiting her grandparents. The CSU locker room has a nameplate just for Sara. Via Jay Robinson. “Kids her age don’t understand her, as her speech and cognitive learning is severely delayed due to her epilepsy and medications she takes daily,” Jay Robinson, Sara’s dad, told The Mighty in an email. But after her parents taught the CSU team what to do if Sara has an emergency, the players and her held a sleepover in the girls locker room, complete with candy and a movie. Sara’s been in and out of the hospital her entire life. The CSU team sends her messages on Facebook and calls her to chat all the time. Next week, players are taking Sara to get her ears pierced. “Her sisters don’t care in the least [about her condition],” Jay Robinson told The Mighty,” and it shows, as Sara has matured a lot in the last several months, from hanging out with the team.”

Mom Proudly Displays Scar From C-Section That Saved Her Baby's Life

Helen Aller usually takes photos of expecting mothers and newborn babies, but one client recently approached her with a different idea. When a soon-to-be mother, who wishes to remain anonymous, was in a photo session with Aller, she expressed that she was terrified of having a C-section. That fear became a reality later, when the client went into labor with complications and her doctor said she needed to deliver the baby via an emergency C-section. Afterwards, the new mother reached out to Aller to take the powerful photo below, displaying the scar from the C-section that saved both her and her baby’s life. Aller, 29, posted the photo on her Facebook page on August 11, and the picture has since gotten more than 210,000 likes and 60,000 shares. In 2013, 32 percent of births in the U.S. were a Cesarean delivery, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. For some women and their babies, a C-section is safer than a vaginal birth, according to the March of Dimes Foundation. Aller told The Mighty having the picture go viral has been crazy, overwhelming and humbling. “It shows that no matter what walk of life you come from there are others out there who feel the same and support you,” Aller said in an email. “Regardless of how you give birth, you are a mother, and a mother’s love is stronger than anything.”

How Teen With a Rare Skin Condition Moved Past Her Bullies

Ciera Swaringen was bullied as a child for the birthmarks that cover her entire body. When she was born, Swaringen was diagnosed with a rare disease called giant congenital melanocytic nevus, which affects one in 500,000 people, according to Nevus Outreach, the Association for Large Nevi & Related Disorders. Posted by Ciera Dawn Swaringen on Sunday, June 14, 2015 The birthmarks cover more than two-thirds of her body, and the largest one spans from her navel to her lower thighs, according to The Daily Mail. Swaringen grew up in a small town in North Carolina, so most people there are familiar with her birthmarks. Going somewhere new is often challenging, but she keeps in mind what her mom told her as a child. “I remember when I started school my mom told me that my birthmarks were angel kisses, and that really stuck with me,” Swaringen told The Daily Mail. Posted by Ciera Dawn Swaringen on Friday, June 26, 2015 Swaringen has to be careful in the sun, as people with her condition are at a high risk for skin cancer. Melanoma and other skin cancer affects about 5 percent of people with larger nevi (birthmarks or moles), according to Nevus Outreach. Due to the number of birthmarks, removing them is not an option. They grow constantly, and Swaringen often develops new ones. Posted by Ciera Dawn Swaringen on Monday, May 4, 2015   While the 19-year-old has been bullied for her skin condition, she’s embraced her beauty. “I’m so proud to be different and, at the end of the day, we all have something about us that’s unusual, whether it’s on the inside or the outside,” Swaringen told The Daily Mail. “Everyone is born to look different, and we should all feel beautiful in our own skin.” Posted by Ciera Dawn Swaringen on Wednesday, July 30, 2014   Posted by Ciera Dawn Swaringen on Friday, April 4, 2014   Posted by Ciera Dawn Swaringen on Sunday, August 17, 2014   h/t Buzzfeed

Blind Teen With Autism Blows Crowd Away With National Anthem Performance

Christopher Duffley first sang the national anthem when he was in first grade, performing at his elementary school’s Memorial Day assembly, according to his website. In July 2011 and Sept. 2013, Duffley had the opportunity to perform the national anthem at Fenway Park. On Monday, the now 14-year-old had that chance again, and he didn’t disappoint. The teen, who’s blind and has autism, sang the national anthem for thousands of people before the Boston Red Sox played the Cleveland Indians. Duffley didn’t speak until the first grade, but his parents then shortly discovered his perfect pitch, according to a YouTube video about Duffley’s life. “When Christopher sings ‘Open the Eyes of My Heart’ he teaches us to not see everything with our eyes,” his mother said in that YouTube video. Duffley’s performance before Monday’s game was on behalf of Autism Speaks, according to Boston.com. He was selected as one of Autism Speaks’ “10 Amazing Individuals With Autism Who Shined In 2013.” Watch Duffley sing an incredible rendition of the national anthem below. h/t USA Today FTW