megangriffo

@megangriffo | contributor
Hi, Mighties! I'm the Editor-in-Chief of The Mighty. I previously edited The Huffington Post’s Good News vertical. I'm a graduate of Syracuse University, where I studied magazine journalism and English. I currently live in Los Angeles with my labradoodle, Thurman (@thurmanthedood). You can follow me on Twitter @megangriffo or email me at megan@themighty.com.
Lauren Dykovitz

Caring for a Parent With Alzheimer's Disease: What It's Like

When I tell someone my mom has Alzheimer’s disease, the first thing they usually ask is, “Does she know who you are?” There was a time when I could confidently answer, “Yes, she does.” People always seemed so relieved to hear that. “Oh, that’s good!” While it was good that my mom still knew who I was, I wanted to add, “Yeah, but she gets lost in her own house.” Or, “True, but she can’t remember how to put on a shirt.” As the years went by, that question became harder for me to answer. There were days my mom would look right at me and not know who I was. Or, she would look at a picture of me and not be able to tell me who was in the picture. But, there were also days when she knew exactly who I was. I would tell people that sometimes she remembered me and sometimes she didn’t. Still, people seemed so relieved to hear that she had not totally forgotten who I was. While it was good that my mom remembered me at times, I wanted to add, “True, but she has no idea how to get into a car.” As even more time went by, I had no choice but to tell people that no, my mom didn’t know who I was. They responded with sympathy and sorrow, many times with actual tears. It broke their hearts to hear this. It broke mine to know there were far worse things than my mom not knowing who I was. While it was sad that my mom didn’t know who I was, I wanted to add, “Yeah, but she can no longer do anything for herself.” Or, “True, but she can no longer walk and she spends her time sitting in a wheelchair with her eyes closed most of the time.” There are far worse things about this disease than my mom not knowing who I am. It feels like she doesn’t even know who she is anymore. It feels like she is basically just sitting around, waiting to die. While this sounds extremely harsh, it is extremely harsh. This disease is extremely harsh. If I had one wish to wish for one thing for my mom to have back, it wouldn’t be for her to remember who I am. That would be the last thing I’d wish for. She deserves so much more. Now when people ask me if my mom knows who I am, I have a different answer. One that took me many years to learn. I tell them, “No, my mom doesn’t know who I am, but she knows me. She knows my heart and my soul and my love for her. She knows my voice and my presence. She doesn’t know I’m her daughter, Lauren, but she knows that she knows me. She knows I love her and she loves me. She knows she’s safe with me. She knows me on another level. Our bond is unbreakable and undeniable. What we have is so much more important than her knowing my name.” There are far worse things about Alzheimer’s than my mom not knowing who I am, but there are also far better things. She knows me. In a way that no one else does.

Community Voices

How are you feeling about the week ahead?

<p>How are you feeling about the week ahead?</p>
364 people are talking about this
Community Voices

Let’s keep it simple: How are you?

Has anyone asked you how you are today? How are you doing amid all this?

#COVID19 #CheckInWithMe #MentalHealth

129 people are talking about this
Community Voices

What songs are you listening to in quarantine? What songs are bringing you comfort?

Some of my favorites right now:

Better Days - OneRepublic
Caution - The Killers
Thunder - Mondo Cozmo
Years in the Making - Arkells
In Spite of Ourselves - John Prine
Lean On Me - Bill Withers
Walk Alone - Rudimental & Tom Walker

What’s on your playlist?

#COVID19 #CheckInWithMe #MentalHealth #DistractMe #Anxiety #NowPlaying #Depression

125 people are talking about this
Community Voices

What songs are you listening to in quarantine? What songs are bringing you comfort?

Some of my favorites right now:

Better Days - OneRepublic
Caution - The Killers
Thunder - Mondo Cozmo
Years in the Making - Arkells
In Spite of Ourselves - John Prine
Lean On Me - Bill Withers
Walk Alone - Rudimental & Tom Walker

What’s on your playlist?

#COVID19 #CheckInWithMe #MentalHealth #DistractMe #Anxiety #NowPlaying #Depression

125 people are talking about this
Community Voices

What songs are you listening to in quarantine? What songs are bringing you comfort?

Some of my favorites right now:

Better Days - OneRepublic
Caution - The Killers
Thunder - Mondo Cozmo
Years in the Making - Arkells
In Spite of Ourselves - John Prine
Lean On Me - Bill Withers
Walk Alone - Rudimental & Tom Walker

What’s on your playlist?

#COVID19 #CheckInWithMe #MentalHealth #DistractMe #Anxiety #NowPlaying #Depression

125 people are talking about this
Community Voices

How have you celebrated holidays during #COVID19?

I’ve had virtual Zoom calls for my mom’s birthday, a friend’s bachelorette party and now Easter. It’s been weird but fun and special in its own way.

Have you found creative ways to celebrate holidays?

66 people are talking about this
Community Voices

How have you celebrated holidays during #COVID19?

I’ve had virtual Zoom calls for my mom’s birthday, a friend’s bachelorette party and now Easter. It’s been weird but fun and special in its own way.

Have you found creative ways to celebrate holidays?

66 people are talking about this
Community Voices

Post a picture of your pet during quarantine!

<p>Post a picture of your pet during quarantine!</p>
20 people are talking about this
Matthew Weatherford

What Being a Mighty Community Leader Means to Me

I was a smart but clumsy kid. I spoke earlier than 1 year old. I didn’t walk but stumbled until age 4. I had seizures from lights and sounds from 1-and-a-half years old until I was 16. I went through developmental disability services for most of my childhood. In third grade, the other kids figured out that they could cause me to have seizures by using flashlights and canned air horns. No kid ever got in trouble for making me have a seizure. Not once. I started beating kids up for it. The school insisted I be put in the hospital. My mother got a job at a large children’s hospital so I could get the best care. I was diagnosed as a savant. I saw one of the best psychiatrists for savants in the Midwestern U.S. It came at a price, though. That price was being restrained, given shots and being put in isolation. They outright broke me down. Then I got daily training on things like eye contact, avoiding distractions, handling over-stimulation and calming down from meltdowns. Altogether I spent eight-and-a-half months there. It was the most traumatic experience of my life, but at the same time I was taught by the very best. I would not have achieved the goals I did if I hadn’t had that psychiatrist. I probably would have ended up in a group home like most of my classmates in special ed did. But I had to go through hell to get to where I am today. I was bullied a lot more in school after that. I was conned so many times because I wanted to be accepted. I was picked on because of how clumsy I was. I was often told I was st*p*d or a r*tard. Even to this day, most people who meet me in real life assume I’m slow. Some people are shocked that I talk. In seventh grade, I started doing well in school because my classes were separate. I could have advanced classes, remedial classes, and a special ed homeroom to meet my needs. In high school, I finished all my school district’s math classes by the middle of my sophomore year. I placed third on a statewide math test. I was still taking remedial literature and handwriting classes. In my junior year, I was the first kid in my county to make it out of the special ed system. I’m sure there have been many since, but I was first. Despite how well I did, I wanted out of that school system. I went into the army at 17. I had to have an EEG before they would let me in. I didn’t make it very long in the army after training, although I learned a great deal of discipline. I had a drill sergeant that took me under his wing and taught me so much. I got my big job as the system administrator for a worldwide television network because they got tired of their system administrator having to call me when I worked at their internet service provider. After five years of more bullying at such a big job, I couldn’t handle it anymore. I had a major breakdown at 31, including a suicide attempt. After working so hard to get myself out of the mental health system, there I was back in it. I had another four attempts before I was able to stabilize myself. I joined a 12-step program. The good friends I made there helped me so much. I went on to become a state leader. I represented the southern tip of Illinois to the state and national teams. I went to political rallies and lobbied the state Congress. I taught how to lead 12-step groups at the state training weekends. Some of my writings including my testimony have been published in their books. Since then my depressions have become treatment-resistant. They last from October to February. Despite all I’ve learned, how well I have my life situated now, and my great support system, I still need to go to the psych hospital in November or December almost every year. I have spent Thanksgiving in the hospital more often than not since 2002. I have been around so many different people with disabilities. There were the other kids like me in developmental disability services, and the good friends I made with mental illnesses in the 12-step program. There were my mom’s patients with physical disabilities and chronic illnesses. I did assistive technology for a lot of them, including sip and puff mice, screen readers and voice recognition. A nurse, a quadriplegic on a ventilator and I worked with a well-known voice recognition software company to get the software to understand his voice despite the sounds of the ventilator. They were the first company to achieve that. I have gained so much empathy for people with disabilities, not just from all the hell I’ve been through, but all the hell I’ve seen so many people go through. Now that the 12-step program I was in has been all but shut down because of state funding cuts, I am so thankful and more than proud to be a community leader here on The Mighty.