Melissa McGlensey

@melissa-mcglensey | contributor
Melissa McGlensey is the former News Editor at The Mighty. Her writing can also be seen in Ms. Magazine, on the Ms.Magazine blog and in The Huffington Post’s Good News, Comedy and Impact sections. Melissa is also a New York City comedian who does sketch, improv and stand up. She is passionate about social justice, politics, Thai food, literature, disability rights and more. She is currently in a long-distance relationship with her cat, Sneakers, who lives in California. You can follow her on twitter at @OhHeyMeliss.

18 People Explain What ADHD Feels Like

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is much more than an inability to pay attention. For people with ADHD, the challenges associated with it can affect every aspect of their lives. The Mighty teamed up with Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD), a nonprofit aimed at improving the lives of people affected by ADHD to ask people who have ADHD how they would describe their condition to someone unfamiliar with it. This is what they had to say: 1. “It’s like opening 100 tabs in your browser at once and trying to do something different in each one at the same time. Then someone walks up and wants to have a conversation.” — Jennifer Arnott 2. “It’s like trying to listen to your favorite show with really bad noise disrupting the signal. All the while, loud children are screaming around you and throwing things.” –C hristine Ashley 3. “It’s like being a cat with 100 people with lazer pointers.” — Jamie Hynds 4. “It’s like ‘The Big Bang Theory’ theme song… There’s so many random things happening at a fast speed.” — Junique Groenewald 5. “Picture a room with 1,000 TVs with each TV showing something different. Now try and concentrate on just one TV with out getting distracted.” — Damian DaViking Aird 6. “Jack hammers. Lots of them in my brain. And a parade. With clowns and balloons and banners, and a marching band and strobe lights. When people talk to me it feels like someone is popping bubble wrap in my ears.” — Sophie Moir 7. “You know when you go into a room and completely forget why you went there in the first place? Its like that, but all day with everything you do. Or imagine throwing a bunch of different colored bouncy balls on a trampoline and trying to focus on one.” — Brie Braun 8. “It’s like my mind is racing in the Daytona 500 and my body is a bumper car stuck in reverse.” — Flossie Mae Kay 9. “It’s a permanent tornado whirling around my thoughts. They are like books flying around in the wind and people outside only see a fraction of the storm inside.” —Theresia Waalderbos 10. “It’s like a vortex of running thoughts, ideas, feelings and ‘aha’ moments. It’s difficult for some to understand but the moments of ‘Wow, that’s a great idea,’ make up for the years in my adolescence that kids and teachers got mad at me for my outbursts. I like the speed of my mind maps; it keeps things interesting.” — Caitlin Malley 11. “[It’s] like falling down a rabbit hole on your way to do something else every two minutes.” — Jen Dozer 12. “It’s like an old train — slow to start, but a veritable force once going. It may pay heed so as to stop for passenger transfers (the details) along the route, but despite its inattention to the cities it passes, it’s focused on its goal.” — Jennifer Young 13. “My mind is in 100 different spots at once. Each of them seems equally important to get done and it seems like I have to get them done all at once. I bounce from one thing to another. My mind is in a fog that I can’t clear. A thousand thoughts race through my head all at once.” — Mike Moon 14. “For me it is a constant struggle to remember — to remember what needs to be done next, what needs to come first, what I need to bring for an appointment, when an appointment is, what time I need to leave, what I have to make dinner with, when I need to pay a bill, and that’s just one day. I can have a dozen color coded sticky notes on the walls and a whole variety of alerts and reminders on my phone, but as soon as I look away the the thought has disappeared.” — Angelique Landy Borgmeyer 15. “It’s like being in a foreign country with no clock or calendar where no one speaks your language and you have to find your way around, go to work, go to school, go to the shops while finding a way to communicate with others when everyone around you is speaking loudly all at once in words you don’t understand.” — Niamh McSherry 16. “It’s like there is a hamster wheel in my head. And the hamster runs fast.” — Maria Mikhail Volpe 17. “It’s your eyes wanting to go 30 different ways to take in all the visual info while also thinking of what you’re doing, how you’re doing it, any shift in the environment, song lyrics that randomly pop up, the physical reactions of others, with every possibility racing through your mind every millisecond. Then it’s not being able to ever sit still, shaking yourself to sleep at night with energy, tapping anything (foot, hand, pen, etc.) and being constantly jittery and jumpy.” — Zoe Klumph 18. “It’s like driving around for hours and finally stopping to ask for directions and someone tells you that you’re not lost.” — Emily Jane If you have ADHD, how do you describe what it feels like to others? Let us know in the comments below.

People Confront Negative Thoughts About Themselves in Bold Photo Series

This photo project is aiming to remind people of something important — negative thoughts often have another side. Abbe Dembowitz, a 22-year-old student at Pace University in New York City, started the Turn It Around Project to help people shift their perspectives. The project consists of about 50 photos so far, where people write their innermost fears, insecurities and negative thoughts about their bodies. Then, on the other side of their body, they write a positive affirmation to finish the thought. Dembowitz came up with the idea with some friends after she experienced a dark time of negative thoughts. While a student at University of Maryland, Dembowitz felt plagued by insecurities and fears of inadequacy, so much so that it affected her performance at school and her social life. She took some time off and starting going to therapy. There, she learned a lesson she’s never forgotten. “One of the best things I learned in therapy was this: ‘You can’t control your first thought, but you can try to control your second and third,’” Dembowitz told The Mighty. “W hether it be that you’re not good enough, that you’re never going to be OK, or if you’re feeling sad or anxious, you can’t always control feeling those things, but ultimately you can try to turn it around and have the second or third thoughts be positive ones.” Abbe Dembowitz posing for the Turn It Around Project Dembowitz wanted to spread this message and create a community of people to support one another. Each photo shoot starts with participants talking about their fears and insecurities with everyone present and then brainstorming the positive affirmation they want to include. It’s a safe space for people to be vulnerable and know they aren’t alone. “We aren’t professionals; there is a space and time for therapy and someone who can professionally help you, but I think it’s also crucial for people with mental health issues to have a community full of people who understand,” Dembowitz told The Mighty. “Y ou don’t have to feel alone.” Since the project launched in November, Dembowitz says they have received an outpouring of support, including messages from people all over the world saying how it has helped them. They are currently raising funds to take the project on the road and have plans to tour colleges and high schools across the nation to spread their message of acceptance and positivity. See more photos from the project below: Visit the Turn It Around Project Facebook page or Instagram to see more photos. h/t HuffPost

Nike Releases Newest Disability-Accessible Shoes With Lebron James

Nike is back with a new shoe following the same disability-acessible model that made a splash over summer. In July 2015, Nike and professional basketball player LeBron James debuted an incredible new shoe with a special zip-up technology that allowed people with disabilities to put on and fasten up the shoe themselves. A special edition of the Nike LeBron Soldier 8, the shoe was inspired by a teenager named Matthew Walzer who lives with cerebral palsy and wrote a letter to Nike asking the company to consider developing a shoe designed for people who have trouble tying shoelaces. “My dream is to go to the college of my choice without having to worry about someone coming to tie my shoes every day,” Walzer wrote, according to Nike. “As a teenager who is striving to become totally self-sufficient, I find this extremely frustrating and, at times, embarrassing.” Nike made this dream come true. The release of the shoe was a huge success and Time Magazine even recognized it as a notable technological advancement. Now, the Flyease technology is back in a new shoe, the Nike LeBron Soldier 9, according to Sneaker News. The Nike LeBron Soldier 9 The second installment follows closely on the previous model with it being slip-on style and featuring straps to enhance the fit. There is a new added zip construction on the side that wraps around the heel and connects to the upper strap. As of right now there are two new colors, according to Kicks On Fire, a website about shoes. It will debut in Spring 2016 and hit retail stores soon after that. The Nike LeBron Soldier 9 The Nike LeBron Soldier 9 In the meantime, the LeBron Soldier 8 Flyease is available for purchase from the Nikestore for $130. “When we say, ‘If you have a body, you’re an athlete,’ that means everybody,” Tobie Hatfield, a Nike shoe designer, says in the video below. Check out the video about the release of the LeBron Soldier 8 Flyease: h/t Related: Nike’s Latest Shoe Is for People With Disabilities

14 People With Sensory Processing Disorder Describe What It Feels Like

Sensory processing disorder (SPD) is a condition that exists when sensory signals don’t get organized into “appropriate” responses, according to the Sensory Processing Disorder Foundation. A person with SPD may find it difficult to process and act upon information received through the senses, which creates challenges in performing countless everyday tasks. We asked people who live with SPD to share how they describe the condition to those who are unfamiliar with it or may not understand how they experience the world. This is what they had to say: 1. “It’s like having the worst hangover you can imagine. The rustle of newspaper can make your ears buzz the same way they would if you were listening to really loud music. People talking can make you cringe because it sounds so loud. Sunlight can literally feel like you are blinded. At my worst, I cannot tolerate any light. It’s like your brain is going to explode because it can’t handle the stimulation. It’s really scary, upsetting and can make one very anxious.” — Hay Green 2. “It’s the tactile version of nails scratching on a board. [It] sets your teeth on edge, and whatever it is you touched you can still feel on your skin for hours like a sticky goo.” — Jessica Gray 3. “Suddenly everything is too loud, too bright, too much, and you just want to run to a dark, quiet corner to curl up in for hours.” — Sarah Whiting 4. “At its worst it feels as if you’re in a loud night club with strobe lights and 20 people are vying for your attention. They’re yelling, screaming, pulling at you, and your skin is raw and your mind is raw and it just keeps getting louder and faster until you feels like your brain is going to burst and you might go mad if you don’t escape.” — Sarah Emery Bradley 5. “All of the sensory input your mind normally tunes out can start to overwhelm your conscious mind. It’s like when you become aware of your blinking and notice every blink for a few seconds, but more extreme. Trying to push past the hyper-awareness of every noise and touch will take away any amount of patience and attention you had for what you were doing. It makes it very hard to interact ‘normally’ because you are so caught up in your own head.” — Elizabeth Engel 6. “Sudden, loud noises hurt me. Also, lots of chatter (like at parties or in the staff room) feel like jelly fish stings.” — Linda Yuill 7. “[It’s like] living life on carnival row at a state fair.” — Dannette Funk 8. “It’s the violence of stuffing colors and lights into the head as well as violently shaking the body with sounds nonstop.” — Lee Laalaa 9. “In an overstimulating environment you feel like you just want to burst and run around screaming. I just want to touch everything or do something with my hands over and over to distract me” — Gianna Winters 10. “It’s like having a migraine that never ends.” — Ella Schwartzenberger 11. “[It’s] like there are a million and one things going on all at once and no way to stop it.” — Randi Rose 12. “It feels like someone else took control of your body.” — Casey Kolb 13. “It’s like everything is amplified and I can’t hit the pause or stop button.” — Emilyanne Wachter 14. “It’s like everything is louder, brighter, smellier, like you’re so drunk your balance is off, and you don’t know where you end and the rest of the world begins. Everything comes at you all at once, and it all jams up and you can’t do anything.” — Vanessa Blevins If you have sensory processing disorder, how would you explain what it feels like to someone who is unfamiliar? Let us know in the comments below. Related: 21 People Describe What Sensory Overload Feels Like

Swedish Animation Highlights Learning Disorders

This animated video offers a glimpse into what a day in the life of a child with learning difficulties can be like. Erik Rosenlund, 40, is an animator and director based in Stockholm. His latest video, called “Bokstavsbarn” in Swedish and “Falling Letters” in English, focuses on a young child who has difficulties paying attention in school and socializing with his peers. Rosenlund says the film isn’t really about a specific diagnosis but does admit the opening scene is a reference to dyslexia and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The tittle, “Bokstavsbarn” is an affectionate Swedish term that means “letter children (or child)” and refers to any kind of diagnosis, according to Rosenlund. His inspiration for the project came from his recently becoming a father, as well as his own experience as a child. “The little boy drawing in class is pretty close to myself as a child,” Rosenlund told The Mighty via Facebook message. “I always had a very vivid imagination and was never very good at paying attention in class.” ADHD affects 11 percent of school-age children and symptoms continue into adulthood in more than three-quarters of cases, according to Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD), a nonprofit aimed at improving the lives of people affected by ADHD. Related: 19 Truths People With ADHD Wish Others Understood

Texts Your IBD Would Send You

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a condition involving chronic inflammation of all or part of the digestive tract. The two major categories of it are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, and it affects an estimated 1.6 million Americans, according to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America. Symptoms can include diarrhea, abdominal cramps and pain, constipation, weight loss and more. To put it lightly, it can be a real pain — like an unwanted friend who just. won’t. stop. texting. you. Of course, IBD can’t text the people who live with it, but if it did, it might look something like this. The Mighty asked people who live with the condition what a text conversation with IBD might look like. Here’s what they had to say: 1. Hailey Remigio 2. Peg Danek   3. Kristin Marie Kaskeski   4. Colette Manley   5. Chris Dudley   6. Stacy Pottorff   7. Shannon Aronin   8. 9. Michelle Oldenburg Fong 10. Barbara-Seda Aghamianz   11. Janet Mitchell-Wilson 12. Tracy Augustine 13. Rebecca Brant 14. Therese Carnivele-Beavers 15. Lee Anders What would your IBD text you? Let us know in the comments below. Related: 17 Texts People With Chronic Illnesses Would Love to Get After Canceling Plans

'Jack of the Red Hearts' Film Highlights Autism Spectrum

This mother of a child with autism has drawn on their experiences to bring a stereotype-defying story to the big screen. Janet Grillo is a director, professor at New York University and mother of a 22-year-old son with autism. Her film, “Jack of the Red Hearts,” which hits theaters Friday, tells the story of a teenage runaway who poses as a caregiver and forms a unique bond with an 11-year-old autistic girl named Glory. The film’s screenwriter, Jennifer Deaton, is the aunt of a girl with autism, who was the inspiration for Glory’s character, the New York Post reported. Check out our new poster art! #jotrh @annasophiarobb @taylorbrichardsonA photo posted by Jack Of The Red Hearts (@jackoftheredhearts) on May 3, 2015 at 9:36am PDT One of Grillo’s goals in making the film was to break the stereotypes often used to portray people on the spectrum — gifted, quirky, socially odd, “Rain Man”-like characters. Grillo wanted to show that many people on the spectrum are nonverbal and may require assistance. Her son, who lives in an assisted-independent living program in New York, had a lot of therapy as a child to get to that point. “I do feel that my experience as a mother is my truth in this story,” Grillo told the Post. “My hope is, next time you’re in the grocery store and you see a mother of a child who’s throwing a wild ‘tantrum,’ instead of deciding that child is a brat, thinking, ‘Maybe that’s a child with autism.’ Maybe saying, ‘How can I help?’” See the preview for the film below:

Dancing Starbucks Barista With Autism Appears on The Ellen Show

The dancing barista is having his dreams come true, thanks to Ellen DeGeneres. *Sign up for our Autism Newsletter* Sam Forbes, a 17-year-old high school student with autism from Toronto, Canada, is a Starbucks barista who rose to internet fame after a video of him dancing while he works went viral. Forbes has autism and dancing helps him concentrate on his work while channeling his jerky movements into productivity. Once told he’d never be able to hold a job because of his autism, Forbes is now a valued employee because his manager, Chris Ali, decided to give him the chance to succeed. He hired Forbes right away after meeting him and learning that one of his goals was to be a barista. “In that moment my life changed and my whole world changed,” Sam says in the video below. Forbes and Ali recently went on The Ellen Show to share their story and to offer encouragement to other people with autism who think they won’t be able to find a job, or to employers who are uncertain about hiring people with autism. While they were there, DeGeneres had a little bit of a surprise in store — She’s sending Forbes on his dream vacation to Japan. Watch Sam’s elated reaction to this news and get more on the story from the video below:

Advice from Special Needs Parents to Parents With Newly Diagnosed Kids

Getting a diagnosis you’re unfamiliar with, or one that comes with preconceived notions, is not always easy — especially when it’s your child’s diagnosis. Sometimes, the best way to gain understanding is to talk to  those who’ve been there before. We asked parents of children with special needs to share one thing they’d tell a parent whose child just got a diagnosis. This is what they had to say: 1. “Stop. Take a seat. Now take a deep breath. Breathe out slowly. Now set your shoulders, you will have a lot of doctor appointments, therapists, possible surgeries and challenges ahead. You can do this, and you’ll never have to do it alone. We are here for you. We have been there. We will make it together. From one special needs mom to another.” — Nikki Lynn Nichols 2. “You’ll meet many amazing people you would have never met if your child didn’t receive a diagnosis.” — Jennifer Joy Brooking 3. “The ‘label’ is just a name for what is/has been going on with your child. He is still the same child he was before and you are still his parent. Now you just have a starting place to help him.” — Renee Healey Nilson 4. “Now that you do have a diagnosis you have the power to learn all the new ways to embrace the uniqueness that is your son or daughter. Make games out of therapy, learn alongside them what methods work best and ignore those that don’t help.” — Shannon Miskimen 5. “Receiving an unexpected diagnosis is not easy… Go through all the emotions you need to. Then pick yourself up, look at your child and be the parent you always planned on being before this diagnosis showed up.” — Ash N John Bricker 6. “Never give up hope, never settle for what they say your child will not do, always focus on helping your child strive to do everything they can and want to do.” — Tabaitha Delight Travis 7. “Find your village, your people, your support. This will be family and old friends and new friends and most importantly other special needs parents. They get it. You will need to call them, cry to them, complain to them, ask them to do your laundry. They will all learn to love your kids almost as much as you do.” — Katie Smeltzer Ireland 8. “My life is different from everyone else who does not have a child with special needs, [but] I wouldn’t change a thing.” — Suzanne Lee 9. I was told my son would barely talk, that he wouldn’t be able to understand simple conversations or that public school would not be an option. He’s a seventh grade honors student. Never let anyone push you into underestimating your child.” — Tina Williams 10. “You won’t have all the answers yet. Be proactive, learn. Your providers/teachers/team are on your side and they want your little one to succeed. And when you think your plate is full, get a bigger plate.” — Molly Russell 11. “Focus on what your child can do instead of only what he/she can’t. Stop to enjoy the ‘small’ things and celebrate every success/achievement.” — Gabriel Casanova 12. “[Your] child is not the file/condition. See your child as an individual. Keep your eyes and heart on your child and you will have the strength to do and be what they will need to help them succeed.” — Jenafer Bauerle 13. “Fight for your child’s health and fight for the help your child needs. Also, don’t lose yourself caring for your child. You need to take care of yourself. Remember you are your child’s best advocates and you can’t take care of your child if you neglect yourself. It’s OK for you and your spouse to have date nights, you need them. It’s OK to get a sitter. I remember putting my child to bed and having a candlelight dinner with my hubby and watching a movie on the couch. Sometimes date night are at home, but it’s important for the little things.” — Mellonie Swinford 14. “Though it may be hard, try to find comfort in the diagnosis. You have answers and knowledge… Now that you are armed with this knowledge, you can focus on the best ways to support your child, get the services he or she needs and allow him or her to realize his or her full potential, whatever that might be.” — Leslie Linn Brown 15. “A diagnosis does not determine your child’s future. No doctor can tell you accurately what a typical child’s future will hold, so don’t pay too much attention to all the ‘can’t/won’t dos’ that are attached to a diagnosis” — Kristin Thomas Cutlip 16. “If life was easy, where would all the adventures be? Embrace every moment… Look at your little one for inspiration on your ‘bad’ days; their smile, their determination will pull you through.” — Annemarie Chapman 17. “You have more power than you think. Be a strong advocate to assure your child gets what he or she needs in school. Make sure your IEP plan includes everything your child needs.” — Kelli Kerns Brockington 18. “Respect your feelings. Your feelings will be like a roller coaster.”– Rosa Valledor 19. “Always follow your gut feelings. If something doesn’t feel or sound right, keep investigating. Don’t let educators, doctors, therapists or anyone talk you into something you are uncomfortable with. Keep pushing forward; you know your child better than anyone.” — Bonnie Phillips 20. “Right now you are probably pretty overwhelmed… but I promise you will find beauty in this new beginning.” — Lorrie Ashcraft Stewart 21. “Love your child. Stand up for what your child needs whether it is in an IEP meeting, going shopping or eating out at a restaurant. Try to educate your family and close friends about your child’s diagnosis. Some may not understand. Many may never try to understand. Just love your child and never let anyone mistreat them. Remember, you are not alone. Join a support group. Make friends with other parents who have a child with a similar diagnosis. Lastly, take it one day at a time.” — Renae Lewis Murphy If you’re a special needs parent, what’s one piece of advice you’d give to parents whose child just got a diagnosis? Let us know in the comments below!

Starbucks Barista Learns Sign Language for Deaf Customer, Gives Him Sweet Note

One barista’s simple gesture helped a deaf customer feel more understood. Ibby Piracha, a deaf man who’s a frequent customer at a Starbucks in Leesburg, Virginia, got a surprise when he stopped in on Friday, Feb. 19, according to a post on his Facebook page. Usually, Piracha writes down his order on the Notes app on his phone and then shows it to the cashier. This time, before he could do that, the barista signed to him in American Sign Language (ASL) asking for his drink order. Later, she passed him a note she’d written explaining that she had been learning ASL to better assist customers like him who may be hard of hearing. The note said, “I’ve been learning ASL so you can have the same experience as everyone else.”   Oh, I gotta love this place. Starbucks woman cashier, she wrote it to me and she knew I am deaf. I am surprised she…Posted by Ibby Piracha on Friday, February 19, 2016   His Facebook post read: Oh, I gotta love this place. The Starbucks woman cashier wrote it to me and she knew I am deaf. I am surprised she’s learning sign language because I attend Starbucks three times a week. She asked me, ‘What you want drink?’ in sign language. I am so blessed with her. I think she realized Leesburg, Virginia, has deaf people. Please share this post with everyone. I want hearing people [to] understand about [the] hearing community supporting the deaf community. “She was saying she looked on YouTube because she had a lot of customers that came in using text,” Piracha told ABC News. “I was very surprised she was willing to learn and it shows she respects deaf people, she’s an inspiration.” The manager of the Starbucks confirmed Piracha’s account of the interaction but wouldn’t name the employee. A Starbucks spokeswoman said the company was proud of her actions. Laura Friedman, Communications Manager for the Hearing Health Foundation, told The Mighty these kinds of incidents are heartening. “Communication is a key part of customer service,” Friedman said in an email. “It’s so encouraging to read this story of a cashier making efforts to bridge a communication barrier with her deaf customers.” This isn’t the first time Starbucks has made an effort to include people from the deaf community. In November, a drive-through Starbucks in St. Augustine, Florida, made headlines for its video monitor that allows deaf customers to order in sign language. Get more on the story from the video below:   h/t HuffPost Related: What the Starbucks Barista Didn’t Know When She Wrote ‘Smile’ on My Coffee