Shai Bearden

@shaiunleashed | contributor
Shai believes in supporting people through community and sisterhood. Find her on IG at @shaiunleashed, and
Community Voices

My Daughter Saved a Life Today, Because We Talk

My daughter, a 13-year-old Aspie warrior, struggles fiercely with #Depression and #Anxiety. I know this because we talk.

My big-hearted daughter, who once gave a complete stranger a year’s worth of saved change to help pay for her husband’s funeral. worries every day about her friends. They also struggle with depression. I know this, because we talk.

My daughter, the Rory to my Lorelai, openly gives me access to her world without hesitation. I don’t just ask – she invites me in. We trust each other – she trusts that I will handle all the things calmly and I trust that she will turn to me with all the things. We respect each other. We’re open. We discuss things like two humans who want to learn and grow from each other. If you haven’t caught on by now – we talk. A lot.

Tonight, a friend of my daughter threatened #Suicide during a chat on social media. She immediately came to me and let me know but, even if she didn’t I would have known quickly because her social media alerts on my phone. She, with her big heart and anxiety, went into a panic. I didn’t have contact info other than her mom’s first name. I didn’t know their address, but knew where they lived. My daughter and I hopped into our car and rushed to her house, calling non-emergency and giving dispatchers directions the best we could. We met our local officers at her friend’s house.

Her friend is safe.  She admitted to the threats as well as previous attempts and agreed to get help. The officers were getting ready to transport her to a children’s hospital for evaluation when we left, at which point my daughter emotionally collapsed. These babies are only thirteen.

I spoke to her mother today and her mother had no idea anything was even going on. She repeatedly thanked me, and my daughter, for jumping in like we did. We quite possibly saved her daughter’s life. How? Because we talk. We’re open. She trusts me. She knew how to do the right thing, and knew that I would support her friend and help. She knew this not just because I told her, but because I’ve shown her for years that she can talk and I will listen – really, really listen.

Parents, talk to your children. Start young. Be their rock. Open non-judgmental conversations. Build their trust. depression and anxiety in our teens is rampant, and we can save so many of them if we would just talk.

Shai Bearden

My Reality of Rheumatoid Arthritis at 32

I couldn’t do something for the first time today. Not “it hurts too much to do it.” I can power through that. Not, “I really shouldn’t do this” because my body is too fatigued or in too much pain. I very literally, physically could not do something. I might as well have been trying to lift a bus…only I wasn’t. I was trying to squeeze a small bottle of medicine for my son. As I stood staring at my hand as it was trying to squeeze a bottle, my entire inner being was in shock as it just…didn’t squeeze. My hand wouldn’t perform the simple movements needed. And I just kept repeating a panicked “My hand is not squeezing. This isn’t working!” in my head. It was like that scene in “Kill Bill” where Uma Thurman is sitting in the truck trying to will her toe to move. This lack of squeezing didn’t even hurt compared to a major flare. There was minimal pain involved, but loads of grief as I realized how rapidly I’m losing the ability to do basic tasks. When people think of rheumatoid arthritis (RA), they often think of older people with joint pain. In reality, RA is an extremely dynamic, multi-faceted illness. First, it affects people – especially women – of all ages. Second, it encompasses a lot more than joint pain. It’s an auto-immune disease related to inflammation and causes all sorts of things including fatigue, pain, sight problems, headaches, nerve and muscle pain and weakness – an extensive, laundry list of related issues. It should, in all reality, be called “rheumatic disease.” It affects the whole body. Basically, if the inflammation can cause just enough pressure in exactly the right (wrong?) spot, it can affect anything. If the auto-immune issues can stir up trouble related to colds and illnesses, they will, and you can get sick all the time. For me, however, my three year journey with rheumatoid arthritis been mostly extreme pain and fatigue. And I didn’t realize how lucky I was. Suddenly, the world is drunkenly blurry even with my glasses on. I have weird nerve pain on my scalp that feels like fire to touch along with dizziness and headaches, all because the inflammation in my neck is pressing on nerves at the top of my spine. My feet go numb and my legs go weak because the inflammation in my lumbar spine is pressing on those nerves, too. About a month ago, I noticed I suddenly have the beginnings of three rheumatoid nodules on my finger joints. I’ve had problems zipping my boots, turning the key in the door, and my fingers don’t want to type or hold my phone so I can text. And the hardest? I’ve almost dropped my son several times when trying to put him in his swing or picking him up. Today, I couldn’t squeeze a bottle. My hand just didn’t want to function that way and my other hand isn’t doing much better. It didn’t want to hold the baby and I had to shift arms. It didn’t want to pick up a lightweight, empty, plastic bowl and I dropped it in the floor and woke up the sick baby. Every time I try to do something, I can’t do it. I’ve known for several years that I have a horrible, degenerative disease and would progressively be in more and more pain. That scared me, of course, but I’m not too scared of pain. I don’t think it hit me until today, though, that there will be things I will actually not physically be capable of doing. Not because it hurts too much, but because my body won’t work the way it should. And, at 32, that’s already starting. I’ve never not been able to do something. I am terrified. I paint. I crochet. I work on a computer for a living. I have a teenager, a 6-year-old, and a new baby to play with, raise, and love on. My life revolves around the use of my hands. Will I even be able to help my youngest son button his shirts and tie his shoes in a few short years? Or paint with him as I did his older siblings? My happiness and spirit revolves around the use of my hands. So I’m going to go buy a stress ball to exercise my joints. Maybe some of those hilarious arthritis “make your life easy” tools you see on QVC so I can stop throwing kitchen utensils around in frustration. Breathe in healing. Remember not to take it out on my family because they love me and I may eventually need them to open doors and turn on my shower if I want to not stink or be able to get in the car. This is a part of my journey. And I don’t know why, but I have a feeling I’m about to learn a whole lot of lessons in humility, self-love, and who I am as a person without all my gadgets and talents and busy work. And, it’s scary. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Photo by Amanda Lovelace Photography