Stephanie Taylor

@stephanie-taylor | contributor

21 Tattoos Inspired by Borderline Personality Disorder

Editor’s note: If you struggle with self-harm, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, click here . People with borderline personality disorder (BPD) sometimes experience an unstable sense of self, often coupled with heightened emotions and black and white thinking. And while it’s sometimes easy for those with BPD to feel misunderstood, they want to be seen and heard like anyone else. Whether it’s a reminder to the world or for themselves, tattoos are often a beautiful way to tell these stories. We asked our mental health community to share their tattoos inspired by borderline personality disorder (BPD) and the stories behind them. Here is what they shared with us: 1. “My semicolon tattoo. I’m not supposed to have tattoos in my line of work, but this is my symbol of fighting. The fact that I made it to where I am now. It’s my favorite thing. ” — Kennedy W. 2. “I g ot this one last year after a few hard years with BPD and suicidal phases. Now I want to live and fight for my dreams and health. The tattoo is in a Disney design to remind me of my inner child who I want to protect and take care of. Stay strong everybody and fight.” — Kim K. 3. “ Latin for unbreakable. A constant reminder that when I feel like I’m breaking I’m actually getting stronger. ” –Ashleigh T. 4. “ I adore reading, and these runes are taken from my favorite books — they mean heal, strength, angelic power, fearless and love. To help me through the bad times.” – Courtney S. 5. “ Things are not always as they seem. This is my flower X-ray to symbolize that things may look good on the outside, but the inside is where the struggle lies .” — Amy K. 6. “T hrough my struggles over the last seven years, I have always tried to ‘get back to happy.’ Got this tattoo last year as a reminder to keep going and to keep working on getting back to happy.” — Alison T. 7. “ A stag to represent strength and courage. It’s half skull because of the times I wanted to give up. The flowers wrapped around its antlers symbolizes ‘a wound to heal.’ The arrow means no matter how much life pulls you back, you will go further in life. It’s not everyone’s taste, but I love the tattoo I designed for myself. It keeps me going through my battles.” — Chloe H. 8. “ My daughter’s compass to keep her heading in the right direction! She also has footprints on her other wrist to keep her moving forward. ” — Emma B. 9. “ This is a quote from ‘Doctor Who.’” –Milo M. 10. “ Diagnosed with BPD at 19 and got this two years after. It’s kept me going at times. ” –Anna L. 11. “G ot it about two years ago! When I look down at it in times of struggle, it reminds me to take a moment and breath!” — Beckie-Louise C. 12. “ Semicolon butterfly. Small but with meaning.” — Kate M. 13. “ Tears water the fallen leaves and in time the tree will regrow .” — Linzi D. 14. “ Keep fighting.” — Marie D. 15. “ Fall down seven times; stand up eight .” — Lana J. 16. 17. “ I myself, am made entirely of flaws, stitched together with good intentions.” — Mary D. 18. “ The orange ribbon represents self-injury awareness. The phrase is from a song my sister sent to me while I was in treatment. More than anything, at that time I needed to hear that I was more than my injury, more than my past and more than my diagnosis. This was five years ago. I am now married, graduating graduate school in May and a homeowner. I am more than what I spent years telling myself I was. ” — Darbi H. 19. “ I’m getting this done next month — a blue rose to represent my irrational choice of hair during my hardest period and a celtic to represent Boudicca because my mum has always called me her warrior queen .” –Isobel T. 20. “ I got this before I was diagnosed. This tattoo is inspired by a charity, To Write Love on Her Arms, which helps support victims of self-harm and suicidal thoughts. Love is the movemen t.” — Ashleigh B. 21. “ The arrow represents that I’m always moving forward and the heartbeat reminds me to ‘choose life.’” — Wendy E. If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page. If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here. Image via our Mental Health on The Mighty page.

24 Self-Care Tips for People With Mental Illness During the Holidays

With the hustle and bustle of the holiday season upon us, it’s easy to put self-care on the back burner. But mental illnesses or mental health challenges don’t take a break during the holidays, and neither should your well-being. Self-care should be a habit 365 days a year, seven days a week. To find out how our community practices self-care around the holidays, we asked: What’s one self-care tip you would give people struggling with their mental health this holiday season? Here’s what they had to say: 1. “Deactivate Facebook and focus on real world relationships. If you are alone, then attend your nearest church, mosque, library, community building and ask for help if you need it.” — Craig T. 2. “Don’t feel obligated to go see family. Take care of you first, and if that means saying no to a crowded holiday dinner at mom’s, then so be it.” — Amelia H. 3. “Keep up with your small acts of daily self-care — brush teeth, take vitamins, wash hair. It’s easy to let these little routines drop over a season with a different routine or no routine.” — Selina C. 4. “As silly as it sounds, just breathe! Take a moment to yourself and concentrate on your breathing. Feel the slow rise as the breath comes in and gentle puff as the breath goes out. Once in a rhythm, feel the gentle relaxing wave flow through your body.” — Rouanne C. 5. “Understand it’s OK to not be OK. Thinking you have to be happy throughout the holidays make them harder.” — Beth F. 6. “Don’t let negativity get to you. I know it’s hard, but try to stay with people who understand what you’re going through.” — Chris M. 7. “Remember to open up to at least one person… the one you dare to share every detail of your thought process with. Then, tell them what you need.” — Dayna G. 8. “Make lists, a list just for things you want to accomplish that week, that day or even that morning. Even if only one thing is on the list and you do it, you’ve just accomplished something you may have felt was too difficult or exhausting. You can replace those feelings of being overwhelmed with feelings of accomplishment.” — Wendy W. 9. “Be around people even if you can’t talk. Ask for hugs.” — Jessica W. 10. “If you need time and space, then take it. Be kind, but firm. Tell your relatives you need to step out for a minute, and you’ll be back in a little while.” — Elisa Z. 11. “Every time you think of something negative, remind yourself (with post-it notes perhaps) to write one good thing that has happened today.” — Rachel C. 12. “You don’t have to attend every holiday event.” — Jessica R.W. 13. “Get grounded. Stand with your knees ever so slightly bent and hip width apart and just breathe.” — Robin G. 14. “Stand a few minutes in the sun, especially in the cold months.” — Kasie G. 15. “Don’t let other people’s opinions get to you. Just be you and relax.” — Arianna A. 16. “Remember we’re here for you. You will never be alone. Even on your darkest days, you have us. We care about you….You matter.” — Adella S. 17. “Make your bed in the morning. Starting your day like this can help you feel productive, which can lead to a productive day overall.” — Amanda K. 18. “Leave a sticky note in the bathroom. Write whatever you want on it that will help you calm down.” — Ashley E. 19. “I am currently sitting in the parking lot waiting to get a mani/pedi. I think it is important to remember to take care of yourself in some way special.” — Carmen O. 20. “You’re entitled to leave any gathering whenever you want, and just because you might feel guilty about it doesn’t mean you did anything wrong.” — Mimi G. 21. “Put yourself first.” — Mariana C. 22. “If you have a pet, then be with them as much as possible.” — Lisa B. 23. “Create a gratitude journal. Reflect back on happy times. Go out of your way to be kind to someone.” — Brooke W. 24. “Sleep and water. Overtired and full of sugar is a nightmare for your mental health.” — Jody P. What would you add? Image via Thinkstock.

25 Songs to Help People With Depression Get Through the Holidays

Even though the holidays are supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year, for many people living with the depression, this is not the case. Depression affects people year round, and its immobilizing effects can be felt even when the chestnuts are roasting and the mistletoe is hanging. To find out what music helps those with depression cope, we asked our mental health community to tell us one song that helps them get through the holiday season. Here’s what they had to say: 1. “How Can It Be” by Lauren Daigle “It’s a powerful song that reminds me every day is a battle, but I believe Jesus Christ is always with me and with him I can do everything.” — Rocio P. “I’ve been hiding/ Afraid I’ve let you down, inside I doubt/ That You still love me/ But in Your eyes there’s only grace now.” 2. “Keep Breathing” by Ingrid Michaelson “A year round song that gets me through everything.” — Allison L. “I want to change the world, instead I sleep/ I want to believe in more than you and me/ But all that I know is I’m breathing/ All I can do is keep breathing/ All we can do is keep breathing.” 3. “Looking Too Closely” by Fink “Honestly, I think (it’s) the best song I’ve ever heard to help depression for me.” — Stuart M. “This is a song about somebody else/ So don’t worry yourself, worry yourself/ The devil’s right there right there in the details/ And you don’t wanna hurt yourself, hurt yourself.” 4. “Someday at Christmas” by Stevie Wonder “This song acknowledges the challenges in the world while envisioning a better future. It’s a song about hope. As long as people have hope, they can endure anything.” — Alicia M. “Someday at Christmas there’ll be no tears/ All men are equal and no men have fears/ One shining moment my heart ran away/ From our world today.” 5. “Don’t be So Hard on Yourself” by Jess Glynne “During this time, I tend to feel alone and like I’m not good enough, but this song really helps me through those tough times. It reminds that I’m good enough and deserve happiness.” — Erin W. “Don’t be so hard on yourself, no/ Learn to forgive, learn to let go/ Everyone trips, everyone falls/ So don’t be so hard on yourself, no.” 6. “This Is My Wish” by Kevin Ross “Best commercial holiday song ever. It keeps me feeling calm and I enjoy the message behind it.” — Erin C. “This is my wish, my wish for the world/ That peace would find it’s way to every boy and girl/ This is the time, the time for harmony/ Let love be the song/ That everybody sings.” 7. “All I Want for Christmas Is You” by Mariah Carey “When it comes on, I go full diva and forget everything else! All I want for Christmas is to be content.” — Bee N. “I don’t want a lot for Christmas/ There is just one thing I need/ I don’t care about the presents/ Underneath the Christmas tree/ I just want you for my own.” 8. “Last Hope” by Paramore “This song reminds me to search for and hold on to the little spark in every day, to not give in to the darkness.” — Amy H. “It’s just a spark but it’s enough to keep me going/  And when it’s dark out and no one’s around it keeps glowing/ It’s just a spark but it’s enough to keep me going/ And when it’s dark out and no one’s around it keeps glowing.” 9. “Breathe Me” by Sia “I’ve fallen asleep to this song on repeat for many years. Sounds like a sad song but it has a calming effect for me.” — Eleigh M. “Be my friend, hold me/ Wrap me up, unfold me/ I am small, and needy/ Warm me up, and breathe me.” 10. “If We Make It Through December” by Merle Haggard “My grandfather was dying of cancer, and he knew I was bring home my future husband home for Christmas. He told my grandma he wanted to, ‘make it through December’ like the song says.” — Julie B. “If we make it through December/ Everything’s gonna be all right I know/ It’s the coldest time of winter/ And I shiver when I see the falling snow.” 11. “Here Comes the Sun” by The Beatles “(It) always, always brings hope that it will be sunny again, and I’ll be here waiting for it to come out.” — Catherine B. “Little darling, it’s been a long cold lonely winter/ Little darling, it feels like years since it’s been here/ Here comes the sun/ Here comes the sun, and I say/ It’s all right.” 12. “Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays” by NSYNC “They make me feel warm inside.” — Michelle P. “It’s the best time of the year for the family/ It’s a wonderful feeling/ Feel the love in the room/ From the floor to the ceiling/ It’s that time of year/ Christmastime is here.” 13. “Winter Song” by Sara Bareilles and Ingrid Michaelson “It’s not upbeat. It’s not cheerful. It’s haunting in a way, but it calms.” — Angela T. “This is my winter song/ December never felt so wrong/ ‘Cause you’re not where you belong/ Inside my arms.” 14. “The Christmas Song” by Nat King Cole “(It) is nice to listen to when you’re looking to destress. It’s slow and steady tempo and smooth vocals are very relaxing.” — Ben B. “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire/ Jack Frost nipping at your nose/ Yule-tide carols being sung by a choir/ And folks dressed up like Eskimos.” 15. “Worn” by Tenth Avenue North “I’ve made mistakes/ I’ve let my hope fail/ My soul feels crushed/ By the weight of this world/ And I know that you can give me rest/ So I cry out with all that I have left.” 16. “Who You Are” by Jessie J. “It’s OK not to be OK/ Sometimes it’s hard to follow your heart/ Tears don’t mean you’re losing, everybody’s bruising/ Just be true to who you are!” 17. “Three Little Birds” by Bob Marley “No matter my mood, (it) makes me smile.” — Chris W. “Don’t worry about a thing/ ‘Cause every little thing gonna be all right/ Singing’ don’t worry about a thing/ ‘Cause every little thing gonna be all right.” 18. “Let It Snow” by Michael Buble “Can’t help my tap your toes, dance around the kitchen and maybe even smile as you sing.” — Brandee F. “Oh the weather outside is frightful/ But the fire is so delightful/ And since we’ve no place to go/ Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.” 19. “Hear Me” by Imagine Dragons “Can nobody hear me?/ I’ve got a lot that’s on my mind/ I cannot breathe/ Can you hear it, too?/ Can nobody hear me?” 20. “Skyscraper” by Demi Lovato “Every Demi Lovato song gets me through a hard time. I just switch off from the world whenever I’m listening to her and everything is OK again.” — Sarah S. “All my windows/ Still are broken/ But I’m standing on my feet.” 21. “Little Drummer Boy” by Pentatonix “I have no gift to bring/ Pa-rum-pum-pum-pum/ That’s fit to give our King/ Pa-rum-pum-pum-pum.” 22. “Where Are You Christmas” by Faith Hill “It’s sad. But somehow it helps.” — Nikki G. “Where are you Christmas/ Why can’t I find you/ Why have you gone away/ Where is the laughter/ You used to bring me/ Why can’t I hear music play.” 23. “O, Holy Night” by Josh Groban “(It) gives me a sense of peace this time of year and helps me remember the reason for the season.” — Heather R. “Fall on your knees/ Oh hear the angel voices/ Oh night divine/ Oh night when Christ was born/ Oh night divine, oh night, oh night divine.” 24. “Thy Will” by Heather Scott “Somehow I ended up here/ I don’t wanna think/ I may never understand/ That my broken heart is a part of your plan.” 25. “The Sun Is Rising” by Britt Nicole “Whatever you’re facing/ If your heart is breaking/ There’s a promise for the ones who just hold on/ Lift up your eyes and see/ The sun is rising.” What would you add? Image via Thinkstock.

Cancer: Why Just Being There for People Matters

I remember that day like it was yesterday. The last day I ever saw my grandmother. I stood at the sliding, wooden door that separated her kitchen from the stairs that led to the side door of the house. My grandmother sat, frail, skinny, hunched over in her chair in the kitchen. She looked so sad. She looked lonely. I was afraid. I was 15 at the time. It was the beginning of the year, early February and the VHS tapes (yes, VHS tapes) had just been released of my Christmas dance recital. It was a cold, snowy day in Michigan. My mom and I were at my grandmother’s house to help clean up, sort bills and take care of her. I remember it like it was yesterday. My grandmother was sick but not a normal everyday cold kind of sick. This was different. This wasn’t the woman I had always known. For my entire life, my grandmother was nothing short of a superhero. She was a sweet and gentle as Mother Teresa, as wise as Solomon and as fierce as a lion. She was Grandmother. She was my world. When she was diagnosed with breast cancer, she didn’t want me or any of her other grandchildren to know. She wanted to be strong. She wanted to beat it. After she beat the breast cancer, colon cancer came next. I never knew my grandmother had cancer until after she passed away. I suppose she wanted it that way because I would’ve had a hard time letting go of her. I would have wanted to save her. I remember the last time I saw her so well because of what happened that day. As my mom was helping feed and take my grandmother to the bathroom, I sat in the living room watching TV. My grandmother called to me and asked if I was ready to watch my Christmas dance recital video. We had talked about it for months now, and they had finally handed out the videos at school. I was so excited for her to see it since she had missed my recital. Yet, when the time came for us to watch the video together, of me in all my ballet and modern dance glory, I said no. I don’t know why exactly, if it was the teenage angst in me not wanting to do what I was told. Perhaps, I was just too restless from being in my grandmother’s house all day cleaning. I was ready to go. I left the tape, and I think I told my grandmother we could watch it later. The last time I saw her was when I slid that wooden door to her kitchen and walked out into the cold, Michigan air. I regret that moment so much. How I wish I could go back and just be. I’d go back and watch that silly dance recital video with my grandmother. I wouldn’t have been in such a hurry to go. I would’ve sat next to my grandmother, rested my head on her lap and laughed at the silly costumes we had to wear. I would’ve told her the parts of the choreography I struggled with. I would’ve pointed out the parts where I messed up, but no one could tell. I would’ve stayed with her. I would’ve held her hand. I would’ve told her how much I loved her. I have would just been. I got another lesson on “just being” that same year when my closest friend came into the girls’ locker room to find me. I was changing for dance class, and she came in the room trying her best to hold back tears. She told me her cancer had come back. She was afraid, and she came to tell me. Out of all her friends, she came and found me. I don’t know what level of profundity a 15-year-old girl is expected to have, but again, I didn’t know what to do. It reminded me of my grandmother, when she was sick and frail. I was afraid. So I just hugged my friend. We stood there, her crying and me holding her in the girls’ locker room. We stood. We cried. We embraced. Her mom stood watching us, and she let us just be. I wouldn’t change that moment for the world. Two years later, in our senior year of high school, my friend passed away. I still hold that memory of us in the locker room tight. We don’t always have the most eloquent or beautiful words. We don’t have the right words or answers, no matter how much we want to. Sometimes, it is just a matter of being. Just being there through the hurt, the scary diagnoses and the uncertainty. There is so much power, so much unknown healing, in just sitting with someone in all of life’s hurt and confusion and just being. Image via Thinkstock. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here. The Mighty, in partnership with Fuck Cancer, is asking the following: Share a story about one moment or conversation related to a cancer diagnosis or experience that made an impact on you. Find out how to email us a story submission here .

How to Cope With Life With a Mood Disorder

Mood disorders, which affect about 20.9 million Americans in a given year, can often be isolating because of the stigma attached to them. And offers of unhelpful (and many times unsolicited) advice on how to cope can leave people feeling more misunderstood, and without the help they need. So, we partnered with the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) to ask people who live with mood disorders to share pieces of advice they’ve actually found to be helpful. Here’s what they had to say: 1. “You don’t have to live in constant antagonism with your mood disorders. You don’t have to view your mood disorder as something wrong with you or something hindering your life that needs to be fixed. Once you start to view your mood disorder as a part of who you are that cannot be changed, then you can start an open conversation with yourself about it.” — Grace P. 2. “Become self-aware of your feelings, triggers and how your environment affects you. Knowing yourself, I find, gives you more control over your bipolar diagnosis.” — Bonnie M. 3. “Stay connected. Do not allow yourself to become isolated, alone and swimming about deep inside your own head all the time. There are people out there who can support you and anchor you in a meaningful reality.” — Samuel R. 4. “Don’t let the depression rob you of the joys of life.” — Lisa H. 5. “One day at a time, especially when things seem to be at their worst.” — Mary S. 6. “I feel like this today. Tomorrow is new day.” — Sandi B.Y. 7. “It’s OK to sleep a whole day, really. It’s OK to just not do anything.” — Alexandra V. 8. “Don’t be too hard on yourself. Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent.” –Shauna S. 9. “It’s not weak to ask for help.” — Becki B. 10. “It’s OK to blow off a day and rest/reset. It’s not the end of the world to take a day. The world will still be there tomorrow.” — Joy M. A. 11. “Look after yourself first.” — Louise G. 12. “Learn to accept your diagnosis.” — Jennifer P. 13. “Remember everything is temporary. This too shall pass.” — Jennifer G. 14. “It is not wrong for you to have a brain that operates differently than others. Your experiences are not wrong. They are valid and deserved to be heard.” — Nicole V.L.M. 15. “Reward yourself for what you accomplish or successfully handled every day.” — Kirstie H. C. 16. “When you think you’re losing control or are overwhelmed by your racing thoughts, concentrate on being ‘grounded.’ Sit with at least two feet on the ground and try to focus on how each individual part of your body feels. Start with your toes, how they feel on the ground under them and go all the way up to your hair. Much like a meditation.” — Patrick M. 17. “Be prepared to never be 100 percent, but always strive to live in the moment.” — Stefanie J. 18. “Don’t fight it. Accept where you are at.” — Dianne P. 19. “Be honest and real about how you are feeling to your therapists.” — Chris M. 20. “Keep up with doctor/therapy appointments and focus on what works best for yourself.” –Victoria P. 21. “Stop worrying about society’s perceived thoughts about you as a person with a mood disorder. They are not living your life, they don’t know what’s best for you and therefore their opinion means squat.” — Belinda Z. 22. “Educate yourself on your illness and never be defined by a diagnosis. Ultimately, it’s up to you. Everyone has a cross to bear.” — Jodie S. 23. “Remember it’s not your fault.” — John G. 24. “You need to forget the word ‘should.’ It creates the worst feelings about yourself.” — Prue W. 25. “It’s OK to have your feelings.” — Lisa F. 26. “Stand up for yourself.” — Kari S. 27. “As cliché as it sounds, you are not alone. You will hear that statement more than any other throughout your struggle and, although you may not believe it now, it is completely true.” –Jacob M. To learn more about DBSA’s “I’m Here” campaign, click here. I’m here… is a program brought to you by DBSA made possible through the support of Rebecca’s Dream® Foundation.

Why Talking About My Mom’s Bipolar Disorder Helps Me Cope

The first time I told someone my mom has bipolar disorder was my freshman year of college. I was sitting in a cafe on campus, bags under my eyes, hair in a disheveled bun, my clothes wrinkled and oversized from all the weight I had lost. From working part-time to going to school full-time to managing visits to inpatient care, the ER, courtrooms, police stations and therapists’ offices, I was more stressed than I had ever been in my 18 years of life. I remember feeling tension in my chest to such an extent that even inhaling hurt. I never knew what anxiety felt like until my mom’s illness. For much of the first year of her diagnosis, my mom’s mental illness was our immediate family’s “not so little” secret. We began telling my mom’s sisters and best friend in increments. We knew we couldn’t hide it forever. I had never told anyone about my mom on my own. My mom’s mental illness was something I carried on my shoulders. I was there to support my dad and to see my mom got the help she needed, but it was a quiet secret. It was like living a double-life, where I’d go to school and work as this seemingly happy girl and then go home to uncertainty and fear of what would happen next. I remember the day I told the first friend of mine about my mom. I remember the words pouring out of my mouth like hot lava. I remember the fear of being judged or looked at differently. I remember the longing to not feel so alone in caring for a parent who was mentally ill. I remember the desire to be seen and known by a friend, to allow someone into the more secret corridors of my life, to not feel so alone. The moment I opened up, I felt as if a balloon burst. All the pressure pent up in my chest immediately released. Luckily for me, the friend whom I first shared my “deep, dark secret” with met me with understanding, grace and a listening ear. I will never forget that moment or that friend. It was because of her and her acceptance of not only my mom, but me, the daughter of someone with a mental illness, that I grew the strength and courage to be open about my mom’s story in college and long after. The more I shared my story and my mom’s story, the more I found people who either had a mental illness or knew someone with a mental illness. The more I shared, the less alone I felt. My first college roommate shared with me about her stepbrother with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. One of my oldest childhood friends told me her aunt has bipolar disorder. I had known her since we were 13 and didn’t find this out for another seven years into our friendship. The president of my sorority shared her story of having a mom with bipolar disorder. The list goes on and on. It’s funny. So often we are afraid to be honest, to be candid, to be real. We fear sharing our struggles and our hurts out of fear of being judged or treated differently. The more I share my story and my mom’s, the more I see her story, our story, isn’t so rare. The more I share, the stronger I am and the more I heal from my own hurt. It’s a powerful thing: honesty, vulnerability, transparency. Once, I sat in a support group for children and family members of people with mental illnesses. I was the youngest person there. Everyone in the group was likely my parents’ age or older. They were surprised someone so young would be at a support group, but even more so, I think they were surprised I was sharing such a hard story so openly. I have come to terms with the fact that I will never know the, “Why?” Why my mom? Why my family? These are questions I used to ask. Instead, what I now choose to ask myself is: What will I do with this? What will I do with the hand that has been dealt with me? I’ve decided not to let it eat me alive. I’ve decided to share with other people as a means of learning from their experience and perhaps to help them by sharing mine. It isn’t easy. I have learned just because a picture isn’t perfect doesn’t mean it doesn’t still have beauty in it. My family is different. My story is different. My mom has a mental illness. I don’t have all the answers, but I know I am stronger because of what I’ve been through. I am more brave having learned the power in sharing my story. Image via Thinkstock.

What People With Arthritis Want You to Know

Arthritis, the leading cause of disability in America, is a degenerative and inflammatory disease that affects the joints. It has several types, the most severe of which can be deadly. While the cause of arthritis is still not fully understood, approximately 50 million Americans live with a form of the condition — equivalent to 1 in 5 people. Despite that number, a lot of misconceptions exist around arthritis, even among friends and loved ones of people living with it. We partnered with The Arthritis National Research Foundation to raise awareness surrounding this complex disease. We asked readers: What are some things you wish others understood about living with arthritis? This is what they had to say: 1. “The pain can cause depression. At night it hurts so bad, I don’t want to wake up the next morning.” — Marielle White 2. “We are not faking it. It’s real, and it hurts.” — Annie Seifert 3. “It’s not our fault! People living with arthritis are often blamed.” — Donna Henry Bisogno 4. “It affects many children. Often I hear how young I am to have rheumatoid arthritis (I’m 34). When I tell people I was diagnosed at age 2, they can’t believe it. I wish people understood it’s not arthritis that comes with old age. RA is a disease that mistakes my joints as invaders and sends my immune system into attack mode.” — Jennifer Brennan Leach 5. “RA /autoimmune patients are the best actors out there. We push through every day despite how we feel.” — Sonya Enslow Caudie 6. “Every day can be different.” — Marcy Wysocki 7. “Some of us get sick easily. The medications we take to keep our disease in check lowers our immune system. That means the slight cold you have will probably turn into bronchitis or pneumonia if I catch it. We can’t fight off infections like healthy people.” Stacey Howe 8. “I feel sad and lonely about missing out.” — Julie Max 9. “We might look ‘normal.’ But the pain is sometimes so unbearable all over our bodies that it feels like broken bones, muscles and ligaments.” — Melanie Mulliken 10. “We aren’t lazy. We are just trying to thrive.” — Lori Rodriguez 11. “My illness is serious, but it doesn’t mean I’m checked out on life. I still want a dream career, to travel the world and do the impossible.” — Valerie Webster 12. “I don’t want to be ‘the sick girl,’ but it’s impossible not to have RA permeate every aspect of my life because it’s always there in the pain and fatigue.” — Rene Baloge 13. “I’m not super woman just because I don’t look sick on the outside!” — Mandy Dawkins 14. “It is not the same pain everyone is always using for comparison. Before my diagnosis I’d never experienced pain like the pain from this disease. It is pain that nobody can possibly fathom until they feel it personally.” — Jeanie Parker 15. “I can feel OK one day and be sick/fatigued/in pain the next. Living with this illness that has no schedule and a mind of its own isn’t easy to plan my life around.” — Candi Wilson 16. “Even after 10 hours of sleep, my body may feel as though I have just ran 5 miles, have the flu and have just been in a car wreck, all at once!” — Lynn Harrison 17. “I do not fake my disease. Some days I am fine… some days I kick my own ass.” — Brandy Abernethy 18. “It’s unpredictable. I’m constantly making plans and then having to cancel because my body is not cooperating. Constantly living with pain and/or extreme fatigue can break your spirit and make you want to disconnect from the world.” — Julier Ober Stebbens 19. “My disease is not the same thing as osteoarthritis. No, your ‘grandma’s knee problems’ are not the same thing as my systemic, debilitating, lifelong disease.” — Katie Jo Ramsey 20. “Read, learn and appreciate the Spoon Theory — that’s the best way to explain the battle.” — Crystal Sumner What are some things you wish others understood about living with arthritis? Let us know in the comments.

Speaking Up About Family's History of Mental Illness

I never met my grandfather. He died by suicide when my mom was just a little girl. The story: a veteran, a father with four little girls waiting at home, my mom being one, got drunk one night and fell off the Ambassador Bridge. That’s the story, at least the one my mom and her sisters were told to tell all the kids at school. When I started college, my mom started acting strangely. On Valentine’s Day of that year I remember she went missing. No phone call, no note, nothing, just gone. Little did I know that would be the first of many of her disappearing acts. A few months later she was diagnosed as manic depressive, or bipolar. These are a few of my “family secrets,” the things no one ever spoke about, the things that I wouldn’t learn until early adulthood, the things that I would find out inadvertently through a slip up in a conversation or through some disastrous turn of events. These are the things my family was too afraid to talk about. I first started dealing with depression when I was in high school. It’s hard to exactly pinpoint when I had my first bout of depression. I just remember the numbing feeling. It was like someone had turned off all the lights inside of me, and I couldn’t get them to turn back on. I remember feeling alone, yet all the while wanting to be left alone. I didn’t want anyone’s pity or to hear the looming question, “What’s wrong with you?” Because truthfully, I did not know what was wrong with me. I did not know why I suddenly was dealing with this ugly monster of depression, this shadow that never left my side. I would deal with periods of depression for weeks at a time and sometimes longer. I’d have thoughts, like “Why am I even here?” or “If I were to disappear, no one would even notice,” or “No one would miss me if I was gone,” but I was too afraid to take my own life. I remember thinking what a failure I was. I felt so useless. No one knew. No one knew I was walking through depression on and off throughout high school and college. I never told a soul. I felt so ashamed. Here I am, this girl involved in church and school, honor roll student, school newspaper editor, student government leader, pageant girl (basically the classic overachiever), struggling with thoughts of depression and suicide. I felt so ashamed. Who would believe me? Would people treat me differently? Would they laugh? If they knew I was struggling with something so heavy, would anyone stay? To this day, I still occasionally deal with heavy thoughts, but those times of heaviness are a lot more few and far between. I have learned and am still learning to ask for help when I need it. I have learned that my voice is my most powerful tool, to say things like, “I am not OK,” or “I need help,” or “I need to rest.” My faith in God helps a lot, too. I have learned and am still learning to put my hope in someone so much bigger than me. I understand now that my “family’s secrets” are not something I have to walk in the shadow of the rest of my life. Each day, I can choose to hope. I can choose to live. I can choose, in those heavy moments of life, to take my thoughts captive and replace them with truths. I can choose to exercise discipline over my mind and choose my thoughts carefully. I can choose to ask for help. I can choose to speak up, even if it’s hard or my voice shakes a bit. I choose. When my vision gets a little blurry and when I am too weak to find my way back to a positive place, I find comfort in friendships that will reroute me back to a healthy place. They open up the curtains and remind me to let the light in. I find comfort in friends who reflect compassion, empathy, understanding, patience and humility. They remind me I am not alone. When I hear stories of people who have taken their own lives, I have deep sense of understanding for them that I cannot explain. Some may call them, cowardly, weak or selfish. When I hear these stories, I see men and women, girls and boys who simply lost hope. They are people who got tired and they couldn’t find light anymore. For anyone who has ever struggled with depression or mental illness of any kind, if we were together at this every moment, I’d give you my hand and hold yours tight. Because I have been there, too. I was once so ashamed of my story, but now I see so much purpose in it, to bring hope to people who are still hurting. Secrets can weigh you down, isolate and make you feel ashamed. My family’s secrets are not a cross I have to bear. I am free to let them go, to talk about them, to not allow them to become my story. Remember: There is always, always hope. Don’t forget. Even on your worst day. Even when the phone stops ringing. Even when you feel unlovable and unloved. Even when you feel ashamed. Even when you feel alone. Don’t give up. Please, don’t give up. There’s a bigger picture than you can imagine right now. There is purpose in your pain. You have a story to tell. You are here to help someone else. You are never alone. There is always hope. Don’t forget it. With hope, Stephanie K. Taylor

What Lupus Is Really Like

Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease where the immune system creates antibodies that attack the body’s own tissues. It affects an estimated 1.5 million Americans. No two cases of lupus are the same. Symptoms can range from intense fatigue and exhaustion, joint pain, memory problems, skin rashes, kidney problems, lung inflammation, depression and sensitivity to the sun. In honor of May being National Lupus Awareness Month, The Mighty partnered with S.L.E. Lupus and the Lupus Research Institute to raise awareness. We asked Facebook communities here and here: How would you describe lupus to someone who doesn’t know what it is? These are their responses: 1. “Lupus is losing yourself. Lupus is taking it day by day. Lupus is a thief of joy and overall health. Lupus is dealing with side effects head to toe. Lupus is finding yourself wishing for the days before ‘you were sick.’ Lupus is a mystery.” — Alyssa G. 2. “Lupus is my evil twin, looking at a broken mirror.” — Lisa C. 3. “It makes you so tired, as if you are lugging around something that weighs a ton and you have to push yourself to move.” — Heather F. 4. “Lupus is a test of strength. It is learning how to live each day no matter the consequences. Lupus does not understand I need to get out of bed; it challenges you to sit up, put your feet on the floor and stand. Some days you win, some days you lose, but you never give up!” — Jennifer P. 5. “Lupus is a like a gag gift. The outside of the package looks good, but the inside of the package, which no one can see, is actually pretty ugly.” — Bernadette S. 6. “Lupus is like a chameleon. It changes daily, sometimes hourly. You never know what symptoms you will wake up with.” — Melanie M. 7. “I told my girlfriend that my body’s cleaning lady (my immune system)… started to rip the couches (my kidneys) to shreds instead making sure the trash was getting taken out (toxins when I go potty).” — Paige D. 8. “Lupus gives you strength in ways you never thought you had but takes away that strength at any possible moment.” — Valerie T. 9. “One day, I feel so great I could hug strangers. The next day I mess myself up and can’t get out of bed.” — Amanda C. 10. “Imagine the time you had the flu. Now triple the exhaustion, the pain, the sick feeling. Imagine never feeling better.” — Shonda D. 11. “I’ve heard lupus called a roller coaster ride, an invisible illness, being allergic to yourself, a medical mystery, the Great Imitator, a civil war, the ‘Cruel Mystery’ and a daily roulette game… just by my doctors and nurses alone. If my doctors feel this way, imagine how you feel going through it every day.” — Courtney A. 12. “Lupus is life-changing — and not in the good way.” — Dena D. 13. “Explaining to someone what it’s like to have this debilitating disease is hard. We all look normal on the outside, but on the inside we’re screaming to get out of the body that is wracked daily with pain, fevers and fatigue.” — Tammy K. 14. “A long winding road with many turns and bumps.” — Nicole L. 15. “As a child, my father said I was born tired. I will never forget that. I fatigued quicker than any of my friends, have had stomach aches and vomiting since childhood. But carried on. As I got older symptoms worsened, became more complex, involved more organs. Finally a diagnosis… I’m not crazy after all.” — Cynthia L. 16. “My body thinks I myself am a virus. By doing its job in protecting me, it is in fact destroying me.”  — Amanda T. 17. “Lupus is a daily reminder that you can’t take life for granted.” — Demi L. 18. “It is like standing on the edge of a cliff. You never know if the strong wind of pain, fatigue, infection, weight gain, swelling, memory loss, etc., will blow you off the cliff and land you in the hospital.” — Wanda M. 19. “Lupus is unpredictable. It shows up whenever it wants and wherever it wants. It tries to destroy you everywhere. You only have a little time to do things before you can’t do them anymore. My hands are hurting badly from writing this…” — Sara G. 20. “Sometimes the simplest way to describe it is that I am allergic to myself.” — Tracey K. 21. “ It’s watching your hair fall from your scalp and knowing there’s nothing you can do about it. It’s remembering to take medication daily. It’s staying in on days/nights to heal while your friends/family are out having a good time. It’s wondering whether or not your body will be strong enough to do things like have children. It’s hoping that the loved ones in your life will support and understand. Lupus, it’s my life.” — Amanda G. 22. “Lupus is a civil war inside your body. Both sides mean well, but they are both hurting each other in an effort to save the one thing that they are making suffer, you.” — Kelli B. 23. “I would describe lupus as a terrorist that takes your body hostage and has no mercy.” — Kristy W. 24. “It is isolating, painful, nauseating, draining, confusing, hurtful, frustrating, depressing, and overwhelming.” — Ashley S. 25. “Lupus is like a box of chocolates… you never know what you’re gonna get!” — Jane T. 26. “Lupus is hair loss, swollen hands, joint pains, but on the other side it is a good friend who teaches you to love life more than ever and who teaches you to fight against all the negativity.” — Bengu L. How would you describe lupus to someone who’s unfamiliar with it? Let us know in the comments below.

WNBA'S Jewell Loyd Shares Dyslexia Story on Times Square Billboard

WNBA star Jewell Loyd’s face is plastered on a 32-story, three panel LED billboard in Times Square for one purpose: to tell her story about living with dyslexia and to encourage others to do the same. The billboard is a part of the Share-Ability campaign by Eye to Eye, a mentoring group for and by people with learning disabilities. .@jewellloyd & @E2ENational launched #ShareAbility in Times Square! Join Jewell in sharing your #LD story. #Dyslexia pic.twitter.com/wElmtqQXkl— Seattle Storm (@seattlestorm) March 9, 2016 The mission is to encourage “different thinkers,” or people who have learning disabilities, to share their stories. More than 20 percent of the U.S. population (1 in 5 children) who have learning disabilities. “I believe that sharing my story is one of the most powerful things I can do,” the 22-year-old Seattle Storm guard said in an Eye to Eye press release. Loyd, the 2015 WNBA Rookie of the Year, is one of many athletes partaking in Eye to Eye’s Share-Ability campaign, joining the ranks of Indy500 race car drivers Sir Jackie Stewart and the late Justin Wilson, who both had dyslexia. Her story is the first to be featured on a Times Square billboard. At age 12, after struggling in school and being accused of being lazy by teachers, Loyd learned she was dyslexic. She recalls the term “learning disability” initially freaking her out. “I wondered, ‘What are my friends going to say,” she said in the press release. “I was afraid people would think I was stupid.” Neat going through Times Square and seeing @jewellloyd as E2E launch #ShareAbility campaign pic.twitter.com/RQZDXKWQ6N — Doug Feinberg (@DougFeinberg) March 9, 2016 Loyd is also an Honorary Eye to Eye Diplomat, where she mentors and advocates for kids with learning disabilities. When it comes to serving as a role model, Loyd encourages kids to turn disability into ability and to live by her motto, “You have no idea how able I am.” Her ultimate goal through the #Share-Ability campaign: helping kids change their lives and dream big. “I want to encourage kids with learning disabilities to be proud and dream big,” she said. “To think that I am able to change lives is really such a dream come true.”