Brittney

@yenttirb | contributor
 
Brittney
Brittney @yenttirb
contributor

Choosing the Right Mobility Aid

Let’s talk about mobility devices, and how to choose the right one for you.When it comes to mobility aids, there are so many options within options, because most of the time whichever aid or aids you choose can and will be modified to fit your body and your needs. But there are a few basic categories of mobility aid types. Walking aids There are many walking aids such as canes, crutches, cane-crutch hybrids, walkers, walker-cane hybrids, or gait trainers. These kinds of mobility aids are typically used if you need a little extra support and stability while walking — a place to bear weight to reduce the strain on muscles and joints. These devices can help you get in motion and stay in motion. I do want to mention there are some sub-categories here, such as what I’m going to call a knee walker. This is something you would use if you need assistance because of a knee, hip or foot problem. There are seated rolling walkers too, if you want to walk and also be able to rest when needed. Wheelchairs and scooters If you’re someone who is not able to walk, either at all or for long distances, there are different wheeled independence aids. The most common is a wheelchair; there really are only two different types. A manual wheelchair allows you to be mobile through the use of your arms and legs or via another person pushing you. There is also a power wheelchair, which is an electric wheelchair controlled by you. There are so many ways power chairs can be adapted to suit people’s needs — some people drive with their eyes! If you can’t use a manual wheelchair, but also don’t think you need a power chair, there are mobility scooters. Trailblazing aids When it comes to mobility aids and assistive devices, you need to keep an open mind and always be exploring and trying out new things. In this article I talk about mobility aids, but there also are assistive technologies and devices for other challenges besides that are gaining ground and giving people their independence back. These range from hand controls that allow people with mobility issues to drive without touching the pedals, to an exoskeleton which is designed to aid people who perform physical labor. There also are “small” things like hearing aids, shoe horns, or sock aids.I think you should have multiple mobility aids so you can pick and choose what you need when you need it. I walk with a walker most of the time. I own a manual wheelchair. I got a mobility scooter recently, and for five years I owned a power chair. So I guess you could say I have options — as I should — and you should too!

Brittney
Brittney @yenttirb
contributor

Choosing the Right Mobility Aid

Let’s talk about mobility devices, and how to choose the right one for you.When it comes to mobility aids, there are so many options within options, because most of the time whichever aid or aids you choose can and will be modified to fit your body and your needs. But there are a few basic categories of mobility aid types. Walking aids There are many walking aids such as canes, crutches, cane-crutch hybrids, walkers, walker-cane hybrids, or gait trainers. These kinds of mobility aids are typically used if you need a little extra support and stability while walking — a place to bear weight to reduce the strain on muscles and joints. These devices can help you get in motion and stay in motion. I do want to mention there are some sub-categories here, such as what I’m going to call a knee walker. This is something you would use if you need assistance because of a knee, hip or foot problem. There are seated rolling walkers too, if you want to walk and also be able to rest when needed. Wheelchairs and scooters If you’re someone who is not able to walk, either at all or for long distances, there are different wheeled independence aids. The most common is a wheelchair; there really are only two different types. A manual wheelchair allows you to be mobile through the use of your arms and legs or via another person pushing you. There is also a power wheelchair, which is an electric wheelchair controlled by you. There are so many ways power chairs can be adapted to suit people’s needs — some people drive with their eyes! If you can’t use a manual wheelchair, but also don’t think you need a power chair, there are mobility scooters. Trailblazing aids When it comes to mobility aids and assistive devices, you need to keep an open mind and always be exploring and trying out new things. In this article I talk about mobility aids, but there also are assistive technologies and devices for other challenges besides that are gaining ground and giving people their independence back. These range from hand controls that allow people with mobility issues to drive without touching the pedals, to an exoskeleton which is designed to aid people who perform physical labor. There also are “small” things like hearing aids, shoe horns, or sock aids.I think you should have multiple mobility aids so you can pick and choose what you need when you need it. I walk with a walker most of the time. I own a manual wheelchair. I got a mobility scooter recently, and for five years I owned a power chair. So I guess you could say I have options — as I should — and you should too!

Heidi HD

When Anxiety Presents as Anger, Not Fear

I have been anxious for as long as I can remember. I grew from an awkward and anxious child to an awkward and anxious adult. As a teenager I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression, but it was only as an adult that I learned more about what it actually means to be anxious. Having anxiety doesn’t just mean being nervous or worrying. When my mind starts racing and I can’t decide which thing to think about, that’s anxiety. When my chest feels like it’s going to explode from pressure, that’s anxiety. When I snap at a co-worker for no reason at all, or I am inexplicably moody, that’s anxiety. When I spend the entire weekend wondering if I’ll be fired for something I said on Friday, that’s anxiety. When I randomly start crying, or laughing, or jumping up and down, that’s anxiety. When I flake on plans at the last minute, you can bet it’s because of anxiety. Anxiety presents in lots of ways that may not be obvious. Unfortunately for me, most of the time mine presents as anger. What does that mean? It means when I feel anxious on the inside, it manifests itself on the outside as me being pissed off. So when I was a kid and my sister was comforted for being upset, I was scolded for losing my temper. Not that I hold anything against my parents, because I really was a little shit. Back then my anger-anxiety looked like me losing my temper all the time. When I lost a video game, I would throw the controller. When my sister teased me, I would hit her. Tiny triggers were huge triggers, and my level of anger-anxiety varied from moment to moment. Now, with the help of medication, my anger-anxiety is more subtle, but still debilitating at times. Anxiety makes me snap a response without thinking and what I say sounds way different in my head than it did coming out of my mouth so I think about it constantly for several days, but I am also too anxious to correct what I said in the first place. It’s a snowball effect that can get out of control. When I talk negatively, complain, or rant, that’s usually anxiety. Even as I type this, my chest feels like it is being stepped on by a stiletto heel. That’s anxiety. I don’t want to be irritable, or mean, or moody. I do everything I can to control it, but sometimes that’s not good enough. Sometimes I still snap, for seemingly no reason. The reason is anxiety. Please try to be patient. MORE ABOUT ANXIETY: While everyone experiences some level of anxiety , not everyone has an anxiety disorder . For those with anxiety disorders, anxiety can become so severe and persistent, it interferes with their daily life and functioning. Anxiety disorder symptoms include excessive worry, panic attacks and other physical symptoms including shortness of breath, nausea, headaches and tremors. Click here to join our anxiety community and connect with people who get it.

Brittney
Brittney @yenttirb
contributor

The Hardest Parts of Having a Chronic Disease

For me, the hardest part of living with a chronic illness is not the years you spend waiting for a diagnosis. It’s not the hundreds of doctor appointments and different specialists you see when you’re trying to get someone to listen to you and understand something is really wrong with you. It’s not the waiting game you play in the waiting room with yourself as you look around at people who look more ill than you. It’s not the mountains of paperwork and referral papers you constantly have to fill out and hang onto. It isn’t how long it takes to find the right combination of medicine to treat your symptoms, and it’s not the fact that you start your day with a cocktail of medications just to be able to function as you did before. No. The hardest part about living with a chronic illness, for me, is crying on the way to the 12th doctor you’ve seen this month because you’re in pain and you fear this doctor won’t believe you either. It is the guilt that comes with having to call off another day of work — the third day this week. It is looking around the waiting room and seeing people in much worse states than yourself, and feeling guilty. It is the guilt that washes over you when you have to cancel plans on your friends and family, again. It is the time you spend trying to come up with a way to get out of the plans that you have. It is the back and forth game you play with honesty, because you don’t want your mother to know how bad you are feeling or that anything is wrong. The hardest part about living with a chronic illness is having to start over. The hardest part about living with a chronic illness is having to find a new career, new passions, a new group of friends. The hardest part about living with a chronic illness is feeling like you don’t know yourself anymore, and feeling like a stranger in your own body as it transforms beyond your control. The hardest part about living with a chronic illness is suddenly having new or worsening mental health problems that no one seems to understand — not even yourself. The hardest part about living with a chronic illness is having to explain your new life to people. The hardest part about living with a chronic illness is having to explain your new life to yourself. It is finding a new normal. The hardest part about living with a chronic illness is finding peace with the life that you lived and the life that you will live. The hardest part about living with a chronic illness is finding new friends and finding support from your family. It is having to make the choice that some relationships are not worth continuing or trying to repair. The hardest part about living with a chronic illness is knowing that your illness is chronic — you have to live with it. This blog was originally published on Cerebral Palsy News Today. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Thinkstock photo by Grandfailure

Brittney
Brittney @yenttirb
contributor

Inside an Anxiety Attack: Worrying About Everything, All at Once

I have wanted to write this column for a while, but it’s so hard to find the words to describe anxiety attacks. It’s even harder to write about this topic when I know that anxiety presents itself differently in everyone, brought on by different triggers that manifest in many ways. Add in that these topics are taboo in conversation. Yeah, I have anxiety about writing about anxiety, but here we go. This is what an anxiety attack feels like for me. I mentioned in a previous column the symptoms and feelings I had when I forgot to take my anti-anxiety medicine one morning. Some of those things included feelings of bees buzzing in my head, my mind swimming with thoughts without any clear focus. I described my body feeling like Jell-O and my head and fingers feeling miles apart as I typed. But there’s more. Inside these moments, my stomach is twisted, a cold, hard knot that seems to sit in my pelvis instead of where your stomach is supposed to sit. My hands get clammy and sweaty. My legs feel heavy. My mouth is filled with extra salvia. Every sound and every movement around me seems 10 times louder than I know it actually is. I feel trapped, even in an open space. I can feel my whole body tense up. I want to run. Sometimes I dry heave. My cheeks flush with embarrassment, even when I’m alone. Deep down, I think I feel shameful about these attacks. Why do they have to happen to me? I don’t know, but I’ve been trying to come to terms with these experiences since they began more than a year ago, and I started seeking help about two months ago. During these moments, my thoughts are racing with my biggest fears, moving so fast I can’t hold them long enough to analyze or worry about one single thought. So, I worry about all of them, all at once. I think that’s where the real feelings of anxiety stem from — not being able to work out the solution to one problem in the moment, and having the weight of multiple feelings and worries weighing me all at once. (I pray this is making sense to someone.) There’s no reason why my anxiety attacks happen when they do. Yes, I can identify a list of triggers, and I think, as I assume most people do, the things I have anxiety about are realistic. Again, that’s the problem and the reason why I think people like me struggle to deal with anxiety. It’s realistic to worry about how you might pay your bills at the end of the month; it is not realistic to worry about being eaten by a tiger if you don’t live near a zoo. But some people do worry about the tiger; their experience is valid, too. We all are valid. Your fears are valid. There is no worse feeling than feeling trapped within yourself, within your mind. If you’re struggling, I am here for you, and I wish you courage, strength and luck in getting well. Never be afraid to get help. There are resources out there. Click here for a hotline you can text for help. I love you. This post originally appeared on Cerebral Palsy News Today. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Thinkstock photo by eggeeggjiew

Brittney
Brittney @yenttirb
contributor

Overcoming Stigma About Using Mobility Devices

I have a confession. I used a walker  starting in pre-school until I was 10 years old, when I walked independently without it for a few years. Throughout this time, I remember feeling very embarrassed and ashamed of my walker. While feelings of embarrassment are a part of life for everyone, feelings of shame about disability, at least for me as a child, were difficult to process. I’m nearly 22 now, and even though I’ve been lucky enough to walk primarily on my own more than most of the time, my recent struggles have caused me to reach for and embrace my walker. It’s a far cry from the shame I felt as a child. As I write this, I wonder if kids today feel shame about their mobility devices. From what I’ve seen, they have some pretty neat and cool-designed walkers, wheelchairs, braces, etc. I had some of those options as a kid, but they were not nearly as nice as some of the ones I’ve seen in recent years, and they were definitely harder to get. I will admit I did drag my feet when the mention of using my walker again was brought up during a physical therapy appointment, after I informed my physical therapist of two falls I had that week and the difficulty I was having walking outside on my own. I dragged my feet, but I knew it was for the best and would help me until I got well again. The first thing I did when I went home was consider what I would need to function independently with my walker. I went to Pinterest looking for accessories. I bought a cup holder, clips for my purse or other bags I carry, a bag for the front of my walker that can double as a purse, and some tennis balls with smiley faces on them for my walker. (All but the walker bag came from Top Glides, and the walker bag was from Amazon.) Another thing I did was have a friend of my mom’s duct tape my walker in a cool wolf pattern. You can do this, too. Go to stores like Target or Walmart. They usually have large selections of designed duct tape — quite cheap! By simply changing the appearance of your devices to a customized accessory, it makes you more keen to reach for them when needed. After my devices got a makeover, so did the way I thought about them. Of course, I don’t think it’s that easy. A lot of growing up has happened between being 10 and nearly 22. So, things just change with time. I started to realize how useful my mobility devices were, how much they helped me and enabled me to live my life and do the things I want to do. In time I learned my assistive devices were things to help me, not things that were forced upon me. This article originally appeared on CP News Today. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here .

Brittney
Brittney @yenttirb
contributor

Why It Can Be Hard to Think of Your Life Before You Got Sick

Another year is starting and the family holidays are behind us. During those holidays, did your friends and family pull out old pictures of you and tell stories about different times in your life? Sometimes, tales about before you got sick or when you were “better?” In my case, people often tell stories of when I was better in terms of my illness than I am now. A lot of feelings can bubble up when this happens: anger, bitterness, even resentfulness. You can have these feelings about yourself, God, your family and friends. They can be hard to deal with, especially when you know the holidays are meant to be a cheerful time. I would like to echo, as I have time and time again in this column, that your feelings are valid. You are allowed to feel whatever it is you feel, for as ever long as you need to. We all deal differently with the hands we are dealt. Other factors also come into play when old pictures and stories start making their way around the dinner table, such as my father passing away when I was a child. When I look at old pictures and hear others tell their versions of my life, I sometimes feels like that was another lifetime — as if this didn’t happen to me, or as if I didn’t live through that time. Even though I did, and know the events are true — they feel remote, another lifetime ago. This can be extremely uncomfortable, and I think most people with a chronic illness keep quiet about these feelings because they’re so difficult to understand. It takes time, but you can make peace with your old life, with your past. I don’t know how, honestly. I think you adjust with time. You age and you mature, and you make peace with whatever life you had before. But the thing about a chronic illness is that you have to constantly keep making new peace with yourself. You need to constantly forgive yourself, rebuild and start over. You need to constantly find a new normal, sometimes day to day. I promise you, the effort is worthwhile. Life does and will get better, even if that seems impossible, even if right now you feel uncomfortable — remind yourself of how far you have come and all that you’ve been through. You are tough. You are worthy. This blog was originally featured on Cerebral Palsy News Today. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Lead photo by Thinkstock Images

Brittney
Brittney @yenttirb
contributor

Tips for Applying to College With a Disability

I’ve just wrapped up my junior year of college at a major university. I study Digital / Print Journalism and minor in Entrepreneurship and Innovation. Before I begin my senior year, it’s important to me to give advice to people like me with cerebral palsy, and others with disabilities who are trying to enter college for the first time, or wondering if they even can. The answer is, yes, you can! I believe you can do anything you put your mind to, and getting into college is no exception. But college applications can be daunting. Here is my “crash course” of 5 tips to get into your dream school as a person with a disability. 1. Don’t deny or downplay your disability on the application. Be honest about your needs and your struggles, where you’ve come from and where you are going. If you’re like me, you didn’t have a long list of extracurricular activities to put on your application or include in your essay. That’s probably because you spent a lot of time battling your illness and caring for yourself — use that as a strength. College admissions officers are looking at who you are as a person, and how much you’ll value the education, not necessarily the list of things you did. 2. Be realistic. If you don’t know what you want to study, say so! There’s no shame in being unsure, but don’t set goals you may not be able to reach in your application. Choose a career path that is in line with your ability levels over the long term. 3. Be yourself when writing your essays. The last thing you want to do is get accepted based on something you’re not; you want to know you got in because of who you are. I chose to write specifically about my struggles and triumphs as a person with a disability. I think it showed strength of character, and I think it paid off. 4. Apply to multiple schools. I only applied to a community college that I was already enrolled in as a high school student. While I did visit some schools and researched many more, in the end I really only sent out one application – and I got in. So, I give this advice because I regret not applying to more universities. 5. Don’t take rejection too hard. If a school turns you down, it’s their loss, not yours. They may not have been the school for you. Happy college season, and good luck! This story originally appeared on Cerebral Palsy News Today.

Brittney
Brittney @yenttirb
contributor

What Needs to Be Included When Doctors Talk About "Quality of Life"

“Let’s talk about your quality of life.” I think this one of the most widely-known quotes within the disabled community. I can’t count the amount of times on all of my fingers and toes how often I’ve heard this phrase, and for some reason, much to my surprise, the quote “Let’s talk about your quality of life” knows no limit of age. I think the first time I heard a doctor say, “Let’s talk about your quality of life” to me I was about 10 years old, and I was curious if she ever saw me one day walking without my walker, a real dream and goal of mine at that age. I swear if she had a PowerPoint presentation prepared at that moment she would have loaded it up, complete with a stick for pointing at all of the pros and cons of walking independently as she listed them off to me. I didn’t know how many more times I would hear her say this over the next 11 years. In fact, it seems like every time I ran into a problem or purposed an idea, it couldn’t be without discussing my “quality of life.” And I have to tell you, my life is pretty good. Doctors are not always 100 percent right. I chose to walk independently that day. I did so for roughly six years. At about 17, I was diagnosed with chronic pain. I had many mixed emotions, wondering if I had done the right thing that day — if I had continued using the walker, I may not have this pain right now. But somehow I think that doctors, society and even patients get lost in all of the language. We start focusing on “Well, if I walk a little more today, I’ll have more pain tomorrow.” Yes, that may be true, but what did you gain in the steps that you walked? Was it freedom? A sense of “normalcy?” Independence? Hope? Because I think all of these things are so important and factor so high on the “quality of life” scale, and yet they are so often left out. Sure, now I have a walker and a power chair when I need it, but overall I walk more often than I use my power chair or walker combined. You don’t know how long you’ll be where you are with what you have — no one does. For me, the feelings of independence, hope, etc. were so much more important. They meant so much more to me than anything that could have, might have, or in fact, did go “wrong” by me choosing to walk and walk unaided. I am so happy and proud that I can do that and continue to do so. I know not everyone can. I have always felt like “quality of life” should not be about pain management or prevention. I completely understand why it is so important, and believe me, it is. But I think what makes someone happy triumphs. I am over the moon that for six years I walked pain-free on my own. I am so proud that I will gladly sit with the consequences. Tell me about the phrase “quality of life” and you in the comments! This blog was originally published on Cerebral Palsy News Today.

Brittney
Brittney @yenttirb
contributor

Response to Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Legalization Act 16

Dear Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf, Before I even pen a sentence to this letter, I need to ask you to forgive me for the passion that has fueled this letter; as I write this, know that my frustrations and my disappointments have boiled long over — know that as I pen this letter I have thought about the consequences of all that I am about to tell you. And I want you to know that I have decided that the truth is more important than any consequences I may face – that is something that we all teach our children, right? I want to talk to you about the new medical marijuana policy in Pennsylvania. First, allow me to thank you for signing Act 16. You have single-handedly begun a process that will change lives. You may be wondering why I write this letter to you at all. Well, Mr. Wolf, we have a lot to talk about. My name is Brittney. I’m 21, a student, a writer; and on April 6, 1995, I was born with cerebral palsy weighing 1 pound, 13 ounces. Doctors told my parents I would be unable to walk, talk, eat, or even acknowledge my parents’ presence. But doctors do not know everything. I am a walking, talking, fully aware functioning adult now. I walk with a “significant limp” with what they call a “scissored gait.” My left arm and hand was of no use to me until recently, it was just something attached to my body — but we’ll get to that. I grew up in a happy, healthy home. I’m a well-adjusted adult. My father was a Vietnam vet, my mother did cardiology — both were successful people in their own right, and both of them used marijuana while I was growing up. We always had food to eat, our home was always clean, Child Services never knocked on our door, and as I mentioned, I am a perfectly fine adult. I was always a mobile child — walking with an assistive device (I had a walker) or I walked independently. This walking was usually discouraged by my doctors saying that I “could not walk distances” but my parents always took a different approach, citing that you don’t know what I was capable of until I tried, no one does. When I was 10 years old, I was able to walk without a walker for the first time at school. But when I turned 16, I started having debilitating hip pain. The pain was so bad I was in and out of hospital ERs every day and unable to go to school because it was too painful to walk or even sit. At just shy of 18, nearly two years after the pain started, a doctor told me there was nothing more we could do. She told me I would have chronic pain for the rest of my life and basically to go home and have some chocolate cake. I wish I could explain to you what constant pain does  within a young person’s body and to their spirit. I take no medicine for this pain because everything we tried did not work besides Botox injections which I can only get once every two to three years. While that helps the pain significantly, it never goes away anymore. Granted, I am lucky. I drive. I have a loving boyfriend and friends and generally speaking, life is good. But I am still in pain and I worry about what it will be like when I’m older. A few months ago, my mother walked into every medical marijuana dispensary she could find, seeking answers for her daughter. Then, I tried a marijuana candy. I have spastic diplegia cerebral palsy — spastic for me means that my muscles in my pelvic and lower body region are extremely tight. Diplegia means that more than one limb is affected; they usually speak of this in terms of legs but my left arm is also affected as I mentioned. This was the first time in six years I did not have any pain. The hip pain had spread to my back and ankles too, and now I had no pain at all. Within a few hours, I could begin feeling my left arm – and now I can actually grasp and hold things with it! I was forced to do years of physical and occupational therapy. Physical therapy will always be a blessing, but it did not manage pain. Occupational therapy gave me nothing but frustration and negative feelings about myself and what I could not do. Thanks to the medical marijuana, I can. I have even started walking again and trying to walk distances again. My doctor had stripped me of my independence and how I feel about myself, and marijuana is giving it back. My purpose for this letter is education. I want to ask you to expand your medical marijuana policy. I want you to open it up to choice. According to the law, you have to have a serious condition and the website contains a list of serious conditions — that’s great. But, marijuana is helping people with conditions that are not on that list and people are afraid to speak up about using it because of the stigma and judgment that surround it. This is something we do privately within our own homes. So, I’m asking you to expand your policy so that anyone who struggles with, say, chronic pain (which is included in the list of conditions, though the law still doesn’t clarify exactly what that means), or a mental illness like anxiety can be considered as a patient for this treatment. I’m asking you to decriminalize it completely and give people the freedom of speech their forefathers fought for. I want anyone who may think or know that this is an option for them to have the right to say so. I am also asking that you lift limitations on how the marijuana is consumed — each way, eating, smoking, etc. has a different effect on the body at a different rate. I think people should be able to choose what they wish to do; some people may choose multiple options and that should be their right. Personally, I think as long as I show up and do what is expected of me every day, and not cause harm to anybody, it should be no one’s business what I do behind closed doors, and how I medicate myself should be my choice. It should be everyone’s choice. I have tried all the pain medications and all the therapy you could offer. Medical marijuana is giving me myself and my life back. And I believe once I am able to freely use as often as I need, compared to when I have to hide in secrecy, I will discover even more ways that it has helped me. I no longer wish to fear legal prosecution for finally feeling better. I am not a criminal, I am in pain and marijuana makes me better. Thank you for listening, Mr. Wolf. I hope we as people in the state of Pennsylvania and as citizens of the United States can continue to have an open conversation about this. This post was originally published on My Life as Brittney.