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    11 Pandemic Trends People With Disabilities Want to Keep

    I made it. I’ve gotten my second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. I’ve rebuilt my business that was all but dead a year ago and paid off debts. Around me, I see other businesses bouncing back and restrictions being fully lifted. I went clothes shopping yesterday and used dressing rooms that are open for the first time in 15 months. The COVID-19 pandemic isn’t gone. There are still social-distancing markers on floors, people masked up, loved ones not surviving, and businesses that will never come back. There is much grieving to be done indefinitely into the future. But we are poised with hope and we’re earnest on moving forward. Colleges are working out what in-person classes will look like this fall, and people are returning to work in office buildings. As we gradually get back what we loved about our pre-pandemic lives, I reflect on some changes — or trends — that COVID-19 caused that I think we should keep, specifically changes that have improved life for people with disabilities. 1. Working from home. OK, so I’m self-employed and I mostly work from home anyway, but I remember the days of having to go into an office, and I would have loved to have been able to do all those tasks in my own space, which is designed around my sitting disability. There are many other conditions where working from home is the better option for people (others like me with irritable bowel syndrome, for example), and now we all have seen that, for many jobs, the exact same work gets accomplished! Also, comfy pants. 2. Food delivery and “contactless” everything. This trend was heating up before COVID hit, but boy did the pandemic set it aflame. I can’t tell you how hard it can be sometimes to just get food when my fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome are acting up. Grocery delivery, online ordering with curbside pickup at restaurants and stores, and restaurant delivery have all made life a lot easier. They’re also great options for people with mental health conditions such as social anxiety disorder. 3. Social distancing. OK, I personally love (gentle) hugs, but I also love not having strangers crowding me in lines. That kind of thing seriously bothers me. Especially if they’re gum chewers (I have misophonia). Having strangers keep their distance in public is great for people who have autoimmune conditions and also some mental health conditions. 4. Sanitizing everything. I like clean. And while I do not have a compromised immune system, several people I dearly love do. 5. Online training and religious services. Gone are the days when I would totally miss church because my fibro was flaring. Now, due to their brand-new, grant-funded equipment for “online church,” I simply curl up with my phone and watch it live on Facebook! Or, I can watch the recording later. Also, I’ve finally attended some trainings as a public official when they moved to “online only.” Before, I missed everything because I can neither sit in a chair nor stand up for the hours-long sessions. Good access means having more options for people with a range of disabilities and restrictions. 6. Time off for medical care. You know how some businesses allow employees time off for not just getting the vaccine, but for recovering from the vaccine? Yeah, that should be a thing for people getting any type of treatment that helps them stay healthy. 7. Equal access to medical care. And that thing where vaccines are free for everyone? This really needs to happen regarding any treatment that prevents people from dying, including dying from suicide. 8. Conversation about access. Making sure everyone had access to the vaccine was a buzzing topic there for a while, especially making sure people from marginalized populations weren’t left out. Let’s keep talking about this for all essential services. 9. Conversations about illness, mental health and disability. I bet a lot of people learned what “immunocompromised” means and what a big deal it is to have “underlying conditions.” Chronic illness and invisible disabilities, including mental health, are being talked about more and more. Let’s keep it up. 10. Rescue pets. Oh, I hope people do keep their rescue pets. What a miracle that shelters were cleared out during the pandemic, and these best friends seriously improve life for many people. 11. Eyes wide open. Able-bodied people have gone through some very disabling things this past year, such as fearing illness or not being able to attend events. Oh, and that horrible vaccine reaction you had, with the body aches and debilitating fatigue? That’s pretty much how I feel every day. I hope everyone remembers what all this has been like, and holds these memories up for those of us who will continue to live a disabled life, with all its complications, forever.

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    Shawn Smith

    Succeeding After an Adult ADHD Diagnosis

    Until my diagnosis of ADHD inattentive type at age 30, I felt as though I was living in a deep fog — sleepwalking and stumbling through life aimlessly. Prior to my diagnosis I struggled through every level of the public education system. It took me four years to finish three years of high school and 32 attempts to earn the 18 credits required to graduate including failing grade 10 math four times. I developed anxiety, depression and stomach problems. My parents never had me assessed for potential learning disabilities. Not for the reasons I’d like to believe — because I would have been placed in the special education system and potentially had limited opportunities. My parents didn’t have me assessed because they perceived that having a child with a disability was a reflection of poor parenting. They didn’t want to be judged. My saving grace was football. I started playing football my first year of grade 12; by my second year of grade 12, I was an all star. For the first time in my life I found something I excelled at. As an all star, I received recruiting packages from every major Canadian university with a football team. I opened them one after the other, and could feel myself slipping further into depression. I couldn’t go to any of these schools. University wasn’t an option, but college was. John Abbott College, a CEGEP on the West Island of Montreal began recruiting out of province for the first time in the school’s history. The school was tired of losing, and recruiting out of provinces seemed like a great way to make the team more competitive. The defensive coordinator was also the head registrar at John Abbott College and he snuck me in despite my grades being significantly lower than required for admissions. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity they gave me. After graduating from college, I moved back home to attend university and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree and a whopping 2.3 GPA. It took me a year longer than my peers, but I did it. Fast forward to being diagnosed at 30. Prescribed medication gave my brain the jump start it needed to wake my brain from a 30-year slumber, taking my thought process from dial-up to fiber-op. I went back to university to upgrade as a mature student taking five courses and earning a new GPA of 3.7. In 2010, I applied to the Masters of Education program in Counseling Psychology and was accepted on academic probation. I graduated a year later at the top of my class with a 3.8 GPA. ADHD isn’t what is wrong with me, it’s what is right with me. What was wrong was not knowing and being shamed for something I had no control over. Rather than fix what is perceived to be wrong with someone, I choose to focus on their passion and gifts and use these as the context for communication. As adults, we spend so much of our time trying to get kids to fit into our world without ever trying to explore how we can fit into theirs. I founded Don’t Dis-My-Ability Consultation Services Inc., an innovative, multifaceted company specializing in the emerging field of neurodiversity, located in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada. I created a company and a brand that focuses on my unique gifts. Because I have a unique understanding of my thought process, I know I can’t do just one thing. Through my company, I provide counseling and psychotherapy to parents and grandparents of neurodiverse children; I consult in a handful of industries ranging from non-profit to the world of animation. I also provide executive counseling and mentor other uniquely gifted, neurodiverse entrepreneurs. In three short years I have established myself as an expert in the field of neurodiversity, and I am sought after around the world for my unique insight. I am also very proud to say I am a national award winning entrepreneur and Canadian startup icon as the recipient of the 2017 Startup Canada Resilient Entrepreneur Award — awarded to an entrepreneur with a visible or non-visible disability who has impacted Canadian entrepreneurship through exemplary activities and leadership of their companies. For most of my life I wanted to be like everyone else. This want caused me a great deal of anxiety and depression. Once I realized the only person I needed to impress was myself, my anxiety and depression decreased significantly. I wouldn’t wish my experiences on anyone, but I am at a point in my life where I also wouldn’t trade them for the world. My story is unique, but I am not alone. Welcome to the world of the uniquely gifted. Learn more at Don’t Dis-My-Ability Consultation Services. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Image provided by contributor.

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    To the Loving Grandparents of Our Kids With ADHD

    Thank you for listening to us when we began to tell you that we felt something was “off” with your grandchild. Instead of dismissing their hyperactive and inattentive behavior as a “normal” part of being a kid like many others do, you were receptive to the idea that something else might be going on. Thank you for being supportive when your grandchild received their attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD) diagnosis. Just like us, you immediately took to the internet and spent countless hours researching all you could about ADHD. You sent us many links to articles, videos and books about ADHD. Although we may have felt overwhelmed at the time, we were appreciative of the fact that you cared so much about helping your grandchild. Thank you for not only being supportive of your grandchild’s ADHD, but supportive of us as parents as well. You are always there when we need to vent or need a break. You understand how hectic our life is and you step in to help whenever possible. Since you have taken the time to understand how your grandchild’s mind works and you know how to handle any situation with them, we are able to trust that our child is happy and safe with you 110 percent when you babysit. That means so much to us.   Thank you for being so incredibly patient, compassionate, and respectful with your grandchild. You understand that their brains are hardwired differently.  You understand that sometimes they behave in ways that other adults may find rude or disrespectful (like when your grandchild forgets to give you a hug hello for example), but you know to not take their behavior and words so seriously. Thank you for stepping up to defend your grandchild when the need arrises. You do your best to educate others about your grandchild’s ADHD. You help make others see what we see in our amazing kids, and we love you for that. Thank you, above all, for loving your grandchild unconditionally. You accept them for who they are and you don’t ever try to change them. The truth of the matter is, although you were scared about what the label of ADHD was going to do to your grandchild at first, you now know that with people like you in their life who love, support, help and guide them, their ADHD is a turning out to be a truly beautiful thing. It is what makes your grandchild exceptional, fiercely creative and wildly imaginative. Their ADHD is a big part of what puts a smile on your face when you think about them and what makes you so proud to be their grandparent. The feeling is mutual.  We are so proud and blessed to have you in our lives as our child’s grandparent. A version of this post appeared on www.mylittlevillagers.com We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Thinkstock image by kanzefar

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    Nicole Black

    Love-Hate Relationship With My ADHD and Anxiety Medication

    The hard part about mental illness and all invisible illnesses is that you’d never know the battle each person is fighting. You don’t know what they have to do to get themselves out of bed and moving each day. Not many people know I take a stimulant medication for my attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and an antidepressant for my anxiety. I always have an upbeat, positive attitude but inside things aren’t always so great. Many people take their brain functioning for granted. They’ll never understand what us neurodiverse people go through. I love my medication for what it allows me to do when I’m on it. Yet, I hate when I don’t have it in my system, I’m a mess. My meds allow me to think more clearly, get organized and be alert, but this only lasts a small portion of my day. I love that I don’t feel as worried about things. I don’t have as much social anxiety. I can reach out to friends and others to see how they are. However, this doesn’t always carry over when I’m not on my meds. I can plan for my day, make lists of what needs to get done, but meds don’t tell you what to focus on. If your brain strays elsewhere, then you will certainly not get that list done. At the end of the day, when those meds wear off, it’s not always easy. I want to get myself ready for the next day, but I’m not focused on that. It’s exhausting to try and get things done sometimes because my brain just takes so much more energy to direct its focus where I need it. Sometimes, at the end of the day I’m just so tired. I love that there is something there to help me, medication that eases my mind’s wandering and anxious thoughts, allowing me to be the person I know I could be. Yet, it’s a battle. It’s not always easy. I wouldn’t change my life because this is who I am and who I was meant to be. I am carving my path as I go. I may encounter a few bumps on the road, but I will never stop. Anyone else out there who is having a tough time with meds or invisible illnesses, just remember, tomorrow is another day. There will always be another tomorrow. Keep going, keep trying and do your personal best each day. It doesn’t matter what others can do and are doing. Do what you can and you need to do. You are strong and smart. You can accomplish your dreams, even if it takes longer than others! We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Image via Thinkstock.

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