As many of you know, May is Mental Health Awareness month. And many of my followers should know by now that I’m very passionate about mental health advocacy. You can read my other articles to find out why and how I’m involved.
Last year, in 2019, this campaign was a huge success with several supporters from friends, coworkers, and people across the states. This year, I’m hopeful it will be just as successful. In this article, you’ll be able to see just a few of the people who supported during last year’s campaign. And you’ll be able to get a visual of what it’s like to wear such a powerful message on a t-shirt.
Each and every single time I’ve worn my shirt out in public, I’ve always received a compliment and asked where they can get one, well now is everyone’s chance to get their own! You can order here! (Remember the design is slightly different from last year’s.)
This year in 2020, I’ve decided to launch another awareness campaign and you’ve got a few different options to choose from at reasonable prices. The sizes range from youths small to adult sized 4X. Here is the link which will take you directly to the custom ink campaign page. This campaign is set to run for just 4 weeks, so once it closes no more orders will be accepted.
So go ahead and order your gear today, and get it in time for May! But you can wear it any day and this is a great way to help spread our message to END THE STIGMA! It’s also a great way to help honor & show our support to those who are in this fight every single day!
Please feel free to share this post within your community of followers!
Thank you for your support & much love to ALL! -Erika
I know most people who are similar to my own family and its dynamics probably find it difficult to do any outside activities, depending upon our loved ones challenges. But down through the years of raising my family and my youngest child, I have had both failures and successes.
I have experienced those horrible moments of being laughed at, pointed at, talked about with the whispers as we pass by, oftentimes made to feel unwanted and misunderstood by his behaviors as a younger child living with developmental delays. It has always been my stance and his siblings to protect and watch over him. To use our voices to speak on his behalf or to stop the stigma that others may have thrown our way.
So with our life experiences and God as our center of hope, faith and love for others, it was impressed in our spirit to begin a ministry to cater to other families like us.
In addition to talking with other families we have met, mostly all feeling the same way as us, we began to see a great need within our own community for a special needs ministry. A service where these families can come and worship God together in the same sanctuary. Our loved ones can be involved with the service in their own way of expression. Whether it be them sitting, standing, running, jumping, rocking in their seat, walking the floor, clapping, shouting with a joyful noise, whatever their ability to praise God. There are no stares, there is no pressure to feel unwelcome for being “different”. Just a place where all families can come together in one place, God’s House and feel the love, and be able to meet others who can truly relate to our daily living.
The service includes everyone and offers a time for those who may want to share their story about their journey. Individuals are included for a time of prayer, scripture reading. Followed by music, a gospel message and invitation at the altar.
I would like to ask every person that is supportive of this ministry and has personal social media accounts to share this news within their community and with their followers. We hope to inspire other churches to grab ahold of this great need for those who have been overlooked and forgotten by people, but NOT by God.
We are NOT FORGOTTEN MINISTRIES. Come join us every 3rd Sunday afternoon at 1pm.
My youngest son, Erik is 17 yrs old. He has developmental challenges and today we decided to take him to see Toy Story 4. Afterall, we have all had a long month with his knee injury and he is finally up and walking again.
The last time he was in a movie theater to try and see something was when Rio was out and that was 2011. I remember he was 9-1/2 years old at that time. He had a fear of darkness and loud noises. It was a “sensory film” featured at our local AMC theater. This was inspired by individuals living with autism and/or other special needs. It was supposed to be a movie with the lights dimmed low, and the sound not as loud as normal showings.
However, I’ll never forget that day because the person in charge of operations, messed up and blasted the sound before turning it down, and forgot to leave the lights dimmed at first. It took a lot of coaching, verbal cues to survive that movie. I remember other children running around and walking the aisles. My son sat still frightened in his reclining chair, while wearing his headphones. I don’t recall being able to focus on the movie myself because I was too busy making sure he was okay. I also remember telling myself and my husband, “Never again! I guess we’ll never be able to take him to a movie theater because it was just too much.” And from that time forward to today, our family has always waited until summer and been fortunate that there is a drive-in theater where we can go together with no issues.
HOWEVER!! Today, was a completely different story! I waited until last night to tell him we are taking him to see Toy Story 4. Anyone else who has a special child like my Erik, probably can relate to picking your battles and knowing your child’s behaviors. I wait to tell him things because otherwise I have to hear about it all day and everyday leading up to the event. And sometimes it causes anxiety for him which can backfire our plans.
Anyways, I told him last night and he was happy. He picked up his phone that and began typing on his notepad, “tomorrow we go see movie toy story 4 mom and dad”. And he did his little self talk all evening.
On the drive to the theater my own anxiety began to build a little, thinking what if he talks to loudly and disrupts the others, or if he begins throwing a fit? But I explained to him during the drive there, “Erik the movie theater is going to be dark inside but it will be okay, and you will be safe, me and dad will be with you and it’s gonna kinda be like the little theater at your school when you had your senior awards night.” He was okay with that. I had to try and use a familiar experience with a good outcome that he could relate to. And it worked! Because when we got to the theater he went up a few stairs and sat in the chair. At first he seemed afraid, but he told himself, “its okay, Erik, this is just like your school when you had senior awards night, your okay, your gonna see Toy Story and get to sing your song, you got a friend in me.”
The good thing is that the recliner chairs in the theater are very similar to what we have at home so that fear he had at 9-1/2 for reclining back was not there anymore. His dad showed him where the buttons were and he reclined his feet and they shared their popcorn and he was set. At first I thought he was going to startle from the sound so I brought his head phones just in case, but he didn’t need them. I was so proud of him!
He even got to sing his favorite theme song along with the movie. And he made a couple of remarks during the movie which were appropriate during some of the scenes with Woody and Buzz and some new characters. I won’t say anymore, because I don’t want to spoil it for those who haven’t seen it yet.
As the film ended after about an hour and a half, we walked to the van and my son said, “I did it, I saw Toy Story 4 now and I did good.” My husband and I reassured him that indeed he did a great job.
I wrote this article today to hopefully inspire another mom or caregiver that may have lost hope or might be feeling like they won’t ever be able to take their child to do things that others can do.
To anyone who is reading this and has walked along my path, I will just say, what didn’t go well today, doesn’t mean it won’t go well for you in the future. Never give up hope for your loved one / child’s abilities to accomplish even the smallest of things. What other families may take for granted we know that these small things are a huge milestone for us.
It may take months for some to reach that next milestone and years for others, but just keep trying and insert new experiences here and there. Allow your child to develop courage and overcome fears, while you learn what it is to appreciate the small things in life. Those small things that we sometimes don’t appreciate because maybe we spend too much time complaining about things.
I think what is most helpful for me, is knowing what MY OWN REALITY is and not wishing to be like other families. Because if I keep measuring my son’s growth to that of someone he isn’t than I’m living in a fantasy and not reality.
I used to be like that, and its not helpful and it wasn’t good. Anyone who has a special needs child can probably relate to feeling like your world is different and unrelatable. But in fact, it is much more common than you have allowed yourself to experience. It seems as though most of us are inside, behind closed doors, kept quiet and shielded from potential harm. But I’ve discovered that there is a community for us.
I hope everyone has something to appreciate about their child and themselves. Even if it seems little. An accomplishment is an accomplishment no matter what. And today, July 9th, 2019. This was Eriks, that he was able to see a movie in a theater without being afraid and without being disruptive. And it wasn’t even a sensory film and it was at a much nicer theater than the AMC that we attended in 2011.
Thanks for being here and thanks for listening. If there is another mom, dad or caregiver reading this that feels discouraged about their child’s diagnosis or development please trust the process and keep your faith. It will happen for you in due time.
My son 4months old, after ICD implant surgery in 2001.
My son after surgery, removal of his ICD implant.
He is teaching me about living life to its fullest potential even when things are designed to get you down. He has taught me how to have joy even in the midst of loss and tragedy. If only the world could know just how amazing this kid is! Nearly every person who has a chance to meet and interact with him, always says he is one of a kind.
I’m so blessed to have Erik as my son just as he is, developmental delays and ALL. And I would NOT change a single thing about him. He brightens my day. You would think as a mom I am teaching him about life, but he is indeed teaching me instead. He has compassion for others to the extent that he prays each night and mentions by name others who he has met or knows that are in need of something that only God can give to them. He just has such a confidence that I admire. And he has a faith that is undeniable.
This kid could have mustard on his shirt, walk into a room of executives and still be confident to walk up, shake their hand, introduce himself and spark a conversation without feeling any shame. Seriously!
In spite of the sufferings along the journey, in spite of all the tears I cried, praying consistently down through the years for strength and endurance, I have to say, it’s evident that this has all been a part of Gods plan to teach me humility, patience, forbearance, compassion, empathy, how to suffer, giving me a testimony to inspire others, and to see the glory in the midst of it all.
Everybody always wants blessings but nobody ever wants to suffer. Everyone wants to skip passed the bad stuff and go straight to the good stuff. But that didn’t happen in my journey. Yet, now, in hindsight, I would not change a thing. I’ve learned so much watching Erik grow and develop at his pace. It’s because my family has Erik, that his siblings have compassion for others and without stigma or judgment. It’s because of Erik that we understand struggles and acceptance. It’s because of Erik along with my other children who battle mental illness, that I created this website called “stigmasnomore.com”. It’s because of God, our faith and HIS grace that we are able to share this journey with others. It’s because of the suffering that others didn’t see, that we are blessed that others do see.
Thank you for being here. This next chapter is going to just keep getting better!
I am beginning to write my first book soon, so I hope once it’s on bookshelves, that you will buy it and help it become a best seller.
You can donate here if you’d like to help me with start up costs. ⏬⏬⏬⏬
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I want to tell everyone who reads this article, who is a parent or caregiver, always stay the course, and don’t measure your growth to that of others instead measure to your own. Everyone comes from different walks of life, each at their own pace. Slow and steady wins the race. Don’t rush the process or you might wind up with raw results. Just keep going.
My son, Erik is a senior this year. He will be graduating this Thursday and he is so full of emotions.
He fractured his knee this past Wednesday at school during his bike club. So he is back in a wheelchair. He hasn’t had to use one since he was a smaller child. Back then it was from his developmental delays, today its because he fractured his knee somehow.
Prayers are appreciated. We have had to pay for a ramp since insurance didn’t cover the prescription. But the most important thing is that he is still in good spirits.
His teachers and therapists at school have been amazing! We are truly going to miss them all. He is going to miss seeing his friends everyday.
My compassion for others who are wheelchair bound has increased even more because I am getting only a fraction of what they live with on a daily but I’m speaking from a caregiver position.
I’m sharing some inspiring video of my son at his classroom party and his senior awards night. He received two awards at senior awards night as Valedictorian and Superintendents scholarship award.
I love his spirit! Even when he’s down, he’s up.
And again, don’t you ever let anyone, I repeat, ANYONE tell you what your child will never be able to do! Because faith and a will to do, have the final say!
Today, marked the 1 year anniversary of the special needs church ministry that my husband began in May of 2018. I follow his lead as he is operating in his purpose. The name of the ministry is called Not Forgotten Ministries. Such a fitting name for the ministry, because we want other families who have special needs loved ones or individuals living with disabilities or other mental or physical healthcare challenges to know they are not forgotten by God.
We had 3 new visitors along with their family or caregiver today. It truly did my heart some good today to see the people participate in prayer, scripture reading and singing along.
Our service isn’t your typical church service either. It is geared specifically for special needs families. The entire family. Not to separate the individual with special needs from their family but rather include the whole family in one service. We always offer to involve everyone with prayer, scripture reading, and a brief time for sharing their story. Followed by the word of God, more prayer and benediction, but at times we go off script to accommodate the needs of God’s people.
It’s always lovely to hear others share their stories about the journey with their special loved one and all they have overcome or are still handling today. Especially the other mom who shared today, about how happy she was at the service, mentioning that she had been to a different church that was supposed to be for special needs families, but they separated her from her daughter, while she was able to attend service with the congregation, they took her daughter into a private room with others to watch the service on a monitor and she said she didn’t like how that made her feel. So it was really nice to hear that she felt welcomed and comfortable.
As a mom, caregiver myself, I know first-hand the daily battles, struggles, victories, achievements and strength it takes to do it every single day. It’s not always peaches and cream and its not always smooth sailing, but I will admit, it is ALWAYS worth my time, my love, my support and my efforts to help my children and others within our community.
I am sharing these short video clips to show the glory of Gods special people. I was told by one caregiver that today was her very first time hearing her client pray and that it touched her heart. These families come from all kinds of different walks of life, Autism, ODDS, Epilepsy, Dementia, Developmental delays, mental health challenges but we all come together here in one place, unified as one body in Christ. We know our loved ones diagnosis but it’s like white noise to us. We only speak, write about, refer to it because it’s how others can identify with us at times.
I truly hope to possibly inspire others by sharing this. And maybe if you happen to be a minister or pastor of a church, you too will become inspired to begin a similar ministry in your town. There are many families just like mine, just like these, that would love an opportunity to come together at church and feel welcomed, accepted and understood. Again, this is not your typical quiet service. We cater to the needs of the people and their families as we realize the sensory issues and the other need to express themselves openly. We are all Gods people. We are all loved. We are all unique and wonderfully made. Created by God in his image and his likeness.
So to that other parent, caregiver or individual who’s reading this and living with health care challenges, don’t ever let someone shame you or make you feel less than worthy, just because your blessed to be who you are, or the person your caring for. Don’t allow others to stigmatize you. Hold your head high, walk in confidence and be proud of the life you have! Share your story to inspire others. Tell your story to educate others.
I hope I was able to encourage someone this evening!
This is a thought that came to me this evening. As a person who has been flawed, imperfect, of many mistakes and poor choices along the way and finally one day becoming to the knowledge of Christ, I am unashamed of my journey. Struggles and ALL, because there is power in my story when I can admit my flaws, share my struggles, and exemplify God’s compassion and righteousness through HIS grace.
I have found that the top reason why others either lose faith or won’t even come to Christ is because somewhere along the way, they have been hurt, or mislead by someone who claimed to be “perfect” in Him.
We can strive for perfection but we aren’t without sin. (1 John 1:8)
Instead, just being fair with my soul and keeping my flaws before the throne of grace has helped me to become a more effective witness and better at forgiving my own self. I don’t condone sin, but I’m also not without it, but I also don’t wilfully practice it either. And it’s only because of Gods grace and mercy that I can continue to share with you all.
Aiming High, Striving for Perfection, Seeking God daily.
If there’s one thing I have learned along my journey with life and God, its this. Sometimes God put me in temporary inconvenient places because He was preparing me for a permanent position with promotion. So when your dealing with hardship, just know it’s only temporary. All that stressing is just a pathway to your blessing.
I’m talking about what I know, not what I heard. I’m speaking from my own experience and not that of someone else’s.
I’m hoping to give others some inspiration and encouragement this evening.
Thanks for being here. Hang in there! It’s only temporary.
Never allow others to redefine ur character & who God called u to become. And never allow them to influence u stray off the path that u know God set before u. Every1s journey is different. Its not worth chasing after other ppls dreams, instead chase after ur own.