My journey with Mental Health & Special Needs advocacy. #MentalHealthAwareness

Hear me out…then if you agree please share it to support my journey with advocacy & my truths as I know them. #MentalHealthAwareness

I’ve learned along my journey with advocacy for Mental Health & Special needs, that my truth may not be yours but it’s my lived experiences that make me an expert in what I’ve encountered as a mom & caregiver. I’ve learned that I can no longer expect others who are either wilfully ignorant or misinformed or inexperienced, that ⬅”these” will likely NEVER get understanding or be able to accept the facts as I know them, which are: Mental Illness isn’t a demon that you cast out, nor is burning sage or other witchcraft going to help “fix” this. Mental illness is a medical condition and it is a brain disease, that impacts the ways a persons brain functions.

Individuals with developmental delays, down syndrome, special needs, autism, to name a few, are not cursed, and their family isn’t cursed. My own son has developmental delays and he is the most loving, kind-hearted boy, he loves Jesus! What he has isn’t contagious & he doesn’t deserve to be looked at like he himself is a disease just because he walks different and talks different. No one deserves to be mistreated. People are so quick to label and put stigma onto those living with mental health conditions and special needs conditions. They tend to think the family is cursed or in some cultures they will disown them. Mental illness is not evil. Mental illness is an unfortunate disease of the brain. I won’t expect anyone to understand this because it’s not their lived experience, they just watch tv or what media hypes up without complete and accurate education. In other words, unless you have experience what its like raising a child with a mental illness/condition or special needs than I no longer expect you to get it. Just as much as the flu hits you and you get very sick with symptoms, is similar to that of how someone can become sick with a mental health condition, it’s not something we want, it’s not anything we saw coming, but mental illness(es) are NOT contagious. They are NOT a spirit that transfers to someone else for all you deep spiritual people. They (mental illnesses) are hereditary and known to skip a generation but not always. They are treatable and they are medical conditions. Have you ever sat down and tried to talk to someone about something & their response lets you know within the first few words that this conversation is going no where. So you just stop. Let me just say this, unless you’re willing to learn & educate yourself, then don’t form an opinion based off what you heard or what you saw on a TV show or movie. Unless you live this day in & out, you can’t even begin to know what it’s like to feel isolated, scared, hopeless at times. Its especially hurtful when you can’t even turn to your own family because they just don’t get it. Let me just say this, you might know of someone who’s living with a condition, or you have a relative, or you work in a clinic or at a hospital so you think you can relate, well let me say this, it’s NOT the same & I believe anyone who’s walked a similar journey as me, will agree.

My other son, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder & he is also the most kind-hearted, comical, genuine, respectful young man. He has a heart for God & he is overcoming his battles, he is a full time college student, he is a college student-athlete. He’s truly a warrior. All Glory to God!

And let me also say to some in the church, Stop running people off because you’re uninformed and unequipped to handle someone who has any one of these health diagnoses, and you ignorantly take them to the altar and attempt to cast out a demon, cuz it ain’t going to work, and you wanna know why? Because their ain’t no demon to cast out. Pray for healing to take place instead, pray for doctors to find a cure, pray for medications to have no side effects, pray for restoration and clarity, Pray for them to have the strength to go through. That’s what you can do. Offer support & offer love, these communities of people already feel isolated and ridiculed. I said this because you have no idea just how many people I have met & sat down & listened to their stories about how the church hurt them & ran them off. As a believer In Jesus myself, we must do BETTER!

We need to educate beyond the common mental health conditions of depression & anxiety, and beyond the “acceptable” conditions like cancer, diabetes, dementia, autism, ect. Hopefully you get my point. I’m not dismissing these conditions at all, just desiring more public awareness for Mental health conditions such as BP, bpd, schizophrenia, PTSD, suicidal ideation, ect. Which are all attached to stigma! We must eradicate stigma! People are out here suffering in silence! Wearing masks so good they fool their loved ones because they don’t want anyone to know what’s going on inside. They won’t get help because of fear of stigma! They have no one to talk to because others won’t listen. Their feelings are dismissed by advice being given instead. They feel misunderstood because when the one person they hoped would offer support, didn’t. Their scared and scarred. This is why when someone takes their own life, everyone usually says they seemed happy and didn’t know anything was going on.

My thoughts on evil…Don’t get me twisted there are people who are evil, commit heinous crimes, do pure evil acts, and then we find out through media that they’ve been declared “legally insane” or “mentally ill” which makes every single person who has a mental health condition/illness viewed in a bad light. Which in my own opinion creates ongoing stigma because it’s not all the details, most times we just read, “school shooting and shooter has a history of mental illness”. Their behaviors are influenced by what they feed their thoughts not simply just because they have an illness. And there are always a whole bunch of other factors that play a huge part in someones health declining. Usually it’s because they either aren’t receiving treatment, or they haven’t found the right treatment yet, or medications arent being taken or medications need to be adjusted, ect.

What I don’t agree with is putting everyone in the same boat. Everyone’s journey is different. Even people with the same health diagnosis can live with completely different challenges & experiences. So my truth may not be yours. But this is mine!

My truth is my lived experience while raising children with various health challenges, and I’m not cursed and I did nothing wrong for those who think so. My family is blessed beyond measure. God has chosen to give us this journey, this purpose to serve on this platform. God is my waymaker. Jesus is my Savior. God is my sustainer. God is my EVERYTHING. Thank you Lord! #MyJourney #MyTruth #MentalHealthMatters #Unashamed #SpeakYourTruth #BeKind #EducateYourself #RespectTheJourney

Lastly, here are some resources that could help save a life or help you learn more.

Mentalhealthfirstaid.org
Nami.org
NIMH.nih.gov
Blurtitout.org
Bphope.com
https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/
Understood.org
https://www.navos.org/


Crisis Textline 741741 text (Home) 24/7
Suicide Prevention Line 24/7
(800) 273-8255
Pierce County Crisis Line
(800) 576-7764
24 hour crisis line
(866) 427-4747
Teen Link (6pm-10pm)
(866) 833-6546

Thanks again for being here. This was a post I wrote on my personal social media & wanted to share it here.

I am / You Are / We are more than just a stay at home mom.

My husband always says I’m more than just a stay at home mom & he appreciates me and that I’m a good wife & mother to our children.  So it got me thinking.  Because honestly in past times when someone would ask me, “what do you do for a living?”  I’d kinda timidly say, “Oh I’m just a stay at home mom or homemaker” unknown that I was demeaning my role.  After some thinking tonight, I’ve come to the conclusion that I took my own role for granted.  I’m much more than just a stay at home mom or homemaker.  If I was paid for ALL I do, I think I’d be much wealthier than I actually am presently.

Being a mom & a wife has given me experience to wear many hats & fulfill different titles.

Bookkeeper

Personal Advisor

Therapist

Financial Advisor

Cable Technician

Publicist

Tutor

Teacher

Physical Trainer

Live in Nanny

Maid

Painter

Instructor

Activist and Advocate

Founder

CEO

Language Intrepreter

Manager

Supervisor

Musician

Singer (I can’t sing)

Gamer

Movie Critic

Plumber

Mechanic

Chaueffer

Mental Health Expert

Lawyer

Driver Instructor

Comedian

Spiritual Mentor

Personal Banker

Payroll Clerk

Administrative Assistant

Receptionist

Answering Service

Stockbroker

Investment Broker

Fashion Designer

Personal Shopper

Personal Chef

Housekeeper

Seamstress

Leader

Team Captain

Accountant

Crisis counselor

Medic

Nurse

Uber driver

Door Dash driver

Librarian

Cheerleader

Life coach

And an expert in Pig Sty’s

I have become all these under the role of being a wife and mom.  And I believe other parents might agree for their role.  I value my roles and my lived experiences because they’ve only given me knowledge, wisdom and much understanding.  All these and so many more unlisted, are in relation to different stages of life and learning “on the job” training, rolling with the punches, and continuing to put on and take off many different “hats” as I live on.

Thanks for being here once again. And for following my articles.

Continue reading “I am / You Are / We are more than just a stay at home mom.”

Me, mental illness, stigma and speaking out.

This is my experience as I know mental illness, stigma and speaking out. I have a very unique journey, from both sides of the world, one being the “special needs” community, and the other being the isolated world of “mental illness”. Because for some reason God chose to let my children live with a variety of challenges, whether you consider them, “invisible disabilities, high functioning, special needs, intellectual disabilities, mentally challenged, developmentally delayed, etc” the list goes on and on and I am so used to it, that those are just words now. I could care less. I use them myself because that’s how some can identify with what I’m explaining. I do however care when it comes to offensive derogatory words or stigma!

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As a caregiver & mom of children who are living with mental health challenges, and developmental delays and when my world became flipped upside down and torn to shreds in those intense “Never would have imagined this could happen to me” moments, I went thru various stages of emotions.

First, was the “why” phase. When I ask God why is this happening to my child? Second, was the “anger” phase. When I grew angry at the fact that life as I once knew It, became a stranger to me and there was nothing that could be done to change what was standing and existing right in front of me. Then came the “what, how, when, why” phase. This is where things seemed like it was going to remain stuck in turmoil and all the questions came into play. What if they never bounce back to their normal self? What if they will never be able to overcome this? What if I have lost the child I once knew before? What will their future look like? What if others find out what they’ve went through, will they be treated different? What if I lose friends myself? How did this happen? When did things change? Did I miss something? Why did it happen? Who do I turn to for help? Who can I talk to about such personal and scary stuff without being stigmatized? These were just some of my concerns and questions when my world flipped upside down the first time, during my son’s 8th grade year.

Now, nearly 6 years later. After having educated my own self about mental health and mental illnesses, and becoming involved with advocacy. My questions and concerns, and feelings have shifted. Now I ask. Why don’t people want to learn more about mental illnesses, and symptoms and how to identify a person in crisis? When will others realize that mental illnesses are brain disorders and they are caused by something medical, yet it’s mostly always labeled as “mental” so it’s dismissed that bipolar, schizophrenia are medicaly related? What if it was YOU, what if this happened to you, how would you want others to treat you? Why does the media continue to make every person living with mental illness look like a evil person? When are we going to see the people who are living successfully with mental illness? When are we going to see the commercials that someone with bipolar 1 disorder, overcame and graduated college? What would you do if your own brain had some thing similar to a heart attack? Why does there seem to be a separation between a person who has Autism, versus a person who has both Autism and Bipolar 1? Or has one but not the other? How would you feel if you were stigmatized because your child became diagnosed with Autism or Bipolar? And people said you must be cursed because your kids have issues? Why is it even okay that the media is allowed to portray false representations of mental illness?How can we eradicate stigma? What’s it going to take to eradicate stigma? Why isn’t it mandatory to be educated to the student body in high schools nationwide and staff? When will ER staff learn how to respond and what to do effectively in a mental health crisis? When will others learn that mental illness isn’t like a cold that you can catch? When will others see that NOT every individual who has a mental illness also has a drug addiction? When will people realize that NO one, NOT one person is exempt from becoming mentally ill? I say that to drive home a point, and some can disagree and maybe this is my angry phase once again, but when are people going to realize that just as much and as “normal” as my son was prior to his mental break, and as healthy as he ate and athletic as he is, and intelligent as he is, IT still wasn’t enough to keep bipolar from blowing our way and impacting his life. He was born on time, no complications, met every milestone on time or early in his development. Smart as a whip. So it doesn’t matter who you are, how healthy you eat, how active you are, what your age is, because for us, it was like one day this, and the following day literally EVERYTHING CHANGED! So learn about mental health, educate yourself. What happened to my family, can very well at any time happen to yours. Just as similar as a person who has a sudden cardiac arrest after sailing along thru life just fine, this is how I felt my son was suffering from a sudden misfire in his brain. And I truly hope and pray that one day we can find prevention, that mental illness can be detected early in children, instead of waiting until 18 to get a diagnosis. I hope that EEG’s or blood tests one day will be able to identify specifics of what looks like bipolar, schizophrenia, autism, borderline. I pray for everyone to become better informed. Especially those who are in uniforms and in a first responder role, so they can help people receive appropriate and effective treatment. I pray that mental health laws would enforced with better outcomes for both the individual and the caregiver. I pray that there would be a better more efficient way to identify someone in a mental health crisis, rather than ALWAYS having to treat them as if their on drugs or high off of them just because some symptoms are presently the same. Yet every second is crucial for a persons brain and the trauma it is going thru. I pray for better science and medical treatment.

When will the media begin showing the positive successes of individuals who live with mental illness as college graduates, high school honor students, successful engineers, game developers? Instead of always portraying the few that have had not so good outcomes. Yet the media always shows the person who commits a violent crime, and quick to mention their “mentally ill” but fails to often mention the other facts that they’ve stopped taking their medication and began self medicating.

Mental illnesses aren’t what causes evil. Evil meditations cause people to become evil, not the mental illness. I’m just saying from experience, not all people who have a mental illness are evil. Yes its possible for an evil person to have a mental illness, but again its not the mental illness that drives evil.

Mental illness often times gets the blame for heinous crimes. This is why stigma continues. Because we’re missing all the facts people! It seems like whenever a heinous crime is in the media, and Mental illness is mentioned, that alone overshadows all the remaining components to that person’s character and choices which influenced their decision to commit a heinous crime.

Mental illness is often depicted in movies as something “crazy”, “psycho”, or “dark”, “evil” because they take a character, write that he has a Mental illness and portray him as such horrific things. And this is what we support people. To those who like those horror flicks, or killer movies, which in my opinion feeds the stigma. You’ll NEVER get it, until or unless someone near and dear to you becomes sick with a mental illness. Then and only then will you view things in a different light, will you then become a little more sensitive to things you never were before. Anyways, I know what I know and so it doesn’t and will not matter what others opinions are to my own facts as I have lived them. There’s an old saying, just keep on living and after while…….

I guess I can’t expect everyone to get it! Especially those who haven’t lived a similat journey. And btw, no it’s not all peaches and cream. It’s a lot of sleepless nights, walking on eggshells, and alot of effort goes into continual caregiving and giving a care. But when you’ve walked a similar path to that of mine, then and only then will you get it. If you have questions, please contact me privately, don’t post a long comment.

Anyways….

The people I have met are very inspiring. They are some of the most kind-hearted, fragile, soft spoken, upbeat, funny, energetic, loving, compassionate individuals I have ever met.

I have had a very unique opportunity to meet individuals who are battling everyday with their mental health, yet because their mental illness is “invisible” to others, their mixed in and combined within the general pool of applicants, students, interns, positions, classes, etc. And to their credit, it is no ones business unless they choose to share that they battle depression, Anxiety, bipolar, etc. Yet these same individuals are just as successful, have graduated with honors, have went onto college, have become famous athletes, have became well known in society, but only few have chose to break their silence and share their journey of how they have not allowed their mental illness to cripple them. I wish anyone who has a respectable platform who has fought tooth and nail, would share to inspire others, educate the general public, and give hope to family members.

I am like Martin Luther King Jr, and I too have a dream. I dream that one day every person will be educated about mental illness and eradicate stigma that continues to exist due to ignorance and false representations. I dream that one day there will be a medical procedure to quickly and accurately identify people who are in mental health decline, rather than treating them as a drug addict or violent aggressor. I dream that we will find a cure for mental illness. I dream for a better future for individuals who live with bipolar, schizophrenia, ptsd, ADHD, autism, aspergers, borderline personality, and all others. I dream that I will live long too see change for the better. I dream that there would be equal compassion for every one who battles an illness, cancer, disease or life impacting, debilitating sickness. I dream that individuals who battle with mental illness will receive just as much compassion as individuals who battle cancer or autism or other life altering ailments.

If you’ve read this and are out of touch, uninformed or misinformed please take and make time to become in touch, informed and accurately educated about how to help someone in crisis. You could save a life!

To those who follow the articles I write, once again, thank you for being here. I know it’s been awhile. I appreciate your support and don’t take it lightly. And thank you to those who share my articles on their social platforms and outlets.

Blessings to all! – E. Brooks

Church inclusion for special needs families.

This is my Facebook post on my personal account.

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.

Thank you for the support. Blessings!

Toy Story 4 & Another small victory!

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.

Photo credit: Disney / Pixar

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.

Happy moment for Erik!

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.”

Photo credit: Disney / Pixar

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.

My son and my husband

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.

Blessings!

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Inspiration & Hope that came from suffering & pain.

This will NEVER get old for me. It’s just a small part of my son’s journey.

My son’s news stories from 2014.

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.


My son praying during the special needs service.

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.

Blessings!

1 year Anniversary of Not Forgotten Ministries. #SpecialNeeds #families #church

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.

Church Info

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.

A mother sharing her story about her daughter’s health challenges & God’s goodness

Pics from Not Forgotten Ministries

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.

The girls playing with balloons in the kitchen during refreshments

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.

Me holding sis Shana’s newborn baby girl, Novalee. Such a precious baby. She was born premature, but God has blessed her with good health.

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!

Thanks for being here again.

Here’s a wealth of information about ABLE accounts! #Disabilities #Money #Assets

Last night I attended “The Gathering” which is a open group meeting held by NAMI Pierce for the community. A local affiliate that I am a member of and involved with. NAMI stands for National Alliance on Mental Illness for those who may not have known.

This would be my first time attending the gathering event. I’m so glad I went because the topic of discussion was about the new ABLE accounts for individuals with disabilities.

I had already heard about this service finally being offered in our state but didn’t know all the details.

There are some good benefits to having an ABLE account. The fact that the individual is allowed to save more than $2000 in their account without it being considered an asset with a maximum of up to $100k saved. And in this ABLE account those funds aren’t considered an asset when and if the individual should need to apply for Washington Apple Health, DSHS SNAP, TANF, food stamps, DCYF (childcare), HUD section 8 are all ABLE exemptions. Pretty cool right?

I also learned the qualifying expenses to spend from the ABLE account are basic living costs, housing, transportation, education, assistive technology, employment training, personal support services, legal fees, funeral, burial expenses, health and wellness, financial management costs. So in otherwords, they are able to spend on groceries, dining out, pay rent, and all the other things necessary to utilize their monies for.

There were a few downsides I wasn’t too fond about but it might be seen as beneficial for others. The individual would NOT have any access to withdrawing cash from a bank or ATM. Although I did ask the question, what if the individual uses their prepaid MasterCard at the grocery store and tries getting cash back at the register? I wasn’t given an adequate answer, instead I was told, “their not supposed to do that.” So I reiterated once more, “so their not supposed but they can, or their not supposed to and they won’t be given this access?” Still no clear answer, just informed that because the program is so new, kinks are still being worked out. So if anyone reading this actually knows the facts please comment to share that helpful info.

The other thing I wasn’t too fond of is that there us a $10 minimum transaction amount, and a $15k withdrawal amount. The number of withdrawals are unlimited daily and no transaction fee. But in order to spend from the account, it is only by online purchases, paper check, or their option of prepaid MasterCard. And its advised the individual use the funds for qualified disability expenses ONLY, and maintain records of their purchases.

There is also a fee for the prepaid card. It’s $1.25 per month so I had asked if they load $10 and don’t wind up spending the $10 does it fee itself out from being dormant over the period of say 8 months? Answer was yes. So basically, don’t load the card unless you know those funds are going to be spent. Again, there is no access at an ATM, or any financial institution. It’s is also prohibited for online gambling or illegal transactions which is a good thing.

The other downside, is that because this is NOT a credit card with a line of credit, if they use it for reserving a hotel stay, rental car, or things of that nature, they need to make sure to load the appropriate amount of funds in the event that the company may decide to preauthorize a set amount to hold their reservation. Meaning that set amount is not accessible to the individual until that hold falls off.

I could go on and on about all the details of the ABLE accounts but I would rather anyone who’s truly interested to inquire for the accurate information themselves. You can click the link within this article here to go directly to the website, or you can find the link on the main page of my website listed under resources.

So that’s a little bit of information to share with others who receive SSI, SSDI or are disabled who don’t receive these benefits but their disability occurred prior to the age of 26 and would meet the criteria.

I hope I was able to enlighten someone with this small wealth of information. One last thing I will provide here are 2 present contacts for these ABLE accounts with Washington State which may be difficult to find on the website.

Peter Tassoni, Disability Workgroup Manager – (360) 725-3125 peter.tassoni@commerce.wa.gov

Chris Gagnon (360) 725-3131 Christina.gagnon@commerce.wa.gov

FYI- At times I share other people’s articles to help them gain exposure or to help spread awareness about their journey with their life. I’m here to help others and to advocate for what I believe in. I’m here to be the voice for others who haven’t found the courage to use their own yet, but still want to get a message out. I’m here as a mom, advocate and friend, not a Mental health professional. Just using my experiences and knowledge to hopefully help others who are uninformed.

Have a great day! And don’t forget to follow me on my new social media outlets:

Twitter – @StigmasNo

Instagram – @Stigmas_No_More

Facebook – @Stigmasnomore.com

Or you can always contact me privately here by clicking “email me” or email me directly at: Stigmasnomore@gmail.com.

Thanks again for being here and I appreciate the positive feedback that some of you have already given me. I truly appreciate it. It helps me to know that my time, work and writing efforts are not in vain.

An amazing night for my son! #Hope #Inspired

Gotta love my son’s energy & enthusiasm. Be sure to click the links within the article and you’ll see the video clips.

This passed Wednesday I received a last minute phone call, unexpected while I was watching t.v. It was the coach from specialized recreation activities center and he asked, “Hey, what are you guys doing tomorrow night?” I hesitated and slowly said, “Umm, nothing really, why what’s up?” He said, “I have a really unique opportunity for Erik and you guys to go to a baseball game.”

Initially I thought the coach was going to say he needed my son to fill in as a team player for something. But then he mentioned baseball but had minimal information for me. He said another coworker of his would be contacting me with the details.

Long story short, the coworker called me and asked for my permission to give my number to someone else who would call me with even more details.

I have to admit we are not the “baseball” family but we have gone to a couple minor league games before. And I admit I grew up around baseball, softball my entire childhood because my dad and mom played, so I know the game well. Just not a fan of the sport, maybe because I was forced to go to every single game, tournament and travel for them too as a kid.

Anyways. So I got the call from the person in charge of this unique opportunity and he explained that he is with a non-profit organization called “Sons of baseball” and they host families with developmental disabilities or life-threatening illnesses. Their mission is to provide a unique opportunity to give a great experience, all expenses paid and to make it a special event for the child with the disability or life-threatening illness. And he said my family and my son, came highly recommended and selected by someone he reached out to.

My son arriving at the stadium. Shaking hands with their media guy.

Initially we were told by the coach, that it would probably be a meet up time around 530ish in the evening. So that would be doable. But it was actually 3pm. So what did this mean for us?

I would pick up my son from school early because he needed time to come home and complete his daily routine, eat his snack and do everything he normally does after school. I was hoping for the best possible outcome. But I’ll be honest, I was uncertain and I was prepared to leave before game time since the game wouldn’t start until 705pm.

I have to get straight to the good stuff. Not only did my son do SOOOOO good, he managed to make it from 3pm until 1030pm when the game ended, and he truly enjoyed himself thoroughly. He even surprised us by working through his sensory issues of the fireworks that were lit off with every home run. Of course, I went prepared, I brought his music ear buds and his noise reduction headphones to put over those. There was even an unexpected fire evacuation and he was a trooper, and didn’t freak out. It was Star Wars night so initially when the alarm sounded, we all thought it was a sound effect from Star Wars but it wasn’t. And we had just gotten food and sat down to eat when this occurred so there was many unexpected challenges through the evening and I have to say I was so proud of his growth and this evening proved to be another milestone for his development and maturity.

My son with his personalized jersey before entering the gate.

Had this been a few years back, we would not have lasted for more than an hour and either the fire alarm and especially the fireworks would have scared him to the point of having tunnel vision and demanding to leave, while screaming bloody murder, but he didn’t! Not to mention, my husband was expected to be able to ride with us to the event, but got off work later and met us there. So usually my son, would become impatient and demand to have us both present and have a tantrum, but he was so well behaved.

He received royal treatment. Tony Parks is the man who was the host and his sister. These two were amazing and genuinely passionate about their involvement. I could tell their heart was in it and not just going thru the motions.

They made sure we were comfortable at all times. Erik was given a baseball to have the players sign, unlimited concessions, got to go out on the field before the game, sit in the dugout, meet the players, and we were all given personalized jerseys sized to fit each of us. We were given the tour of the stadium and the media room. He was also honored on their streaming baseball channel. The most memorable moment of the evening, the announcer mentioned all our names and also thanked Erik for being there, and my son replied with a very loud, “YOUR WELCOME, YOUR WELCOME!” I gotta love this kid!

On the field while the players warmed up.

This was the most amazing eventful day. And it showed me that prayer does work, my long years of not giving up on his developmental issues has paid off and Erik proved me to remain hopeful for his growth and future development. This would not have happened had it not been for the Sons of baseball organization and Tony Parks, his sister Tiersa and the person who recommended our family. It felt good to be honored and to just have others doing something nice for my son.

Tony, Erik, Tiersa. After the game was done. Proud moment. We made it!

I shared all the details to hopefully spark some hope inside another mom who has been thru the daily struggles of raising a child with special healthcare or mental health challenges or both. Never give up hope! What doesn’t happen today, might happen tomorrow. Just because its not now, doesn’t mean it will never happen for your child. Celebrate the smallest achievements.

Blessings to you!