Learning to shine despite my disability

Growing up is hard enough without taking away the camaraderie of shared experiences. Kathryn has muscular dystrophy (MD) and has struggled with how to deal with being alone in her differences throughout her life. “I always felt different, especially as a teenager. There was just a difference when I’d be around kids my age. I couldn’t do things that they could do. I might be able to do certain things, but usually with limitations.”

When she was younger, Kathryn would hide it from people. In college, she can remember parking in a handicap spot but intentionally not using her handicap hanger, because she didn’t want people to know that she had a disability. But now Kathryn is able to admit, “deep down, I thought that people would not like me or accept me if they knew I was different.”

Turns out that it was her that needed to do the accepting. As she learned it began to shape her character. “My MD helped me to be the person that I am right now, which is someone who is able to love people where they’re at and help people get beyond a problem that they might have.”

When it came to choosing a career, Kathryn wanted to choose a career that would match her physical abilities. But she also wanted to be able to use her life experiences for the greater good. As a counselor Kathryn is able to help her clients accept the cards that life has dealt them, recognizing that sometimes you can’t control what happens to you, but it is adversity that actually makes you who you are.

Kathryn confesses that self acceptance does not change the situation; she still has many things that she is unable to do on her own. “It’s always on my mind, because when I do things, I just can’t go and do things like other people. I have to plan. I have to think about whether the car is too high to get into myself or if I can step up onto that porch. I can’t do a lot of those things on my own, and I have to ask for help. It can be very frustrating, because you want to be like everyone else… But then I remind myself that everyone feels different in some way, and this is my difference.”

Like Kathryn, it is our choice to reflect on what we can do and to bring out that positive spirit in our community. After all, we can only do one thing at a time… better to choose something that works toward the good!

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Make a Wish
To enter the contest that inspired Kathryn’s wish, check out Pantene’s Beautiful Wishes. And since $1 is donated to Pantene’s Beautiful Lengths program, which makes wigs for women who’ve lost their hair to cancer, we’ll all come out winners in the end.

An Expert Opinion
Get hair care solutions from the industry’s best courtesy of Pantene, which is hosting the Beautiful Wishes contest that Kathryn entered.

A Little Experiment
Want to know the science behind beautiful hair? Take a look at Pantene’s Under the Microscope to see how heat and brushing can terrorize your tresses.

A Source of Strength
At the Muscular Dystrophy Association, researchers are working to finding cures for more than 40 neuromuscular diseases affecting Americans of all ages.

On Her Own
Glenda Watson Hyatt shares her experiences living with cerebral palsy to motivate and inspire others to think about their own situation and the world around them. She does all this by typing with only her left thumb!

7 tips for communicating with young children

Caroline is a child psychologist, but when she’s dealing with her own kids, sometimes all the knowledge she has goes out the window.

“When Isabel was first born and I was looking at her, my first thought was, ‘I have no idea what I’m doing,’” she said. “With kids, everyday is a new adventure. Every day brings new things. While my professional training has helped in those moments where I need to be patient, it’s still very different when it’s my own child.”

Because children’s brains are still developing, Caroline suggests keeping things as concrete as possible when communicating. Kids don’t pick up on subtlety and innuendo like adults do, so while a long sigh may be intended to let them know you are nearing your wit’s end, using your words will work a lot better to settle them down.

Keep these things in mind as you communicate with your children:

1. Keep things clear, concise and simple.

Sometimes, explaining and rationalizing all the reasons behind something is not helpful. Your kids don’t understand where you’re going with it, so you’re likely to lose them.

2. Have empathy for where they are.

Understand that certain things, like blowing out the candles or seeing mommy leave for work or the first day of preschool, are really big and important in their minds. Try to see life from their perspective.

3. Schedule time to catch up.

Create deadlines and intentions for things you want to accomplish with your children, just like the deadlines you have at work. Make time to find out if anything’s bothering your kids, and they’ll be more likely to approach you when they are upset.

4. Use distractions to your advantage.

The shorter and quicker you can communicate about a conflict and move on, the better. Give them something new to think about by saying, “No, you can’t do this. But let’s do this instead.”

5. Keep your messages consistent.

The more consistent you and your partner are together, the more that everyone will understand the expectations. If my husband and I are on the same page, then our kids are getting the same messages from both of us.

6. Pick your battles.

Decide what’s really important and what just isn’t. Because they are kids, some things are okay. If they want ice cream before dinner one time, it’s okay. But when it has to do with their safety or good behavior, for example, then it’s important to give it complete attention.

7. If you say ‘no,’ say it quickly and firmly.

“I’ve found that when I say no, but I feel guilty or don’t really mean it, my kids pick up on that,” Caroline said. Learn to say “no” and mean it. In our family, we have a saying: “No is no.” It’s almost like a song—and for my kids, the bottom line.

Being a professional psychologist has helped Caroline take a unique approach to parenting.

“It’s helped me look at life from my kids’ perspective,” she said. “It’s not always easy, but I feel like my husband and I are able to communicate with my kids, which makes me really happy.”

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My 4 secrets for staying happy

Aymee, happiness expert and soon-to-be doctor of psychology, said she found her calling at a pivotal moment in college when she realized that she just wanted to help people be happy.

Discarding traditional forms of psychology, and a negative approach to diagnosis, Aymee favors focusing on what is right with people instead of what is wrong. “I probably have a disorder, and you probably have a disorder, everybody has a disorder, you know, so what good is that going to do?”

By some twist of fate, before Aymee found her chosen vocation, she would have described herself as a pretty happy person in general. But soon after, in her twenties, she found herself facing hardship and tragedy.

Aymee says the number one problem that people have with happiness is placing responsibility on to people places and things, instead of taking responsibility for their own happiness. If you are ready to take responsibility for your happiness, Aymee can give you three recommendations, right off the bat.

Express Gratitude

Write down five or ten things that you are really grateful for every day.

Practice Random Acts of Kindness

Practice five random acts of kindness a day. It can be something as simple as telling your coworker, “That outfit looks good on you.”

Smile!

There is one crucial element to happiness—taking the corners of your mouth and putting them up toward your cheek bones and repeat after Aymee: “My smile is the best thing that ever happened to me.”

“Happiness, if not now, when? When you are experiencing a happiness challenge, reach for your happiness helpers, look on the bright side, go for gratitude, practice random acts of kindness and don’t forget to do your happiness home work.”

Visit Aymee’s happiness hub for tips on finding – and maintaining – a happy outlook.

Do Something
At the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation, learn how to pass it on in a small way that has a big impact.

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Understanding My Food Issues

Micaela could remember going to a dietitian as early as 5-years-old. “My eating really got out of control, because it was when my mom was diagnosed with Lupus. And so it was a really fearful time for me, and I found a way to sort of numb out with food.”

“I can remember my mom bringing in like, Tab and skim milk and diet anything, and things being really restrictive. I was the only child and my mom was trying to teach me how to live healthily.”

After high school Micaela found her weight beginning to become more of an issue. “When I went to college, my diet got a lot worse because I could eat whatever I wanted—I wasn’t living with my mom anymore.”

By the time she graduated from college, Micaela was 40 lbs overweight, partying heavily, smoking and eating unhealthily. At the age of 23, she couldn’t run two city blocks with her boyfriend. “I was unhealthy and was using unhealthy behaviors to avoid dealing with my feelings. At that point, I realized I was very depressed.”

Micaela used partying and unhealthy behaviors to stuff down her feelings instead of dealing with them. It wasn’t until she was able to address the depression that she was able to then deal with the eating.

“And a lot of my story is binging and not throwing up. It hasn’t been really diagnosed yet, binge eating disorder, but it’s not considered a medical condition yet, but it’s definitely an eating disorder, where you binge. Things are fine for a while and then you do crazy things where you eat everything in sight and can’t really stop.”

She was at the point where she’d made changes and started working out, but her eating was still completely out of control.

Sometimes Micaela is afraid that she’ll wake up and be the same person she was 50 pounds ago. “Because it’s so challenging, there’s this fear that I’m going to get sick of doing it and quit. But then I realize that the reason I stick to it is that I feel better. I sleep better. I have more energy than ever. And I feel good about myself. That’s my motivation to keep making healthy choices for the rest of my life.”

If you are interested in learning more about the world’s healthiest foods, their benefits, and the best ways to prepare them, check out this nonprofit organization dedicated to educating people on the best foods for your body and the best ways to prepare them.

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