Spread the Word to End the Word Campaign

March Encourages You To 'Spread The Word To End The Word,' Listen Up

March may just be any other month to you, but it's much more to me.

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When you think of the month of March, you may think of St. Patrick's day or maybe even spring break. March may just be any other month to you, but to me, it's so much more. When it's this time around, I think of Spread the Word to End the Word, which is a United States National campaign founded by Timothy Shriver and Soeren Palumbo. The campaign aims to encourage people to stop using the word "retard." People like me believe that the "R" word is an offense to individuals with special needs and should NEVER be used.

This campaign is very important to me because, throughout junior high and high school, I was a part of an international nonprofit organization called Best Buddies where I got to work with many students who are special in their own way. We had fun events inside and outside of school, such as karaoke night, girls/guys night, movie night, and game night. During my time in this group, I didn't just hang out with these students; I formed strong friendships with them that will last a lifetime. This organization has taught me so much about what it truly means to be compassionate, and because of that, I will never support the use of the "R" word.

The use of the "R" word not only offends and upsets my special friends, but it also offends me because I know how much it affects them. According to CNN, by focusing on the word itself, you reinforce the negative connotation and actually strengthen the taboo. The focus should be on the acceptance and inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities. This breaks down the cultural taboo that creates word taboo in the first place. In addition, in 2010 the "R" word was eliminated from federal health, education and labor laws so, in my opinion, it should be eliminated from all forms of communication.

The "R" word is nothing but negative and it needs to be eliminated in every possible way. Help me spread awareness about the effects of the "R" word. Have the courage to speak up for what you believe in. I encourage YOU to help me Spread the Word to End the Word not only in the month of March but all the time. Make this month something special to you too.

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To The Parent Who Chose Addiction

Thank you for giving me a stronger bond with our family.

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When I was younger I resented you, I hated every ounce of you, and I used to question why God would give me a parent like you. Not now. Now I see the beauty and the blessings behind having an addict for a parent. If you're reading this, it isn't meant to hurt you, but rather to thank you.

Thank you for choosing your addiction over me.

Throughout my life, you have always chosen the addiction over my programs, my swim meets or even a simple movie night. You joke about it now or act as if I never questioned if you would wake up the next morning from your pill and alcohol-induced sleep, but I thank you for this. I thank you because I gained a relationship with God. The amount of time I spent praying for you strengthened our relationship in ways I could never explain.

SEE ALSO: They're Not Junkies, You're Just Uneducated

Thank you for giving me a stronger bond with our family.

The amount of hurt and disappointment our family has gone through has brought us closer together. I have a relationship with Nanny and Pop that would never be as strong as it is today if you had been in the picture from day one. That in itself is a blessing.

Thank you for showing me how to love.

From your absence, I have learned how to love unconditionally. I want you to know that even though you weren't here, I love you most of all. No matter the amount of heartbreak, tears, and pain I've felt, you will always be my greatest love.

Thank you for making me strong.

Thank you for leaving and for showing me how to be independent. From you, I have learned that I do not need anyone else to prove to me that I am worthy of being loved. From you, I have learned that life is always hard, but you shouldn't give into the things that make you feel good for a short while, but should search for the real happiness in life.

Most of all, thank you for showing me how to turn my hurt into motivation.

I have learned that the cycle of addiction is not something that will continue into my life. You have hurt me more than anyone, but through that hurt, I have pushed myself to become the best version of myself.

Thank you for choosing the addiction over me because you've made me stronger, wiser, and loving than I ever could've been before.

Cover Image Credit: http://crashingintolove.tumblr.com/post/62246881826/pieffysessanta-tumblr-com

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Ariana Grande Is Bringing Much-Needed Attention To PTSD, It's Time We All Learn What It Really Is

"not a joke."

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This week, Ariana Grande posted a picture on her Instagram that wasn't your typical selfie or self-promotional snapshot. She uploaded a picture of a comparative brain scan and her brain scan side by side to show what her PTSD looked like on the biological level. The picture was accompanied by the stark caption, "not a joke."

It isn't just her. Survivors of school shootings have repeatedly shared stories about the grief and stress they experienced after watching their friends die at the hands of gunmen. Studies have shown that PTSD can occur in anyone, regardless of age, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, etc. It is no longer the sole purview of shell-shocked soldiers returning from distant wars. It is affecting everyone from celebrities to school children. So what exactly is it?

PTSD stands for post-traumatic stress disorder. It is a psychiatric disorder that can occur when people experience or witness traumatic events, which in Grande's case was the shooting at her Manchester concert in 2017. She herself has said so.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual or Mental Disorders, or DSM for short, is America's (and to a close extent, Europe's) handbook of mental illness. According to the DSM, symptoms of PTSD include intrusive thoughts such as repeated flashbacks, distressing memories, or nightmares of the event. People with PTSD also actively avoid reminders of the event, such as associated people, places, objects, or situations. They may have general feelings of fear, anger, or sadness, as well as hopelessness. They may have memory problems, sleeping issues, irritability, and begin to distance themselves from friends and family as a result. It is a terrible condition and one that can lead survivors of traumatic events to suffer long after.

According to the American Psychiatric Association, an estimated one in 11 people will be diagnosed with the disorder in their lifetime.

Many more who have it will not, whether it is because they don't want help or cannot afford it. Women are also twice as likely to have PTSD than men. Whether this is because of the pervasive fear and threat of violence women live with, or other reasons, I will refrain from commenting. Causes of the disorder include physical assault, sexual violence, gun violence, abuse, accidents, and natural disasters, amongst others.

Of course, the rumor mill has started to dredge up other sordid details from her past, trying to piece together a timeline of her trauma and gauge whether or not her condition was "real enough." But it is useless and even dangerous to toss around armchair theories like this. Trauma means different things to different people and trying to make value judgments is not remotely a good idea. It also adds to the stigma surrounding mental illness, when sufferers continuously doubt the validity of their condition and may refrain from seeking help because of this self-doubt.

One of the most important factors in helping people with PTSD is to support them. Social support can make a huge difference in recovery and whether people develop the condition in the first place. Of course, someone can have the most supportive family in the world and still develop the condition. As Grande's post demonstrates, PTSD is a hard biological reality that can take anywhere from years to a lifetime of recovery.

As with much of psychology, it can be tempting to dismiss it as a lack of resilience or turn it into a zeitgeist buzzword. But sticking our heads into the proverbial sand isn't going to help anyone. Neither is dismissing the very real trauma of violence by ad hominem attacks describing the survivors as moody-sensitive-weak-immature or whatever term the oldsters like to use these days. Much like the soldiers before them, they have seen people gunned down in front of their eyes while they were filled with a dread fear for their own lives.

Social media means we can no longer turn a blind eye to the pain so many of our peers are living in. So we must face it, head-on. We must support those who are suffering and reduce the stigma and self-doubt that keep survivors from accessing the help they need. We can start by listening to their stories and sharing information. In the words of Ariana Grande's Song "get well soon," "you shouldn't be alone," and you are not.

A good start is talking to your doctors or other health care providers. If someone you know and/or love has PTSD, support them. If you yourself have it, try and find a counselor or therapist to get help. If you feel conscious of being the focus of attention, there are support groups for trauma survivors, and even for the relatives of people with PTSD. The National Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services also has a number that you can call for further information for yourself or someone else at 1-800-487-4889.

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