It's Time To Stop Using The R-Word

The R-Word Is Not A Word You Should Be Using

Spread the word to end the word.

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I'm having a conversation with a group of friends and it's going well as conversations with friends should go. Out of the blue, one person says something along the lines like, "Yeah, I looked retarded."

Excuse me, what?

Out of all of the adjectives in the world, you pick that one?

Allow me to elaborate. The R-word is not a word you should be using in an everyday context. You shouldn't call someone that and you should never describe someone or something as the R-word. Why? Because it's an offensive, derogatory term to humans with special needs. Basically, you are degrading others and their abilities by saying the R-word as well as not being accepting or inclusive. It's crude and needs to be eliminated from everyday speech.

Now don't get me wrong. This hasn't always been the case with the R-word; This word was socially acceptable at one point (back in like, the 17th century). In fact, the word comes from the Latin verb "retardare" which means "to hinder" or, "to make slow." We see it pop up in older literature and conversation but around the 20th century, it became a word that describes people living with mental disabilities and quickly became associated with other terms such as "moron," "idiot," and "imbecile."

In fact, on October 5, 2010, President Obama signed S. 2781 (known as Rosa's Law for the young girl who worked to get it signed) into law. This bill replaced the term "mental retardation" with "mental disability" as well as the phrase "mentally retarded individual" with "an individual with an intellectual disability." Now, the former terms and phrases no longer exist in federal health, education or labor policies. The overall goal for this law was and is to eliminate this harmful language permanently to prevent hurting and offending the vast number of people and families that have a loved one who may live with intellectual disabilities.

This concludes the history lesson portion of the article. For these reasons, the R-word has become a degrading word with negative context and we as a society should realize that, find a dictionary, and pick another adjective to describe how you look.

Still don't get it? Still think that it's socially acceptable even after my history lesson?

A former teacher of mine once used the following as examples to prove this exact point that I'm trying to make and as much as I hate typing them out, it hits hard and it will shut down any person that tries to argue that the R-word is fine to use. To sum up the examples in the softest way possible, it's basically the equivalent of calling an LGBTQ+ person a "fag" or an African American the n-word. You don't. Because all of that is WRONG and DEGRADING and you have no right to be using terms such as those. Does it make sense now? Yes? Good.

If you're interested in finding out more about ways to stop the use of this word, I recommend checking out https://www.r-word.org this organization raises awareness about the negative context of the R-word and encourages people to pledge to "spread the word to end the word." You can check out personal stories and find out when events that promote the organization are taking place.

The world isn't that big but our vocabulary is. If you use the R-word, chances are you'll seriously offend someone. Instead, please find another adjective. It's not that difficult. By doing so, you'll be helping to end the use of the R-word permanently.

Cover Image Credit:

Pixabay

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My 3-Year-Long Migraine Without The Headache

My difficult journey with dizziness and vertigo that led me to my diagnosis of chronic Vestibular Migraine
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It all began one day during my freshman year of college. I awoke to a feeling of an elevator dropping inside of me which progressed to a constant feeling of off balance. I proceeded to the ER in utter fright - nothing emergent was wrong. I waited to see my doctor at home after finishing up the school year. I was told I had labyrinthitis and it go away soon. She was completely wrong. A few weeks into my sophomore year of college I started having blurry and double vision. I felt like I was floating on a raft in the ocean every time I laid down. I constantly went to doctors, but everyone told me it was stress and anxiety.

I began getting sensations that gravity was pulling me in random directions. It was very difficult to sit in class and I was in hard classes at the time — I was taking organic chemistry and physics. One day, I grew frustrated and went to the hospital. I remember the doctors asking me to call my parents and them saying, "We're sorry but we think your daughter has MS." I ended up not having MS, but I didn't know what I had.

My symptoms eventually became 24/7. I went to an ENT who diagnosed me with BPPV. He did an Epley Maneuver, but it only helped for a day. I went to a chiropractor who told me that something was wrong with my neck and that all just made me feel worse. I spent my 21st birthday crying. My symptoms were getting worse every month. I truly don't know how I passed my classes that next semester. The following summer was yet again spent trying to figure out what was wrong with me. My goal was to figure out what was wrong with me by the time I began pharmacy school at the end of August. Unfortunately, I did not achieve that goal.

November 20, 2016 was one of the worst days of my life. The symptoms came back more severe than imaginable - and stayed like this for 5 months straight, every minute of the day. This was when I became off-balanced, dizzy and unable to walk without holding onto things. I felt like my head was a bobble head. I felt like I was constantly drunk and on a boat. I studied for my final exams feeling like I was bouncing on the chair as my head was rocking and swaying. That winter break, my symptoms were unbearable. I was unable to sit without falling off the chair and my whole body felt like I couldn't control it. I was so dizzy. Two days before Christmas I got a call saying some labs pointed toward a tumor and that I needed have MRI's of the brain and cervical spine. I was scared, yet relieved that I may have an answer. The MRI came back clear, which shocked the doctors. I was sent home and referred to a neurologist with an 8-month waiting list.

On New Year's Eve, I sat on the couch crying uncontrollably; it was the third year I had been sick with this unknown illness. Many of my friends texted me that 2017 was going to be a better year and I replied, "you said that last year and the year before." I was screaming and crying in agony as the ball dropped. My head was furiously rocking as my body was floating and being pulled every which way. From midnight until 7 am I sat on my bed in a ball rocking back and forth. My ears were filled with an excruciating ringing for 12 hours straight. I went to the ER. I sat in that waiting room for 5 hours with my whole body and head rocking back and forth.

The doctors said my ear looked like it was bulging. I was so excited and wondered how nobody ever noticed this. They told me that the false movement sensations were vertigo. I thought vertigo meant the room was spinning, but that day I learned it can mean that you feel like you are moving. They gave me a massive dose of steroids and I felt so much better I was crying of joy. Well, two days later it all came back. I had no idea how I was supposed to take on another semester of school while battling this. But I tried. I hit my car twice, which led me to make the difficult decision to take a year off of school.

I was then hospitalized for 6 days. I saw an ENT and a Neurologist. The ENT thought I may have Superior Semicircular Canal Dehiscence Syndrome (SSCD), but it came back negative. The neurologist didn’t have a clear diagnosis but he put me on Topamax because he "thought it may work." He said I wouldn't notice any improvement for at least a month, or even two months. That was sure great to hear. I left the hospital no better.

A month later, the phone rang. There was a cancellation to see the vestibular neurologist that I couldn't see for 8 months. This is the day someone finally actually understood what I was going through. He spent over 2 hours with me.

This is the day I was diagnosed "Vestibular Migraine."

I had a hard time believing this. I did not have a headache and my symptoms were 24/7. I knew people with migraines and this was not what I had. He said that my light and smell sensitivities as well as my childhood history of sinus headaches (which I thought were sinus infections at the time) fit the criteria for migraine. I began vestibular rehab. I had an amazing physical therapist that gave me exercises to help me sit again without falling off of a chair. I was starting to feel a little better. The Topamax began to help at 25 mg twice a day and I eventually added Effexor XR 37.5 mg. I also take Riboflavin, Ginger, Coenzyme Q10, Vitamin D and Magnesium Gycinate daily. In addition, I am doing a migraine food elimination diet from the book "Heal Your Headache" by David Buckholtz; I strongly recommend reading this as it explains the mechanism of migraine in detail as well as useful medications.

The medications, supplements, and diet have helped me so much.

I am proud of how far I have come and I am proud I never gave up on searching for an answer.

The term "Vestibular Migraine" is an understatement for its horrendous symptoms. Often people will say - "oh it's just a headache, I understand." This is not true by any means. I actually didn't believe my diagnosis at first because I don't have any headaches other than an occasional tension headache. My symptoms were also 24/7. A migraine is a neurological disease that can cause all sorts of symptoms that affect every system of the body. There are many types of migraines, including, Hemiplegic Migraine, Basilar Migraine, Ocular Migraine, and more. Some of these have overlapping symptoms of other diseases, some involve seizures, and some even portray stroke-like symptoms.

If you are suffering from any form of migraine, know that you are not alone. Believe that you will get better, even though you may feel hopeless now.

#EndMigraineStigma

Cover Image Credit: Kelly Braun

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It's National Eosinophil Awareness Week And More People Should Be Talking About It

It's time to raise awareness about eosinophil-associated diseases and support those, including myself, who are affected.

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For anyone who is unaware, May 19 to May 25 is considered National Eosinophil Awareness Week as recognized by the American Partnership for Eosinophilic Disorders (Apfed) since 2007. The purpose of this week is to raise awareness and help educate individuals on the various eosinophil-associated diseases. Despite its existence being virtually unknown to many people, this week has become very significant in my life and I think more people should be having conversations about it.

If you had asked me about eosinophil-associated diseases two years ago, I wouldn't have been able to say a single thing besides maybe defining an eosinophil the way I learned to in my AP Biology class senior year of high school. But as of a few months ago, it has officially been one year since I was diagnosed with an eosinophil-associated disease — something I never imagined would happen in my life. While I won't share too much of my own experience because it's honestly quite personal and still a little sensitive to discuss, it's safe to say that eosinophils completely changed my life.

I was fracturing bones like it was my job — I think I had upwards of nine stress fractures in my legs and feet in a year and a half time period. I had to stop playing sports my senior year of high school and couldn't run at all. I was nauseous 24/7. I was rapidly losing weight to the point where I had lost close to 35 pounds and none of my clothes fit me. I couldn't swallow anything, including water. Eating was painful. I had no appetite.

I was sick and in pain ALL the time to the point where I would get emotional or even cry.

I missed school days, tests, exams, social events, and eventually had to quit my job for an entire summer because even getting out of bed was hard for me. Ultimately, even the decision about the college that I chose to attend was partially based on my health and the doctors I would need to visit frequently.

But the most significant thing was that I was experiencing severe depression and anxiety and was honestly just straight-up scared. Think about it: I was experiencing a wide range of life-altering symptoms yet no one could figure out why and even when they did, there was no cure and only limited options for treatment. Unfortunately, this is the reality for many patients and their families. The process of diagnosing an eosinophil-associated disease can take years and require pretty much every medical test you can even think of because these diseases are all classified as rare diseases.

I was experiencing symptoms for a year and the journey to an accurate diagnosis took about a year after that. The journey itself was not easy, as it involved numerous doctors and countless medical tests to eliminate other potential diagnoses like cancers, parasites or even celiac. Since then, I have been involved with treatment for a little over a year. For me, treatment involved several medications and steps, including gaining the weight I had lost.

But the main piece was cutting pretty much everything out of my diet, meaning no gluten, dairy, soy, eggs, seafood, or nuts. Gradually over time this treatment involves reintroducing the foods individually (each for a three-month period) to see what can be tolerated or which foods make my eosinophils act abnormally and then restricting my diet accordingly.

Since starting treatment my life has been gradually changing in a positive manner, which is something I couldn't have imagined when I initially became ill. Yes, I will still be sick for the rest of my life and experience the chronic waxing and waning of this disease, but hopefully years of experience and knowledge will make me better equipped to handle it. One day there may even be a cure. But until then I will continue to raise awareness and participate in National Eosinophil Awareness Week in solidarity with the few who are also sharing in my experience living with an eosinophil-associated disease.

While I wrote this article with the intention of participating in Eosinophil Awareness Week by raising awareness and educating (to some extent), it was about more than that. I wanted to give you a synopsis of my story and the challenges I face to make this week more understandable and more real. This was because I know that eosinophil is not only challenging to say (even I struggle) but also challenging to conceptualize.

If you're interested in learning more or you're still confused, I recommend doing some quick reading on Apfed's website because they are extremely helpful in the way they simplify the complex information.

If you would like to see what you can do during National Eosinophil Awareness Week, you can also click here to visit Apfed's day-by-day guide for the week, which included some fact sheets, information about wearing magenta to support the cause, and other information about individual participation.

Editor's note: The views expressed in this article are not intended to replace professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

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