Monday, December 11, 2017

Behind the Mic Book Review: Someone Like Me By John W. Quinn

I met John Quinn seven years ago. He was commenting on one of Zach Anner's Facebook statuses. Zach Anner won the Oprah's Own show competition, remember? I was in my "interview search mode" trying to book interviews for my podcast. When I get in that "search mode" I can come up with pretty great stuff! I started looking through the comment feed on Zach's status, which I very rarely do, but I when I found John's comments on the feed, they weren't  the type of comments you usually see on public figure statuses. His remarks were dignified, respectful, and very commending of Zach's accomplishment on winning his own show. I noticed after that he made a short comment on his own story. I don't know what the full comment said, because my mind just focused in on the words: "disability" "Navy" and "hid". After seeing those words I was intrigued, but, I ended up going out of the comment feed and forgetting about it until a few hours later. "John is the perfect interview for the podcast, Michelle, c'mon, now, jump on it!" So I invited him to connect on Facebook, bought his book, asked for an interview and the rest is history! Really, John's story is one for the history books for sure. Speaking of books, I couldn't put his down! I read the book in a week! John went into the Navy and retired after twenty years, as a Senior Chief petty officer, which is the eighth of nine enlisted ranks in the U.S. Navy. No one knew until shortly after he wrote "Someone Like Me" that he even had cerebral palsy. That was astounding to me! The foundation that was laid to never let the label "cerebral palsy"  stop or hinder him, was set by his parents. In fact, it was his dad that told the doctors:  I don't want to see the words "cerebral palsy" or "handicapped" listed anywhere in his medical record. If you doctors label him with that now, it will follow him for the rest of his life, and I won't have that."  John comments further on his parents view of his condition:  My parents downplayed the issue of cerebral palsy to ensure that I lived as normal a life as possible  and I was never treated as someone with a handicap by my four brothers and three sisters. It was just the way I wanted it."  John never let his challenges follow him or get him down, even when the tough times reared their ugly head. Through loss, heartbreak, and the rigors of Navy life - screaming commanders, marching in frigid temperatures, a bout of acute cellulitis, losing his parents, his mom to cancer and his dad to a heart attack. His brother Steven took his life by suicide. The heartbreak of losing someone he thought would be the love of his life.  Not one ounce of all the challenges that life has thrown at him, has thrown him off his beat. Through each hurdle he jumped over, he came out stronger and even more determined.  I'm purposefully restraining myself from blogging about the whole entire book. It's a book review which is meant to just whet your appetite, but this book is a definite MUST READ! You will laugh, cry, cheer and most of all, be given hope that the possibilities are endless once you realize never to put yourself in a box, always being ready to push the envelope. As John says: "You want an absolute?  Here are two: You are never alone. There is always hope."  For Someone Like ME!

Thank you John for sharing your story on my podcast so many years ago! And thank you for allowing me to tell your story I appreciated the opportunity! And thank you for always bringing your story to everyone, everywhere! I'm glad I could be a small part of spreading the Awareness and Hope that's behind your story! -----Michelle

Hear John's interview I did with him 5 years ago on his story and book here: https://www.arcind.org/podcasts/a-view-with-john-quinn-author-of-someone-like-me/

Michelle Fischer is host of A View from My Window, a podcast produced by The Arc of Indiana

You can also purchase John's book on Amazon!

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Breaking News: I am a Panic Attack Sufferer!


I started experiencing panic attacks around the age of 18, about the same time I started experiencing depression. Depression and cerebral palsy were horrible enough, but then these attacks that have no trigger whatsoever? Yeah, now I'm at the peak of weirdness, I thought. I have never really talked about panic attacks until the last couple of years. I felt like if I talked about them, not only would people not understand, but I would be looked at as the most selfish person in the universe!  The real hard truth is, Ladies and Gentleman... Panic Attacks ARE REAL!  They do make me feel super out of control, mine come out of nowhere...literally I'm sitting by myself or lying in my own comfy bed in my own house!  I may go out to eat with friends and I'll have 2 small ones and a large one that shakes my body so much inside that I just want to curl up in a tight ball and cry until there are no more tears to cry! These attacks don't care that you want to enjoy life to the full with the ones you love, enjoy the act of actually taking air into your lungs, going shopping, going to a bookstore, going to a movie or just running errands. Everyday life is taken from you when these attacks show themselves... not to mention your self-esteem takes a MAJOR hit!  After many attempts at trying to be "Rosie the Riveter" about the toll that these were taking on my body, and that I could ''handle it", I found that it was difficult to deal with these alone. Seeking support makes everything more bearable! I wasn't too much of a fan of being that vulnerable at first, but the more I got used to the idea, the easier it became. As I talked about my anxiety, I found that many people suffer from the same thing. Then it occurred to me... the more you express what you are going though, the more other people feel free to express themselves. You never know how long they've felt the same fear of expressing their feelings, but because you are doing it, they may realize it's ok for them as well. What a gift to give to someone! In the years since, I have been to many doctors with no success. Then I found the sweetest doctor that has done wonders for me in helping control these monsters! Granted, I still struggle with them, and we have a rocky complicated relationship, but, I'm certainly glad I haven't giving up in showing them who's in control! I realized I'm worth it, and I'm certainly not alone.. No one is ever ALONE, my dear reader...NO ONE!

Michelle Fischer is host of A View from My Window a podcast produced by The Arc of Indiana

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

The Celiac Disease Monster is in attack mode.....TURN and RUNNNNN!!!

FACT: 1 out of every 133 Americans has celiac disease, nearly 1% of the US population.  83% of the 3 million Americans living with celiac disease remain undiagnosed or misdiagnosed.

Hello, my name is Michelle Fischer and I am among those who have this disease.  I was a lover of all things GLUTEN before I was diagnosed! Bread, cookies, pasta, pizza...you name it, I ate it and enjoyed every last morsel!  Then suddenly after so many happy delicious meals, everything changed!  I couldn't eat without having to make a B-line to the bathroom. I was extremely tired with dark circles under my eyes and I felt nauseous ALL the time!  Was there a monster inside me?  I honestly thought I had some ultra fatal condition!  I'm always really good at building up the worst case scenarios in my head. When it comes to anything medical, I try to be a good patient, but the problem is I don't like needles or painful procedures but I was forced to face needles and blood work head on because my body was fighting a battle against itself and I was smack dab in the middle of dealing with severe repercussions!  I was COVERED in a rash from head to toe that was the itchiest rash...seriously I had never itched that much in my life!  After the rash appeared and the itching was consuming my whole life, my mom and I knew we needed to find out what was going on, because something was terribly wrong!  Two doctors, an awesome internist and a magnificent allergist told me the news I dreaded, yet relieved it was a disease that we would be able to manage. Confession: I cried the first time I couldn't just go in somewhere and order whatever I wanted.  As time has gone by though, having celiac disease has really been an empowering sort of journey for me.  I have become an expert label reader, researcher and food detective, which has resulted in being a healthier me.  Now, there have been a few times where I have slipped unknowingly, because sometimes ingredients aren't listed properly and I didn't look close enough, but it doesn't happen often and for that I'm grateful.  Having celiac disease has also brought self-care to the forefront.  It pays to care about what goes in your body and know what things are affecting you.  I deserve to be the best I can be and you do too!  Making these changes and making self-care a priority...makes you the best YOU!  That's the best gift you can give yourself and others.  Life is meant to be lived to the full, with nothing holding you back or standing in your way!

If you, or someone you know is suspecting a gluten allergy, please don't wait to get tested!  The great people at beyondceliac.org have wonderful resources and all things celiac disease! I interviewed Alice Bast on the podcast a couple of years ago! Here's the link to that interview! www.arcind.org/podcasts/a-view-into-celiac-disease-with-alice-bast-national-foundation-for-celiac-awareness/

Here's a celiac symptom questionnaire as well if you suspect celiac disease: www.beyondceliac.org/celiac-disease/symptoms-checklist/

Michelle Fischer is host of A View from My Window, a podcast produced by The Arc of Indiana

Monday, October 23, 2017

Behind The Mic Book Review: Keeping My Balance A Memoir of Disability and Determination by Stephanie Torreno

Google is a girls' best friend when it comes to finding memoirs on disability, so a journalist such as myself, can wet your appetite to check these books out!  Google did not disappoint this journalist either!  Keeping My Balance A Memoir of Disability and Determination by Stephanie Torreno, is a book that shows just because you have a disability or special need, doesn't mean you can't accomplish your goals or dreams. The key is to explore and consistently push yourself out of your comfort zone, to see how you handle the ups and downs of life that everyone experiences.  Stephanie is incredibly candid in expressing her hurdles, struggles and humor.  I couldn't put this book down!  She had huge hurdles to overcome.  Her speech was difficult to understand and she needed note takers in school and throughout college.  Transportation needs were addressed, sometimes her mom would take her places, sometimes her Nana, then MetroLift....each time she talks about MetroLift though, all I could do was shake my head!  They were always late!!  It's never comfortable to be late, even if you're fashionably late!  Home health care nurses helped with prepping meals, but it was hard to find and keep good help.  The next couple of challenges Stephanie faced were some of the most heartbreaking.  The tragic losses of her Dad to suicide and her Nana to cancer.  Depression and anxiety became her new normal on top of the challenges of cerebral palsy.  She had to come to the realization that no one caused her dad's suicide, so she didn't have to feel responsible.  I really resonated with how she felt, wondering if depression would ever loosen it's grip so that I would feel like myself again, too.  The most wonderful transformation, though, was how through all the challenges, even the ones I haven't covered in this post, Stephanie never stopped moving forward, even when the obstacles seemed impossible!  It was all about mindset when it came to accomplishing the task of college, family life and loss.  This book underscores the fact that no one is "special" or immune to what life can throw at you.  The true success of anyone is all about navigation of the hills, valleys and boulders. Stephanie Torreno NEVER gave up and never gave in.  She kept her balance always with grace and determination...The moral of this story: "You never know how strong you are, until being strong is your only choice"----Bob Marley

Michelle Fischer is host of A View from My Window, a podcast produced by The Arc of Indiana

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Behind the Mic Book Review: a special education by Dana Buchman

 "What was going on inside me - what still sometimes goes on - was a frightening identification with my daughter and a feeling of being revealed as less than perfect.  On the outside, I project a very together exterior; hard-working fashion designer of a popular label, happy wife and mother of two, with any unpleasant feelings neatly tucked in.  But on the inside, I am messy.  I am insecure, incomplete.  I always feel I'm not the best I can be, not an "A." Underneath the glam exterior, I'm vulnerable, flawed.. I have always been afraid of these very human emotions, and I've always done everything in my power to block them out" ----Dana Buchman

Well, this pretty much ends the writing of this book review, doesn't it?  Period. Ok, blog finished!  Ok, ok.. really, there is just a couple more paragraphs to this review, I promise!  I couldn't help but totally relate to the sentences above when thinking about my challenges, but the cool thing about having someone like Dana Buchman, one of the most recognized designers in women's clothing write a book and share her story, is that it shows she is made up of the exact same things we all are..flesh and blood.  That flesh and blood makes us all human.  No matter your situation in life, famous or not, able-bodied or not, married or single, black or white..the list could go on and on, we all have stories of triumph over difficult hurdles and obstacles.  Dana writes about discovering herself, which helped her in understanding that showing you're not perfect in every aspect is what makes you more relatable, and in the end, more comfortable with yourself.  You can't give to others from an empty cup.  In my own personal circumstances in coming to terms with cerebral palsy, I was ALL about denial and burying my head in the sand. Just like Charlotte though, no matter how hard I tried, it was there like a glaring eye sore..in order to cope, I had to face my challenges head on..Me, Me and only ME! That's the way Dana had to approach the roller coaster of challenges that would characterize her daughter Charlottes' journey with learning disabilities.  Fear, anger, confusion, deep sadness and pain.  This was not how Dana usually lived life... she was very in control, the driver of her own success.  Just when it seems that there is a boulder that wants to shatter her life in pieces, Charlotte slowly but surely proves that learning differences will not define her or those around her, especially the love and bond of her family!  This book was published in 2006, but the moral of the story is the same: Whatever your destination, there's a million beautiful, ever-changing ways to get us there!

Michelle Fischer is host of  A View from My Window, a podcast produced by The Arc of Indiana



Monday, October 9, 2017

Looking through my writing archives...A piece written for the HandicapThis Team!

This is a #Throwback post! I wrote this piece a couple of years ago for the HandicapThis Team! Hope you enjoy!

Emotions are what connect us.  We can speak to each other through emotions.  When someone cries, they need comfort.  When someone is angry or upset, they need a listening ear.  When someone is so happy they can’t hold it in, your heart bursts out in happiness with them!  What helps motivate you to connect with others through your emotions?  Understanding and fellow feeling.  These two qualities help you to put yourself in another person’s shoes.  You remember that, at certain times in your life you have also felt the weight of heavy emotions - the ones where you feel like you could break and shatter and not be able to go on...  You have also felt the feel good emotions, happiness and contentment, feeling so good that nothing will stop you!   You may say to yourself, “Negative thoughts, what negative thoughts? I’m ecstatic” ...as you bask in your happiness.  As you go through these emotions in your lifetime, who is there for you?  Whoever the person is, you no doubt feel so much better after you talk about how you feel.  Whether it’s pouring out your heart or getting set to accomplish something you have always dreamed of, someone you love, respect and care for is and was there, for...YOU.

Those who love you, may have taken the time to share insights into what helps them get through certain situations without letting their emotions take over and keeping a level head.  Then you may decide to pay it forward and share it with someone else.  For example, let’s say you try to give encouragement and positive help to someone and you walk away feeling like you helped them.  However, the next time you see them, they seem guarded and closed.  Within yourself, you may feel like the help or advice you gave, didn’t help at all.  Here’s something my mom has always said to me, “People can only give you what they can give you on that day”.   Everyone, disabled or not, deals with stresses, emotions and disappointments in different ways.  These things weigh on people, and there are days when it would just be easier to stay in bed!

A good thing to remember, though, is that the time you take to be there for someone will always be remembered.  When something is on someone’s shoulders, it sometimes takes time for the advice to sink in.  At the time, they may not be able to see how your advice will help them, but in the long run, it can have an impact on that person for the good - helping them to keep moving forward!  That’s such a wonderful gift you can give to another person - using what’s in your power to help.  A kind word or a gentle hug, can help that person to recharge and become resilient again!  

I often talk about how people with disabilities should be included in groups with those without disabilities so that each can benefit from the other.  People with disabilities are often thought of as needing something.  However, we can give something, as well.  Since there is more happiness in giving, I propose that we start something new.  All those who have disabilities (I’m included in this group:), can make an effort to give of themselves everyday.  Talk to someone without a disability.  Talk to someone with a disability!  Say hello and put on a warm smile. If you are able to have a longer conversation, you might be surprised by what you find out about them.  You may find out that you have more in common than you first thought and you might just be the person that makes their day a bit brighter.  Practice makes perfect and the more you practice relating to people, the more you can give of yourself to them.  People will observe the way you view the challenges and obstacles that come up in your daily routine, and how you handle them.  As you work on your perspective and your positive emotions, you will become a person who can be there for others.  As you give back for all the times others have given to you....the impact will be lasting and priceless!

Emotions are powerful for the good or bad, building up or shattering to pieces.  Ask yourself: What part do I want to play in how far Disability Awareness rolls on?  What kind of ripple effect do I want to make for those around me?  Emotions are what connect us.  Putting our heart into our emotions - the motivation behind how we use our emotions - will help keep us together!

Michelle Fischer is host of A View from My Window a podcast podcast produced by The Arc of Indiana www.arcind.org/podcasts/