#thisistheface: Ending the stigma of mental illness

It started with the death of Robin Williams yesterday. A shock rolled through social media as we learned of his death. In reaction to the many comments misunderstanding depression I posted this on my private Facebook page this morning:

I live with depression.
I ride the waves as they come. I can’t control them anymore than I control the tides.
So I’m learning to surf. I used to fear the swell. Now I’m equipped: Exercise, meds (no shame), and therapy (when needed).
Friends who love. They bring me a raft when the white water takes me down. We float together.
Floating is okay too. Because riding and floating are living.
Know someone learning to surf the waves of depression?
Now you do.

Now with a shock is a spark. A spark of hope setting into motion something really great. My dear friend Cory has anxiety and a son diagnosed with bipolar disorder. She posted a selfie with the phrase “This is the face of anxiety” and asked me to help her start a campaign to end the stigma of mental illness.

I can help because I’m finally ready. Here’s my post in response.

Mental illness can affect anyone.  A life can be full and whole and beautiful and still be entwined with mental illness. Support is key. If you are at a place in life where sharing your story is safe, please consider posting a selfie on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram with the hashtag #thisistheface. Together our sparks can ignite a fire.


Racing Toward Better Speech: #NDSC14 Presentation

Sisters hanging out. Jennifer and April (26)

Sisters hanging out. Jennifer and April (26)

The National Down Syndrome Congress (NDSC) Convention is in full swing in Indianapolis. Those of you attending #NDSC14 have access to my presentation slides through the convention app. If you didn’t attend or would like a quick way to download yesterday’s presentation I’ve attached them here: BekinsNDSC2014

While I have permission to use the photos and videos in every presentation, I remove the videos prior to online publishing. Thank you for understanding.

To those who attended the course yesterday – WOW! There were a LOT of you. Thank you for coming and the many kind words of encouragement afterward. A special thanks to Benji for talking to Elmo.

If you wanted to ask a question and didn’t get a chance, please feel free to email me at talkdownsyndrome@gmail.com.




A day in the life – Sister Texts

A day in my life now usually includes text messages from my sister April, 26 with Down syndrome. This recent exchange highlights our typical interactions, joking, and general interest in each others’ lives. April (A), Me (J) – Spelling and grammar kept as written.copy-jennapril-1.jpg

A: hey sis Lent season It’s already started I’m forgiving up meat any kind of beans and bake potatoes and sweets and candy even doughnuts I have to wait I go back into it for Easter

J: Good. You’ll be less fatty.

J: Stupid spell check. I meant FARTY ["fart" is verboten in my parent's house, so of course I text it to her]

A: Can you spell dumb sister

J: Yes. Spell check changed it.

A: Please sister do not mean about this that’s unkind I’m trying for my best waiting for Easter

J: Teasing you. Good luck with your Lent.

A: are you sure

J: Yes. Totally sure.

A: ok how about you what are you doing Lent

J: Giving up being mean to you. It will be hard. I think I can do it.

A: beside that sister

J: Oh. Cartwheels. No more cartwheels.

A: are you forgiving up Meat

J: No.

A: why

J: Why are you?

A: Yes. I’m forgiving up meat

J: No, I mean, why aren’t you eating it?

A: because its Lent

J: Well, my Lent includes meat.

There you have it. Lent is forgiving [for giving] up meat and I’m an instigator. All in a day with my sister…who happens to have a diagnosis of Down syndrome.