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Here's what life is like with an 'invisible disease.' It's kind of intense.

We don't always think of it as life-threatening, but it is.

Here's what life is like with an 'invisible disease.' It's kind of intense.

That's me with my little brother in 1990. I was 10 years old.

I know what you're thinking. I had style written all over me!


If you can tear your eyes away from the photo for a few minutes — which I understand is difficult because my bad perm and glasses that are half the size of my face are extremely engaging — I'll tell you why this picture is significant.

This was taken one year after I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.

We were on a camping trip in the middle of nowhere, a three-hour drive from the nearest town and emergency services, reachable only via a narrow dirt mountain road.

My parents debated whether it was safe for us to take such a trip so soon after learning that my life wouldn't be "normal" again. Because for type 1 diabetics, particularly children, not being able to call 911 can be deadly.

Type 1 diabetes is a disease in which the pancreas, which produces the hormone insulin that is necessary for converting the glucose in food into energy, quits working. It's an autoimmune disease, which means that a type 1 diabetic's body pretty much kills its own pancreas. The cause is unknown, and there's no cure.

The way a type 1 diabetic stays alive is through multiple daily insulin injections (or an insulin pump), blood glucose monitoring, and a lot of hoping for the best because often, no matter how "right" we do things, stuff still goes wrong.

I'd spent 10 days in the hospital after I was first diagnosed, learning how to stay alive. And then my family and I spent the next year learning how to live while I stayed alive.

Living and staying alive are two different things.

One year later, with the encouragement of my doctors, my parents planned carefully and we went on our trip. Very. Big. Deal.

So why am I sharing this embarrassing photo with you? Because there are a few things I'd like you to know.

Type 1 diabetes isn't all that common.

Because it has a nearly identical name to type 2 diabetes, it's easy to confuse the two and conclude that a lot of people have it. But in reality, about 1.25 million Americans live with type 1 diabetes (versus 29 million with type 2).

Type 1 diabetes never gets better, never goes away, and, so far, cannot be "cured."

It's a disease that requires managing 24 hours a day. While I know that I speak for every single type 1 diabetic when I say we're incredibly grateful for insulin — because we'd literally drop dead without it — it's not a cure.

It doesn't prevent the daily dangers of high and low blood sugars, and it doesn't prevent the long-term complications that so many type 1s face.

Being alive is awesome, though! Seriously. But it's not always easy.

I have always had access to the medications, supplies, and good doctors that are necessary to help keep me alive. That's what made my childhood trip possible, and it's a benefit I don't take for granted.

With new developments in technology like continuous glucose monitoring, children growing up today have even more options and medical support than I did. That's the good news. But it's still pretty hard. Don't just take my word for it.

This is the New York Times' day-in-the-life look at a type 1 diabetic teenager named Grace and her mom.

Grace's mom sums up the struggle, effort and energy of her daughter's daily life pretty simply:

"It's kind of overwhelming to say it, but that's the way she lives."

While some of the medical technology has gotten a little better since I was diagnosed 25 years ago, the truth is that not much has changed. Grace's life is almost exactly what my childhood and my parents' lives were like — minus the dog. (If you do nothing else, watch the video for her superhero dog. He's pretty amazing.)


Intense, right? People like Grace and I look pretty "regular" on the outside. But managing type 1 diabetes is a lot of work.

Know anyone who lives with an "invisible disease"? It's possible that you do and don't even know it! Share this video to let them and the world know that you realize how hard they are working — just to stay alive.

Courtesy of Amita Swadhin
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In 2016, Amita Swadhin, a child of two immigrant parents from India, founded Mirror Memoirs to help combat rape culture. The national storytelling and organizing project is dedicated to sharing the stories of LGBTQIA+ Black, indigenous people, and people of color who survived child sexual abuse.

"Whether or not you are a survivor, 100% of us are raised in rape culture. It's the water that we're swimming in. But just as fish don't know they are in water, because it's just the world around them that they've always been in, people (and especially those who aren't survivors) may need some help actually seeing it," they add.

"Mirror Memoirs attempts to be the dye that helps everyone understand the reality of rape culture."

Amita built the idea for Mirror Memoirs from a theater project called "Undesirable Elements: Secret Survivors" that featured their story and those of four other survivors in New York City, as well as a documentary film and educational toolkit based on the project.

"Secret Survivors had a cast that was gender, race, and age-diverse in many ways, but we had neglected to include transgender women," Amita explains. "Our goal was to help all people who want to co-create a world without child sexual abuse understand that the systems historically meant to help survivors find 'healing' and 'justice' — namely the child welfare system, policing, and prisons — are actually systems that facilitate the rape of children in oppressed communities," Amita continues. "We all have to explore tools of healing and accountability outside of these systems if we truly want to end all forms of sexual violence and rape culture."

Amita also wants Mirror Memoirs to be a place of healing for survivors that have historically been ignored or underserved by anti-violence organizations due to transphobia, homophobia, racism, xenophobia, and white supremacy.

Amita Swadhin

"Hearing survivors' stories is absolutely healing for other survivors, since child sexual abuse is a global pandemic that few people know how to talk about, let alone treat and prevent."

"Since sexual violence is an isolating event, girded by shame and stigma, understanding that you're not alone and connecting with other survivors is alchemy, transmuting isolation into intimacy and connection."

This is something that Amita knows and understands well as a survivor herself.

"My childhood included a lot of violence from my father, including rape and other forms of domestic violence," says Amita. "Mandated reporting was imposed on me when I was 13 and it was largely unhelpful since the prosecutors threatened to incarcerate my mother for 'being complicit' in the violence I experienced, even though she was also abused by my father for years."

What helped them during this time was having the support of others.

"I'm grateful to have had a loving younger sister and a few really close friends, some of whom were also surviving child sexual abuse, though we didn't know how to talk about it at the time," Amita says.

"I'm also a queer, non-binary femme person living with complex post-traumatic stress disorder, and those identities have shaped a lot of my life experiences," they continue. "I'm really lucky to have an incredible partner and network of friends and family who love me."

"These realizations put me on the path of my life's work to end this violence quite early in life," they said.

Amita wants Mirror Memoirs to help build awareness of just how pervasive rape culture is. "One in four girls and one in six boys will be raped or sexually assaulted by the age of 18," Amita explains, "and the rates are even higher for vulnerable populations, such as gender non-conforming, disabled, deaf, unhoused, and institutionalized children." By sharing their stories, they're hoping to create change.

"Listening to stories is also a powerful way to build empathy, due to the mirror neurons in people's brains. This is, in part, why the project is called Mirror Memoirs."

So far, Mirror Memoirs has created an audio archive of BIPOC LGBTQI+ child sexual abuse survivors sharing their stories of survival and resilience that includes stories from 60 survivors across 50 states. This year, they plan to record another 15 stories, specifically of transgender and nonbinary people who survived child sexual abuse in a sport-related setting, with their partner organization, Athlete Ally.

"This endeavor is in response to the more than 100 bills that have been proposed across at least 36 states in 2021 seeking to limit the rights of transgender and non-binary children to play sports and to receive gender-affirming medical care with the support of their parents and doctors," Amita says.

In 2017, Mirror Memoirs held its first gathering, which was attended by 31 people. Today, the organization is a fiscally sponsored, national nonprofit with two staff members, a board of 10 people, a leadership council of seven people, and 500 members nationally.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, they created a mutual aid fund for the LGBTQIA+ community of color and were able to raise a quarter-million dollars. They received 2,509 applications for assistance, and in the end, they decided to split the money evenly between each applicant.

While they're still using storytelling as the building block of their work, they're also engaging in policy and advocacy work, leadership development, and hosting monthly member meetings online.

For their work, Amita is one of Tory's Burch's Empowered Women. Their donation will go to Mirror Memoirs to help fund production costs for their new theater project, "Transmutation: A Ceremony," featuring four Black transgender, intersex, and non-binary women and femmes who live in California.

"I'm grateful to every single child sexual survivor who has ever disclosed their truth to me," Amita says. "I know another world is possible, and I know survivors will build it, together with all the people who love us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Photo by R.D. Smith on Unsplash

Gem is living her best life.

If you've ever dreamed of spontaneously walking out the door and treating yourself a day of pampering at a spa without even telling anyone, you'll love this doggo who is living your best life.

According to CTV News, a 5-year-old shepherd-cross named Gem escaped from her fenced backyard in Winnipeg early Saturday morning and ended up at the door of Happy Tails Pet Resort & Spa, five blocks away. An employee at the spa saw Gem at the gate around 6:30 a.m. and was surprised when they noticed her owners were nowhere to be seen.

"They were looking in the parking lot and saying, 'Where's your parents?'" said Shawn Bennett, one of the co-owners of the business.

The employee opened the door and Gem hopped right on in, ready and raring to go for her day of fun and relaxation.

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."