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This story was originally published on The Mighty.

“Huh. Must be a women thing” was said with a dismissive shrug and a grin.  This was my supervisor’s response when I tried to explain how my brain works differently with its multiple anxiety disorders.

The problem was apparently not with my brain chemistry, but with my ovaries. Give me a fainting couch and some smelling salts because here comes the female hysteria.


It wasn’t the first or last time someone dismissed my disorders, though it was the first time someone attributed it to a gender problem.

I’ve been diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), and panic disorder. They first appeared in my life around the age of 4, and they have been my constant companions ever since.

Unfortunately, because my illnesses are mental, I’ve had to deal with people who think they aren’t real.

I’ve had more conversations than I want to defending the fact that disordered anxiety exists.

“But everybody gets anxious” is the most common refrain. It’s like telling someone with depression that you’ve “been sad, too.” Cell growth happens, and when cell growth becomes disordered, it’s cancer. Nobody argues against that because you can show it on an X-ray or MRI or point to a visible tumor. But there is a certain group of people who believe because they’ve never experienced mental illness and there are no medical tests for it that it couldn’t possibly be real. It’s made­-up, a cry for attention, or just plain weakness.

Image via iStock.

I used to get into long discussions with these people, trying to put them in my shoes and make them see how my brain works. I’ve described vividly the sensations of a panic attack or the deep need to unplug all of my appliances before going to bed because if I don’t an electrical fire will start in the walls and my house will collapse around me while I sleep (obviously). I would endure a painful back-and-forth that invariably ended with them refusing to accept anything other than what they had experienced themselves.

What makes me respond so fiercely to these people is the fact that I used to question the validity of my own experiences — not so much whether I had anxiety, but whether it “counted.”

Because my illness was not physical, I felt as if I didn’t have a right to claim illness or seek treatment or take care of myself. After all, I managed. I survived. I eked out successes in school and life.

But I fought tooth and nail to do so. I fought the obsessions that made me afraid to do anything and the anxiety that left me deeply depressed on more than one occasion. Everything was a struggle in ways it wasn’t for other people.

Eventually, I reached a point where I realized these illnesses were “real enough” for treatment. Their effects were intense and overwhelming, and I deserved to be taken care of. I deserved to name what wracked my mind with fear and even migrated to my body in the way anxiety can.

I can’t see my illness on an X-ray, but it is real and powerful.

After one particularly frustrating conversation about the validity of my illness, I asked myself why I bothered — why I spent so much time and energy to get these people to admit I have these disorders. I realized I was sick of convincing people and sick of their questions making me question myself (yes, I even get anxiety about my anxiety). I don’t owe anybody an explanation.

It was then that I decided my experience is enough; my diagnoses from professionals in the psychiatric field are enough. I won’t lower myself to try to convince strangers, or even friends, that what’s going on in my brain isn’t just a character failing on my part. I’m done debating whether I get to call myself ill and whether I need to be treated.

If someone comes at me with honest curiosity and a desire to learn, I’m open to talking. I’m not ashamed of my disorders, and I think being open about my struggles will help with the stigma of mental illness. But usually if someone questions my disorders, it’s an accusation. Prove it, they’re saying.

I won’t do that again. My word should be proof enough. Among the many things I’m doing to take care of myself, I refuse to argu​e about my disorders anymore. I have no doubt taking those arguments off the table will make me healthier. I finally learned not to question myself. I will no longer allow others to question me either.

Pop Culture

Artist uses AI to create ultra realistic portraits of celebrities who left us too soon

What would certain icons look like if nothing had happened to them?

Mercury would be 76 today.

Some icons have truly left this world too early. It’s a tragedy when anyone doesn’t make it to see old age, but when it happens to a well-known public figure, it’s like a bit of their art and legacy dies with them. What might Freddie Mercury have created if he were granted the gift of long life? Bruce Lee? Princess Diana?

Their futures might be mere musings of our imagination, but thanks to a lot of creativity (and a little tech) we can now get a glimpse into what these celebrities might have looked like when they were older.

Alper Yesiltas, an Istanbul-based lawyer and photographer, created a photography series titled “As If Nothing Happened,” which features eerily realistic portraits of long gone celebrities in their golden years. To make the images as real looking as possible, Yesiltas incorporated various photo editing programs such as Adobe Lightroom and VSCO, as well as the AI photo-enhancing software Remini.

“The hardest part of the creative process for me is making the image feel ‘real’ to me,” Yesiltas wrote about his passion project. “The moment I like the most is when I think the image in front of me looks as if it was taken by a photographer.”

Yesiltas’ meticulousness paid off, because the results are uncanny.

Along with each photo, Yesiltas writes a bittersweet message “wishing” how things might have gone differently … as if nothing happened.
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All images provided by Adewole Adamson

It begins with more inclusive conversations at a patient level

True

Adewole Adamson, MD, of the University of Texas, Austin, aims to create more equity in health care by gathering data from more diverse populations by using artificial intelligence (AI), a type of machine learning. Dr. Adamson’s work is funded by the American Cancer Society (ACS), an organization committed to advancing health equity through research priorities, programs and services for groups who have been marginalized.

Melanoma became a particular focus for Dr. Adamson after meeting Avery Smith, who lost his wife—a Black woman—to the deadly disease.

melanoma,  melanoma for dark skin Avery Smith (left) and Adamson (sidenote)

This personal encounter, coupled with multiple conversations with Black dermatology patients, drove Dr. Adamson to a concerning discovery: as advanced as AI is at detecting possible skin cancers, it is heavily biased.

To understand this bias, it helps to first know how AI works in the early detection of skin cancer, which Dr. Adamson explains in his paper for the New England Journal of Medicine (paywall). The process uses computers that rely on sets of accumulated data to learn what healthy or unhealthy skin looks like and then create an algorithm to predict diagnoses based on those data sets.

This process, known as supervised learning, could lead to huge benefits in preventive care.

After all, early detection is key to better outcomes. The problem is that the data sets don’t include enough information about darker skin tones. As Adamson put it, “everything is viewed through a ‘white lens.’”

“If you don’t teach the algorithm with a diverse set of images, then that algorithm won’t work out in the public that is diverse,” writes Adamson in a study he co-wrote with Smith (according to a story in The Atlantic). “So there’s risk, then, for people with skin of color to fall through the cracks.”

Tragically, Smith’s wife was diagnosed with melanoma too late and paid the ultimate price for it. And she was not an anomaly—though the disease is more common for White patients, Black cancer patients are far more likely to be diagnosed at later stages, causing a notable disparity in survival rates between non-Hispanics whites (90%) and non-Hispanic blacks (66%).

As a computer scientist, Smith suspected this racial bias and reached out to Adamson, hoping a Black dermatologist would have more diverse data sets. Though Adamson didn’t have what Smith was initially looking for, this realization ignited a personal mission to investigate and reduce disparities.

Now, Adamson uses the knowledge gained through his years of research to help advance the fight for health equity. To him, that means not only gaining a wider array of data sets, but also having more conversations with patients to understand how socioeconomic status impacts the level and efficiency of care.

“At the end of the day, what matters most is how we help patients at the patient level,” Adamson told Upworthy. “And how can you do that without knowing exactly what barriers they face?”

american cancer society, skin cacner treatment"What matters most is how we help patients at the patient level."https://www.kellydavidsonstudio.com/

The American Cancer Society believes everyone deserves a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer—regardless of how much money they make, the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, gender identity, their disability status, or where they live. Inclusive tools and resources on the Health Equity section of their website can be found here. For more information about skin cancer, visit cancer.org/skincancer.

via Dion Merrick / Facebook

This article originally appeared on 02.09.21


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"Can you move to the birthing ball so I can sleep in the bed?"

Holly the delivery nurse.

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