Daniel J Vance

Sometimes, a person with a disability may struggle emotionally to the point of pondering suicide. Robert Mingo of Minneapolis has been there and felt that. In part, his cure for depressive thoughts for years now has been his poetry.

“I have a form of muscular dystrophy called FSH muscular dystrophy,” said 49-year-old Mingo in a telephone interview. “I use a wheelchair now and sometimes need help getting dressed. I don’t take a shower by myself and always make sure I have someone within yelling distance. Also, even typing on a computer can be very painful.”

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The Muscular Dystrophy Association website claims his form of the disease causes weakness and wasting in eye, mouth, shoulder, upper arm, and lower leg muscles, and later in abdominal and hip muscles.

He began noticing symptoms at age 16. At first, he struggled combing his hair because he couldn’t raise his elbows above his shoulders. Then he started limping. Over the years, he would incorrectly attribute what was happening to his body to other physical ailments unrelated to muscular dystrophy.

He wasn’t diagnosed properly until age 40, in 2001, just six months after marrying wife Amy. When coming home from the doctor that day, Mingo had to tell her he had an incurable disease that would progressively worsen. Rather than form a wedge, he said, the disease “drew us closer together and to God.”

He said, “I’ve been using a wheelchair since 2003. I was really depressed about a year afterward and just wanted to die. Writing a poem got me out of it and took me on the road to recovery. I realized then I could spend the rest of my life emanating despair or the rest of my life emanating peace, hope, and light. I chose the latter.”

Poetry was the gift God gave him to cope, he said. He has penned hundreds of poems and gathered many of them in a collection called Poems for the Soul. About the book, he said, “People have said it has changed their life. It made them cry in a good way. When I wrote about suicide, people told me no one else had understood how they felt. They needed a way to deal with that sadness. My poetry is all about turning that sadness into hope and to help others. I’m happiest when I’m helping others.”

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