The first time I “came out” as having a disability, I had the door slammed in my face by someone I’d known since childhood. Was it pity? Disgust? Simple discomfort? It was hard to tell. But in the space of a moment, I’d been rejected for a fundamental part of myself over which I had no control.
The recoil had me crawling into a cone of silence that held firm until I realized that the single most harmful act that could be done to me, I had done to myself. By staying silent, I denied my own agency, allowing others to make assumptions about my disability and all that it entailed. The truth of the matter, though, was that I was a survivor. A survivor of a chronic illness that slowly ravaged my body, stole my mobility and reshaped my reality.
The darkest corners of our truth are birthed from our most fragile vulnerabilities. There are some irrevocable losses that we may never make peace with, that instead, are honed to the sharpest of thorns. But like an oyster, chafed by a grain of sand that can’t be dislodged, eventually you polish it into something of value. The value is in learning that strength isn’t synonymous with invincibility; it’s embracing the parts of yourself that you see as broken and finding the courage to bear those parts to the world.
Your story doesn’t end with disability, but continues to evolve as you pen your own narrative. You don’t need a white knight to ride in and save you. You are your own hero. Strong enough to be gentle, powerful enough to be vulnerable, and scarred enough to understand and tread lightly around the deepest wounds of others.
There will always be people who doubt your abilities, who revile you for being different. But there is nothing wrong with who you are. I believe the only wrong that exists is when you stifle your individuality and strive to be a replica of someone else. Tune out the background noise and listen to the only noise that matters. Your voice, your truth, your strength.
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