When I Stopped Hiding My Disability Online
I first started using social media at the age of 10, but my parents mostly monitored my MySpace account. Shortly after, Facebook came along and I decided to create an account.
Like most teenage girls, I was on Facebook 24/7, but I was very cautious about the pictures I posted. I was cautious about it because at the time, I wasn’t proud of the person I was. I didn’t feel as if I was marvelous looking because of the one thing that makes me different: my wheelchair. I would often crop out the part of the picture that showed my wheelchair. I would secretly have an intense dislike for the pictures my family would take that showed my chair, but I never expressed it to them. It was all a secret I kept within myself. The truth was, I had to learn how to accept my disability. It took me until I was almost 18 years old to finally accept my disability and the fact that it is a part of me.
On one of my favorite social media sites, you were able to hide who you really were through the avatars you created. My avatar looked nothing like me at all. She was tall with a skinny body and had golden brown curly hair with light skin. She was everything I wasn’t.
When I would meet new online friends and they wanted to video chat, I would always Skype them from bed. After a while, some of them started asking me, “Why are you always in bed?” I would become extremely nervous and wouldn’t know what to say. I would come up with some excuse like, “Oh, I’m just a little tired today” or “I’m just feeling lazy today.” Every time I would lie I would feel a sense 0f guilt because here were these people telling me everything about their lives, being open and honest, but I was hiding a big part of my life.
I felt like I was a big fat liar and I hated it. I knew one day I would have to tell my online friends I was in a wheelchair because of my condition. I would have to admit that I was embarrassed about it. One day I finally got the confidence to tell one of my good guy friends about my condition and the fact I was a wheelchair user. I was telling myself it was time that to show my online friends the real me. I Skyped him in my wheelchair and when he saw me he said, “You’re in a wheelchair.” Nervously I said “yes I am,” and he simply replied, “That’s cool – you should have told me sooner.”
I felt so relieved and simultaneously silly for hiding the real me for so long. In the end, what I learned from the experience is that you are beautiful just the way you are and there’s nothing wrong with being different. Now I am proud to say that every time I post a picture of myself in my wheelchair I think and say, “Yeah, that’s me and I’m proud of it.” I learned you should be proud of the person you are and not try to be something you’re not. Once people get to know you, your looks won’t matter – it is the heart you carry on the inside that counts.
Getty image by Akilina Winner.