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My Limitations Are a Badge of Honor, Not a Mark Against Me

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I have a chronic nerve pain condition that was caused by an injury. I’m not going to go into specifics about which condition I have or how it came about, because in this case it doesn’t matter. This could be my story, or it could be yours. It could be a friend’s, or it could be a stranger’s.

I’ve fought a battle and I’m fighting still. A battle with my body, a battle with my mind, a battle with bureaucracy and a battle with society. While healing physically I’ve had to wrestle with emotional demons while bound by red tape. All the while defending my pain, trying to prove it isn’t fake.

I went into this battle as the underdog, alone in my corner fighting vast corporate armies with one arm tied behind my back. My only weapon was my voice, easily drowned out by the slither of a thousand whispers. I was a wounded soldier alone against the world, and I had to find a strength deep down inside me to pull myself up and out, refusing to be defeated.

I’ve faced a thousand roadblocks, a thousand closed doors, each time having to reach deeper to find the courage to try again.  I’ve exhausted plan B and a plan for just about every other letter of the alphabet, but there’s always numbers. I’ll find a way. It might not be right now, but I’ll figure it out.

When you stand there and you look at me, I hope you see the fight. I hope you think of the days and nights that all rolled into one, where I was awake every moment praying for sleep, but the pain was just too much. I hope you see the tears behind my eyes; I’ve wept for everything from frustration with my body, for the life I’ve lost and the fear of not knowing how to build a new one. I hope you see that where many give up, I continue to get up.

I need you to understand that things that are easy for you, that you may take for granted, require me to find a different way to do them. They take a little longer and are sometimes exhausting for me, but I’m here doing them still. That’s the fight, the persistence, the dedication.

So before you look at my limitations and judge, see the fight. See the loss. Realize this limitation has closed doors and caused me to have to give up many things I enjoy. I’ve lost people I love and had to let go of some dreams. I can’t always participate in making memories with loved ones, and when I look in the mirror I don’t even recognize the person looking back at me.

See the progress, learn the story. Realize that what you see as a mark against me I wear as a badge of honor, because not too long ago my list of limitations was much longer and every day I fight to take a little more of my life back.

Don’t define me based on the things I may not be able to do right now. See the things I can do amazingly well. Ask yourself how much fight you would have left when it’s dark and everything seems impossible. Do you have the strength to do the things they tell you can’t be done, to keep getting up after you fall a thousand times? Put yourself there and truly feel that journey. See the story behind the struggle.

Getty image by Stanislav Hubkin.

Originally published: March 27, 2018
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