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The Moment I Realized I'm Truly Not Alone as a Disabled Teen

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A few weeks ago in gym class, we started the month-long nightmare known as physical fitness testing. To me, physical fitness testing is basically my school district’s way of giving the middle finger to non-athletic students, especially those who are physically disabled.

On our first day, I took a quick scan of the other girls in my class. None of my friends are in my class, however, there is a girl who has been nice to me multiple times in the past. I went up to her and started talking to her, but she just pretended she didn’t hear me and walked away, leaving me there wondering what I did to make her hate me.

The teacher came in, so we all went to sit in our spots for attendance and started doing our stretches and crunches (ouch!). She announced that we would be running the track that day. Great. She said it would be an “easy” day because all we had to do was run one full lap and then walk for the rest of the period. Um, what part of that is “easy?” We got on the track and we all started running, but as we all took off, the gap between me and the other girls grew and grew. While the other girls could easily run the lap and some even ran more (show-offs), I could barely run a third of the track. As I walked the two-thirds I couldn’t run and the full lap we had to walk, I was far behind all of the other girls. I felt alone in my school, alone in my gym class, alone on the track, and alone in general. Gym class was the lowest point in my day, and probably my week.

After gym class, however, my day turned around. One of my best friends, R, met me halfway up the stairs and walked me the rest of the way to my science class, his silliness and goofiness quickly lifting my mood. In science, we were discussing a topic I had a lot of prior knowledge in, and I answered many of my teacher’s questions correctly. My day was brightened further when, as I left his classroom, he said to me, “Good work as always, Elizabeth.”

As I was on my way to chorus, my friend R found me once again and talked with me for a bit, before “racing” me to chorus. Once I sat down next to my other best friend S, we talked for a while before we went up to the risers to sing.

The best part of my day came after school. I was going to audition for my school’s a capella group the next day, and one of the requirements was that you had to sing a “pop” song for your audition. I asked R what his definition of a pop song was, and he said that anything that has been on the radio should be fine. I immediately got nervous, as the song I was planning on singing was not on the radio. I texted another one of my friends, J, who said the song I was planning on singing was fine. I mentioned I was really nervous, but that I would probably be able to hide it, as I’ve had experience hiding my disability/chronic pain. His reply was completely unexpected.

He told me that I’ve endured a lot in my life, that he couldn’t imagine being as strong as me, and that I was inspiring to him because of my advocacy work. He then said he has read some of my articles on The Mighty, that I was doing something amazing for others with my experiences, and that he hoped I’m proud of myself. When I thanked him profusely for his compliments, he replied by saying it’s amazing that despite my adversities, I devote my time to something bigger and that people like me make the world happier and safer.

By the end of that night, I was sobbing with happy tears. Not many kids at school knew about my website, much less read my articles. It had been a while since I heard someone (close friends and family members not included) say something that nice to me. And above all, combined with some of the other stuff that happened that day, it reminded me that no matter what happens, I’m never alone.

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Thinkstock photo by Antonio Guillem.

Originally published: October 16, 2017
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