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Learning to Accept What the World Sees as Broken

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I can’t count the number of times I’ve been in a grocery store and a young child has turned to their mother and asked, “What’s wrong with her? Why is she in that?” By “that,” they mean my wheelchair.

Doctors have tinkered with my body, trying unsuccessfully to alleviate my constant physical pain. Their eyes tell me they believe it’s hopeless. When I got sick with my eating disorder (ED) I struggled to find treatment at first because no one could accommodate my physical disability. I was too difficult, too involved, too “broken.” Recovery is about returning your body to health. But what does recovery and body acceptance look like with a disability (cerebral palsy)? When the world sees you as broken, how do you learn to accept yourself?

I believe it helps to focus on what your body can do. This is hard because most of the time the world will focus on your limitations if you have a disability. The challenge is to focus on your ability. Focusing on your ability does not mean focusing on the strength of your appendages. Instead, try to focus on what you did today with your mind, words, heart, or even your smile. Everyone has a heart and a smile; a little love and a smile can go a long way.

Remember, your scars show strength. Every aliment brings forth a scar and that scar gives you a story to tell. If you’re reading this, I believe it’s a blessing; you are alive, strong enough to be reading these words, brave enough to have faced the world today. Congrats!

It’s OK to give your body a break. The world constantly tells us to push ourselves the brink of exhaustion. We are told we have to keep up with our classmates, coworkers and sometimes even complete strangers. But it can be dangerous for those with chronic illnesses and disabilities to function at such a high-speed pace constantly. I guess you could call this the ultimate definition of self-care. But remember, you don’t have to knit, paint, take a bubble bath, or go for a run to practice self-care. Self-care can also be napping! So don’t be afraid to catch some Z’s; your health is more important than any deadline or social event.

I feel it’s important to share your story. Do not be afraid to talk about your condition in public, especially if it is invisible. People are often curious, but afraid to ask. Ignorance breeds misconceptions. If we teach our family, friends, coworkers and the world about our disabilities, we can maybe be one step closer to teaching the world how to accept “broken” bodies. Even better, we are one step closer to teaching world that our bodies aren’t broken. And then maybe, just maybe we can believe it too.

We can change the world; but it must begin within ourselves.

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Lead photo by Thinkstock Images.

Originally published: January 23, 2017
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