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How The Mighty Gave Me the Courage to Share My Health Story

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Until I was 19 years old, I’d never seen anyone fully open up about their health online.  When I was a teenager, I assumed I was the only one whose panic attacks seemed to consume them and the only one whose cerebral palsy appeared virtually invisible.  I had no idea that other people struggled with their mental health in some of the same ways I did, and I was so ashamed of my disability that I hid it as soon as I could.  Taking pride and ownership in health and sharing personal experiences navigating health conditions seemed completely foreign to me.

But one day when I was in my second year of college, everything changed.

I was tumbling down an Internet rabbit hole in lieu of reading a hefty political science textbook when I stumbled on an article by a parent of a child with cerebral palsy.  The concept of parents writing about their children with disabilities wasn’t new to me — I’d been following disability-related “parent” blogs for a couple of years — but I’d very rarely seen those stories published by media companies.

After a little bit of scouting around — undoubtedly another way to avoid that dreaded textbook — I found the name of the company that had originally published the article: The Mighty.

The first time I visited The Mighty, I was in awe.  There were people who openly shared that they were suicidal — something I’d struggled with but would have never shared on my own.  There were perfect strangers who described exactly how anxiety felt in my body and mind as if they’d known me for years.  And there were plenty of people who wrote about their experiences with cerebral palsy — people whose stories showed me that there are people who understand me, even as I face my biggest challenges.

At the time, disability and mental health were so minimally discussed that I didn’t realize just how many people shared the experiences I believed were strange, frightening, and shameful.  I was so closed-off about my health that I saw The Mighty’s writers as incredibly brave for bringing light to the things I couldn’t seem to speak about on my own.  But despite my own shame to be someone living with multiple health conditions, I kept coming back to immerse myself in others’ stories, hoping that the giddy feeling of being seen, heard, and understood would never end.

Seven years later, I still see The Mighty’s writers as brave — not because I’m quiet about my health but because I know just how much courage it can take to remain open about medical conditions.  The day I discovered The Mighty was so transformative that it connected me with a community when I had none, reminded me I was understood when I felt alone, and gave me a silent sense of pride when I felt ashamed.  Every day since, I’ve gradually worked towards self-acceptance — sharing bits and pieces of my own health story on The Mighty over time, forging deep bonds with other Mighty contributors and proudly advocating for the disability and mental health communities instead of hiding such integral pieces of my identity.

Unbeknownst to me at the time, the day I accidentally discovered The Mighty and began reading others’ health stories was one of the most impactful days of my life.  I owe so much of my personal growth to The Mighty, and it’s all thanks to everyone who worked to create a safe space for people from all walks of life to share their health stories — and a boredom-inducing college textbook.

Getty image by Jacob Lund.

Originally published: September 30, 2021
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