Alyssa Brown

@alyssa-brown-2 | contributor
I want people to see that a disability is just an extra token to everyday life.
Alyssa Brown

How My Friend Helped Calm My Anxiety While Getting a Tattoo

I don’t know if you can see it, but those are my sister’s feet next to my chair and those are her hands on my legs. She sat on the floor the entire time I was getting my fourth tattoo done. For those who don’t know, I have situational anxiety, as well as anxiety from my disability; my body doesn’t communicate with my brain, so unfortunately, my body is often in fight-or-flight mode without my permission. My brain and upper body were aware of the feeling of getting the tattoo as it was my fourth, but my legs were not agreeing. As soon as the tattoo began, my legs kicked out in front of me, making me no longer feel as if I was in control. I did my best to hide how I was feeling, but once I felt a panic attack coming on and the possibility of moving my arm while I was getting the tattoo done, I asked my sister if she would hold my legs for me. Not only did she hold my legs for me, she sat on the floor next to me the entire time and told me later that she was going to ask if she could help at all right as I asked her to because she could tell I might need it. For those who have or understand mental and physical disorders, you know how comforting touch or reassurance can feel when you feel out of control, and how silly asking for uncommon and simple support can feel. Thank you to my sister and our tattoo artist for reminding me I wasn’t silly for needing support to get through life and for the expressive conversations we were able to have about different and similar life experiences. She might not yet be my biological sister, but the ability to have a bond with her to which we consider each other sisters as well as comforting best friends, not only in words, but also in actions, is something I can never put into words myself.

Alyssa Brown

How Social Media Helped Me Disclose My Disability in a Job Interview

A few weeks ago, I asked my followers with disabilities on Instagram when they disclose their disability to possible employers. I had an interview the following Monday for a job that held significant importance in my life and I wanted to feel as though I could be confident in presenting my best self. Although I ended up not getting the job, I appreciate every response I got. I decided to answer the interview questions based on life with a disability and how I believe it makes me who I am, and who I hope to be for myself and the company, as I have more experience with a disability than I do work experience. My identities have always weighed heavily on me. I spoke to my therapist a few days after the interview because I wanted to make sure I handled the interview correctly. She said some pretty profound things: I have many things that make up who I am, but my identities such as my disability or sexual orientation are only a piece. But they are what society makes us feel is all of us because they become the easiest to judge. Now when I wonder if I’m speaking of my identities too much or not enough; I look at them as my way of telling my purposeful story piece by piece in a way that makes me feel myself; all I could really ask for. The right people and I will eventually come to understand and appreciate who I am as a whole. If it wasn’t clear, I’m in no way saying that this job loss was or wasn’t because of my disability (although it has happened more often than not). I will never know with this one. More so, I’m hoping to relate the idea of the power of being comfortable with my identities, no matter what society says or doesn’t say about them. I hope you understand this for yourself as well.

Alyssa Brown

My New Tattoo Shows My Growth With Abandonment Disorder

“Who told you it was OK to find the strength to go down your own path, but know the right people will never truly leave you fighting alone?” I just passed my first year in therapy. Here’s how it went: I was diagnosed with anxiety, depression and abandonment disorder. I’ve lived my entire life fearful of not being good enough, distancing myself for possible protection, experiencing exactly what abandonment is repeatedly, doing my best to accept that not everyone will treat me that way, and most importantly working to understand that my circumstances, due to both my disability and not, do not make me a failure. My fourth tattoo journey started around the time I was diagnosed with abandonment disorder. I read a quote expressing the idea that butterflies do not see their own wings, but other people do. This saying has stuck with me ever since because two mentors of mine are the reason I started therapy and are the reason I am able to see beauty within myself. Another piece of importance is someone wanted to get this tattoo with me. I would have gotten it months ago, but I wanted to respect the desire to get it together. There is no shame in what I am about to say because everyone is on their own journey and we should support others, but there also comes a time when we have to put ourselves first because we are more valuable than being kept in a cycle. I am happy to say that I was strong enough to wait, but also reached a point of doing something for myself after plans became nonexistent on the other side multiple times. In my opinion, they both serve as growth within abandonment disorder. Here’s to a constant reminder of how to take my journey a second at a time with the right people, which includes yourself.

Alyssa Brown

I Have Cerebral Palsy and I Deserve Acceptance

Yes, my disability is physical, but there are things you don’t see. There are days that I don’t want to leave my bed for reasons that do and don’t have to do with it, but I do because I have dogs that count on me every morning. I’ve lost many opportunities with jobs because my physical appearance scares people, but I still look for them because even though I’m absolutely terrified of not having consistent support to be independent, or healthy for that matter, my dreams have always been bigger than where I am. I don’t have to share my story, but I do because I and the rest of my community deserve better acceptance through real-life education. I still cry when I ask for help because either A) I’m terrified of rejection or B) I feel awful that I fear something that should be natural. I go to therapy because all I want are better relationships with myself and society, and I’ve realized I struggle to do it alone. I’ve realized that it’s so important to take the weight of other people’s misunderstandings or mistreatment and let my friends handle them because I already have so much I’m fighting. I will forever be thankful for that option. Be kind today, and support those with disabilities. We deserve to be here, just as you do.

Alyssa Brown

I Have Cerebral Palsy and I Deserve Acceptance

Yes, my disability is physical, but there are things you don’t see. There are days that I don’t want to leave my bed for reasons that do and don’t have to do with it, but I do because I have dogs that count on me every morning. I’ve lost many opportunities with jobs because my physical appearance scares people, but I still look for them because even though I’m absolutely terrified of not having consistent support to be independent, or healthy for that matter, my dreams have always been bigger than where I am. I don’t have to share my story, but I do because I and the rest of my community deserve better acceptance through real-life education. I still cry when I ask for help because either A) I’m terrified of rejection or B) I feel awful that I fear something that should be natural. I go to therapy because all I want are better relationships with myself and society, and I’ve realized I struggle to do it alone. I’ve realized that it’s so important to take the weight of other people’s misunderstandings or mistreatment and let my friends handle them because I already have so much I’m fighting. I will forever be thankful for that option. Be kind today, and support those with disabilities. We deserve to be here, just as you do.

Alyssa Brown

What 'Special' Taught Me About Accepting My Cerebral Palsy

My life has been full of many sleepless nights wondering what I have to do to accept my disability. As an aspiring media writer with cerebral palsy, I started watching the first season of “Special,” a Netflix series following a man’s journey as part of both the LGBTQIA+ and disabled communities last year, but season two is where I felt the most seen within my mental health, physical disability, relationships, self-worth, etc. The star of the show, Ryan O’Connell, put it best when he said: “I explain things every day, I don’t want to have to do that with you,” and “I do accept my disability, but I still have to live in a world that doesn’t know what to do with me, and that is super painful and shitty.” The truth is, many of us don’t want to change our disabilities. We are just tired of pretending to be people we aren’t to please others: by feeling as if we must stay quiet when businesses don’t offer equal access, but will carry us inside because they still want our business, or friends don’t invite us places because they know they’re not accessible. To people that are not in our situation, emotions such as these often don’t make any sense because there are other places and people offering the same services or support that we can use. “Special” is a wonderful reminder of just how much the right form of representation matters. The show offers the understanding that those within minority communities are not alone in their valid feelings of desiring acceptance everywhere, and education for the family and friends of those within minority communities to offer another point of view they may not be able to express. We deserve people who love us without the condition of “getting over” repetitive and trauma-filled situations immediately or at all. We deserve people who grow with us as we are, and a mind that allows us to take ownership of that growth. Thank you, Ryan O’Connell and “Special” for helping society with the hopeful idea that we can find ourselves again.

Alyssa Brown

Prioritizing My Well-Being as a Young Adult With a Disability

I once had a mentor send me a quote that had to do with the connection of growth and feeling broken. I forgot the exact wording, but the quote was along the lines of understanding that if I felt as if situations were constantly falling apart around me, I was growing. He sent me this when I just graduated college and I was trying to figure out what independence would look like as a college graduate and an adult with a disability, while being a part of a world that can be unaccepting and inaccessible without knowledge of how to come to terms with supporting my lifelong needs or abilities. Like most things that come from people who mean the world to me, I appreciated it, but had no idea how much more powerful the quote and conversations would be five months later. I did not think much about the power of the quote as I have dealt with overcoming everything that’s been in my way since birth. It is as if my mentor knew what was coming even though I did not, that he wanted to tell me that he would always support me regardless of what happens in my life. I received this quote sometime in April and it is now September. In that five-month timeframe, I decided to: quit my internship, sell my car, start counseling, end the strength of certain relationships and deal with what seems to be a never-ending health battle. For a while, I was not understanding why everything was happening all at once and why my resolutions for a new job, supportive healthcare system, or success with driving weren’t coming together. I have kept this quote and meaningful mentorship close to my heart through it all. As I constantly remind myself of the power of the mentorship, I started to understand my self-worth and the true meaning of the quote. Everything must fall apart to find who I truly am. Growth has the most power when I understand that even when it feels shattering, the dreams I had for myself aren’t always what’s meant for me, and having the courage to move on will be freeing. Ending the strength of certain relationships and going to counseling allows me the opportunity to learn the most valuable life skill of putting myself first. Selling my car allows me to understand that I will be valued for more than one way of accomplishing goals without the traditional pressures of society. Lastly, ending my internship allows me to realize there is a point when skills learned deserve to be recognized for more than just free work. Hold onto the things people say to you. I promise that everything shapes you into who you are meant to be, and mentors are meant to guide you because they have been where you are.

Alyssa Brown

4 Products That Make Life With a Disability More Independent

My name is Alyssa Brown. I have a physical disability known as cerebral palsy. Being independent as a person with a disability who also uses a wheelchair has its challenges throughout life; therefore, I decided to share four products I find useful to give me more independence. 1. Loofah on a Stick The first product is a loofah on a stick. This is a regular loofa anyone would use in the shower to wash, but it has a stick on it so people have an easier time reaching and cleaning parts of their bodies while using less energy. I enjoy using the loofah on a stick because it prevents falls while bathing. All of the soap stays on the loofah once put on during the shower, so I don’t have to bend repeatedly to get more body wash. Lastly, one of my hands can always stay on my shower chair to help me balance, while the other washes my body. Buy a loofah on a stick at Walmart. For more bathroom ideas, check out 19 Products That Can Make Showering Easier If You Have a Chronic Illness or Disability. 2. Folding Grabber Having multiple grabbers helps with independence as they are used to pick up things that are out of our reach or require us to bend over. Having various grabbers allows for the ability not to search for them in different places as accessibility is already limited in rooms. Foldable grabbers allow for easier access to things we cannot reach in public because they can fit in backpacks. Buy a folding grabber from Target. 3. Two-in-One Backpack A two-in-one backpack can function as a regular bag and hang on the back of a wheelchair to carry things like a grabber and parking tag. When there are valuables such as a phone, wallet, or keys, the backpack can transform into a cross-body bag so that it goes over a shoulder and stays right next to someone. A cross-body bag allows for the things we need not fall off our lap or get stuck in our chair’s wheels. Buy a convertible bag from Target. 4. Nike Flyease Lastly, my most favorite product is the Nike Flyease shoe. The Nike Flyease shoe resembles a regular tennis shoe but has a zipper in the back so the person can slide their foot straight in without having to fight their body into doing movements it doesn’t feel comfortable doing. The Nike Flyease also doesn’t have laces, so the person does not have to worry about not having the strength or ability to tie a shoe. Zappos also just came out with a shoe line that allows people to buy shoes of different sizes or to buy only one shoe. Buy Nike Flyease from Zappos.

Alyssa Brown

When I Realized Disability Pride Month Is for Me

July is Disability Pride Month. I’ve been back and forth on wanting to write anything. I have never seen my disability as something that makes me consistently and physically proud. At least the act of showing it. Since my identity has been visible my entire life, being proud of constantly overcoming has often been viewed by society as less than, or even inspiration porn. These ideas have left me with negative and exhausting perceptions of myself and sometimes questioning the trustworthiness of people loving all that I am. Over the last few days, I’ve realized something, though. Frustration and fighting for independence within my everyday personal life are acceptable. I deserve to be as self-sufficient as everyone else.  As I wrapped my arm around my best friend, her uncle, aunt, and dad last night to walk up the stairs to their house, that frustration turned into an outpouring of love and a sense of belonging. Pride for who I am and those I am around. I am not a burden, but rather a loved, whole human who deserves connection no matter how big the obstacles I face may be. I also felt a sense of belonging when my best friend went with me to five different public places because only three were accessible, and she was determined to have the day we hoped for earlier this week. These are three very similar situations with different outcomes of self-acceptance.  I hope you take this as an understanding that everyday feelings with a disability aren’t linear, and that is OK. You are loved. You have people who see you as not negatively defined by your identity. Their love and appreciation for you will continue without hesitation. You also deserve to be angry when things don’t come as easy for you as you try your best to find the silver lining when there is one. Happy Disability Pride Month. Please use it as a way to express your feelings in the way you see fit. Love yourself and others for all that they are.

Alyssa Brown

Graduating College With Cerebral Palsy

I’ve learned life is about understanding you aren’t alone. Whether sharing your story to support others or looking around for support, you have someone that understands your path, or you are someone else’s someone. For the longest time, I was made to feel it was me against the world. No one was meant to understand me or give me the true time of day because I was different. No one would hire me. I took longer to graduate. I didn’t have my license. I wasn’t living on my own. All things adults “should be doing.” All things that felt incredibly lonely until I realized my peers were going through very similar situations. We were all secretly in this together, but what made it the most magical was understanding no matter how hard it got, we still kept going for ourselves and those around us. It doesn’t matter how long something takes or how it is done. What matters is seeing and understanding that you have a tribe of people that will carry you through life with all its wonderful lessons. Congratulations to the Class of 2019, no matter what you went through to earn your degree or how long it took. Also 2019, thank you for changing my life and getting me ready for the rest of the adventures ahead.