Courtney Cole

@courtney-cole | contributor
Hey there, I’m Courtney. I’m 18 and I’m legally blind. In a nutshell, that means I’m not fully blind yet, but I’m on my way. I’m quirky and a huge geek. I love spending time with the ones I love most. Creating music and writing that has meaning is where my passion lies. I believe heavily in  dis Ability awareness; showing that people with impairments have incredible gifts and immense capabilities to share with the world.v
Courtney Cole

Learning to Respect Myself as a Person With a Visual Impairment

Life is a state of constant change. Even when we don’t know it, things around us in life are always changing. Circumstances, relationships, moods. Humans can be incredibly temperamental, but we’re also habitual. As a child, we’ll touch a stove twice even though it burned us the first time, and we still do it as adults. We keep toxic people in our lives, we do things that are unhealthy for our bodies, and possibly worst of all, we consistently stay in mindsets that hold us back from being happy. These kinds of behaviors can be really difficult to change, because sometimes we don’t realize that we can be our own worst enemy. I have been treated poorly by people in my life, but two years ago I experienced the worst treatment I have ever known. The perpetrator was a person I knew better than anyone, the person I should be able to trust the most. It was me. Of all the times “friends” have walked all over me, partners mistreated me, and strangers have been incredibly rude to me, none of it compares to the way I treated myself. I wanted others to accept me for my disability and who I was, but I was more harsh and ignorant toward myself than any of my peers. If I had one kind person in my life during those times, I may have never gotten to the dark place that I found myself in. I could have, and should have, been that person for myself. Instead I dissected all my mistakes and punished myself every day, mostly for things I had absolutely no control over. I know I’m not the only person with a medical condition who has done this. But the best decision I ever made was to recognize that I’m not a mistake. I work hard — sometimes harder than most people — through disability and the depression and anxiety that come with it. Now I’m building a future for myself. I used to be ashamed to have a visual impairment. Now, I’m proud to be exactly who I am, and I love the way it feels. In my head, I have a reverse mirror of Erised. I look into it and see all the things I used to be, and I compare it to who I have become. I’ve learned it’s important to stay humble, but don’t forget to give yourself credit for the changes you have made. Treat yourself the way you want others to treat you, and never accept less respect than you give. Follow this journey on The Blink Butterfly.

Courtney Cole

Orientation and Mobility Training as a Legally Blind Young Adult

I’m leaving home tomorrow. Even though a few months ago I left for the first time, this feels more real and substantial for some reason. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m going alone. Not that I’m flying alone, but that I’m going to really be “ on my own ” when I get back to my orientation and mobility training program in Seattle. This time, no one is coming with me to help, but it’s not a bad thing. Neither I nor my parents have any doubts — I can handle all of this. To a lot of people, this kind of thing happens naturally and isn’t a big deal. But even though I’ve always been intelligent, things were more difficult to learn because I had much less vision than others in a sight-dependent world. After graduation, I decided to take a gap year. Even though many young people do this, I wasn’t excited about it at all. I didn’t want to be any more different from other people than I already am. It turns out, the problem was really my perspective. Living and working with other blind and visually impaired individuals at this program has really opened my eyes (pun intended.) It hasn’t been easy. Going to this program feels like your disability is being shoved in your face every day, and that’s hard, especially knowing I am going to lose more vision as I get older. Everyone there has a lot of emotions about their situation. Each person has a story, none of us are perfect and we don’t always get along. Blindness doesn’t discriminate. Rich, poor, tall, short, thick, thin, all kinds are affected by this impairment. To put it simply, the OTC (Orientation Training Center) is a lot of imperfect people trying to make the best life they can for themselves despite the challenges they face. That’s not a mantra or anything, just my personal assessment. At first, I was a little disappointed looking at my friends’ college pictures, thinking “that should be me.” I got over it, though. This year was my chrysalis. I have two acceptance letters plus scholarships to great colleges and a ton of possibilities. I love myself and have more confidence than I ever have before. To be honest, it’s a wonderful feeling. Although I’m surprised and proud when it comes to my metamorphosis, I didn’t write this solely for that reason. School was really hard. I was a caterpillar at one time. Sixth grade to 11th felt like I was crawling on my belly, trying not to get eaten. In 12th, amazed I survived to that point, I started to make my chrysalis. I know I’m not the only person who felt like school was more about survival than having a good time. You don’t know me, and I don’t know you, but if you’re thinking about giving up on yourself, don’t do it. Not for me or your S.O. or even your mom, but because if you give up, you will never get to know all the wonderful things you can be. Follow this journey on The Blink Butterfly. The Mighty is asking the following: What’s one thing people might not know about your experience with disability, disease or mental illness, and what would you say to teach them? Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.