How My Disability Made Me Love Myself
In a world where normality is the unattainable ideal, sometimes proudly standing out can be the greatest strength of all
I was born with a congenital neuromuscular disorder. It will take too long and too many words to describe in depth, but basically it makes me weaker, my muscles don't work as well, it causes spasms and seizures and other problems. In short, it makes me different. As a 15 year old Latina immigrant in a primarily white school, I already stand out enough as it is, and until recently I tried to hide everything that made me me. I used to fight through my pain during PE class so people wouldn't look at me funny and I would spend extra hours at the doctors after school because I wouldn't take a break during swim practice or I carried around my backpack on a day I should've spent resting and messed up my back. I was harming myself in order to seem normal, even knowing that normality was an unachievable goal that I would never reach no matter how hard I tried. But teenagers can be mean and I wasn't going to be a target. A few months ago, after spending a few days in the hospital with non-stop seizures, my doctor told me I had to give it a rest. I had to take a break if I needed to, wheel around a backpack instead of carry it (although that is against the rules), stop overworking myself. My mum agreed, but I fought back. I still didn't want to be "different". My mum told me that if I kept this up, I'd end up killing myself, and I reluctantly agreed to take things easier. Obviously, the teachers had been briefed on my condition, but I don't go to the best school and none of the teachers really cared or remembered or remembered to care. This meant I had to go talk to them and explain everything, especially to the PE teachers and the swim coach. I'd have to list this as one of the worst days of my life. My face was red as I approached my history teacher, my nicest teacher, and quietly explained everything to her. How I might be late to class because it's hard to move around. How I might need to type because sometimes my hand is too tight to write. She was understanding enough and I was enshrined in a false comfort. I went to my PE teacher next, wrapped in the warmth that maybe this wouldn't be as bad as I thought. I explained to her that, as she already knew, I was disabled, and there were some activities I couldn't participate in or would have to do in a different way. I remember her face looking down at me, callous and uncaring, as she uttered the words, "well you'll just have to try harder." That's when I realized things had to change. This was only a month ago, but since then, I have been trying to start a disabled student group and I have been speaking to teachers and principles and advocating for better disabled student rights. My disability has shown me that although I've always seen myself as a shy, introverted follower, I do have a strength inside me and I can stand up and lead. It has taught me that I can't do anything, no one can, but if I care about something enough, if I really, truly, care, I can make it happen. I can make a difference, whether it's big or small, I CAN make a difference.
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