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Spreading Awareness about Disabilities, Chronic Illness, and Body Acceptance

I had a lovely blogger reach out to me about my body positive posts. She wanted to talk about body acceptance and positivity, disabilities, and chronic illness, because when we are disabled or ill, it’s not always easy to love ourselves how we should.

We are human, and our emotions can pull us down a rabbit hole of anger and doubt when we feel like our bodies have failed us. As someone with an invisible disability, I don’t struggle to the same degree as those who have a visible illness. I can’t see what I look like very well without proper aids. I can’t see my shape and body, but I have genuinely struggled. On the other hand, I’ve never had to deal with insulin pumps, wheelchairs, leg braces, or any other type of outward and visible disability aid besides my cane.

I also want to point out that everyone feels things differently. All disabilities are different to each and every person, and that is the same for chronic illnesses. For example, both my mother and I are blind, but we feel and perceive our bodies and emotions quite differently.

I want this post to start conversations in a range of communities. I want to help others learn to love themselves, and I believe that the blogging community is a great place to start with that goal.

Questions

Stiina Marie runs a great blog that covers a few different topics. She also talks about her journey with diabetes and learning to embrace her body. Her openness is refreshing, so check her out. She also wanted to ask me some questions about my disability and body positive journey and how they intersect.

  • 1. Please tell us your story regarding being diagnosed blind. How can/did you accept your diagnosis? Have you ever had someone be rude to you for being blind? Please give us some examples.
  • I’ve known that I’ve had Retinitis Pigmentosa since I was very young- I started wearing glasses at age 3 or 4. It’s a degenerative eye disease, and many of my family members have it as well. Only a handful of us are declared legally blind, and it affects all of us differently.
  • I was very angry as a teenager, because being blind meant not being able to drive. It felt like I didn’t have the same degree of independence. It took time, but I realized that it made me stronger, and it’s apart of who I am. I started to change my thinking around it, and I used my disability as a platform to challenge myself to be happy and achieve my goals even more.
  • I also hated the bullying. Being bullied for being blind is actually what made me the angriest. I was often mocked and told that because I didn’t “look blind” that I was faking it. I was even bullied out of my senior prom by a mean girl who said I didn’t even need to be there because it was dark and no wanted me there anyway. I was also harassed by a few guys who would make comments like, “you’re pretty cute for a blind girl.” They would step on my cane and hold it down while I walked from my evening classes in college.
  • It seems like there will always be some degree of bullying around disabilities and illnesses, because of ignorance. Uneducated people and insecure people seem to be the biggest issue, but I’ve started to work on educating those people rather than belittling their behavior and stooping to their level. I was in a lot of fights in school, and besides making people stay away from me, it didn’t change their mindset or educate them.
  • 2. How can I feel confident or be body positive with medical devices like an insulin pump or feeding tube?

    Having an illness or disability can’t be exhausting. Being apart of the marginalized bodies that aren’t fully excepted by society can really weigh you down. For me, I choose to use my disability as a platform to spread awareness. I flipped the switch on my disability and used it as power. What is more powerful than being a survivor?

    It wasn’t always easy to love myself, but I decided I didn’t want to live a miserable life. Sure, we can fret about what hinders us, or we could use that as fuel to light our fire and push even harder. I chose the latter. I fought an almost decade long battle with bulimia, and weight loss and trying to alter my body never made me any happier like I thought it would. I know it may seem odd that a blind woman struggled with what she couldn’t see in terms of body image, but you can also read about that here.

    Once I stopped stressing over the differences of my body and those praised by society, I started to actually be happy and love myself. I genuinely believe it’s about a mental change. You can be as beautiful as you want to be, because beauty is a mindset. Beauty is also not a size or body type. Beauty is for every body, and that includes those with disabilities and chronic illnesses.

  • 3. How can I be confident or body positive when I feel my body has failed me?
  • Change your mindset. I use to feel broken with my blindness. Then, I realized everything that my body and mind had endured. Bodies are strong and capable even with illnesses and disabilities. Your body is housing your life, and for that, be grateful.

    I’m not saying you can’t be angry, sad, or have a bad day. Just don’t stay in the moment. You’ve already come so far, so prove to yourself that you can go even further with learning to love and accept yourself. I try to view life as a gift regardless of any restrictions I have. That’s me, and I like that I’m different. Sure, I get tired of answering questions and picking up people’s spirits somedays, because mine get low too. It’s just important to look at the bigger picture and breathe.

    Living with an illness or disability can be a challenge, but if you appreciate the great lengths you’ve come despite your situation, you could bring positivity into your life. I’m not saying it’s as easy as changing your mind, because changing how we view things isn’t simple at all. It will take time, but it’s worth it. Relabel what you considered your flaws, and see the value in yourself. We are all worthy of self-love and confidence.

    Get the Conversations Going

    I was going to wait to share this, but I really want to put this post out there. We need to get the conversations surrounding body acceptance with disabilities and chronic illnesses moving. We need to cut back the shame and anger that we can feel, and work together as a community to lift each other up.

    Communication, questions, and being open can help so many understand themselves and others. It’s important to share your story, because even if you only inspire or help one person, that is still one person who benefited from your words.

    Head over to Stiina’s blog to read some of her fabulous posts as well. I’d love to hear from you all about any disabilities, illnesses, or set backs you’ve faced with accepting your body.

    -With Love, Jenni

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