Learning to Love My Disabled Identity

For so many years, I thought that the key to survival was to run away from my disability, even if only emotionally. I thought that being known as the disabled girl would define my whole sense of self, ensuring that nobody cared about anything else. However, actively pretending that it doesn’t exist only served to send me into a spiral of self-hatred. Once this had begun, it was impossible to escape from and has constantly haunted the edges of my brain for almost a decade, if not longer. However, things have finally started to change over the past couple of days. It is like a dark fog has been lifted, simply from refusing to hide anymore and believing that I am capable of better.

Firstly, I learned that this blog has been viewed over one thousand times already. My weird little blog. If we know each other well enough to be connected on social media, then you probably already know that part. Truthfully, my head is still spinning. It is so difficult to comprehend how so many people care about reading my story, however briefly. My voice has always just felt pretty invisible, you know? It has often been like screaming into the void with nobody to hear. I can’t remember a time where I didn’t feel like a disappointing disabled person because I had nothing especially remarkable to offer the world. However, hitting this milestone proves my brain wrong. It makes me feel like the possibilities are endless, although that probably won’t last long. Still, maybe my existence doesn’t have to be entirely mundane after all. For example: generally, I hate talking about my career prospects because writing has always felt like home for me, but I have always worried that I’m not good enough for it to be achievable. Now, for the first time, there is a glimmer of hope. For the first time ever, I am actually proud of myself. Can you believe it?! If you are reading this, you have collectively changed my life and I’m never going to be able to repay you.

Then, I posted on a disability support group and requested friends in a similar situation. I have never done anything like that before because the idea of being so vulnerable makes me feel physically sick, but I was so horribly alone and sad. Being young and disabled can be horribly lonely and sad — that’s the unfortunate reality. Frankly, I had expected to be completely ignored. At this point in time, it really didn’t feel like I mattered very much at all. Instead, over two-hundred people responded. Over two-hundred wonderful and warm human beings from around the world shared their stories with me, opening their hearts up to a friendship. I still haven’t been able to message all of them properly in the way that I would like, simply because there are not enough hours in the day. Even so, it has felt like I have been floating on a happy little cloud ever since. Until this moment, I had never before been embraced so tightly for my differences. Collectively, these people have saved me in ways that I’ll never fully be able to articulate. I’m still not completely convinced that I deserve each and every one of their beautifully kind gestures, but I’m determined to earn them. Their unconditional acceptance has allowed me to begin extending myself the same courtesy and it so deeply liberating. Being disabled can be a beautiful thing, too.

Also today, I received my first vaccine against COVID-19. I haven’t left the house much at all in the past year, so I was really very anxious about this whole process, but it all went smoothly. Since the pandemic first began, I have wanted to crawl outside of my own skin and be someone else. Anyone else. I deeply resented having to take so many extra steps in order to simply stay alive, so this feels like the beginning of brighter days. As a side note: my favourite mental health YouTuber has now acknowledged my existence on Twitter twice, so it feels like I have made it. Kidding, but still.

A woman (Danielle, the author of this blog) is smiling in the car and wearing a seatbelt. She is wearing glasses, a red jacket and black vest. She has messy hair but she doesn’t care.
This bitch got vaccinated: a picture taken after my appointment.

In short, I am not completely comfortable as a disabled young woman yet. I want to feel attractive and confident, so there is more work to be done. But representation is important to that process, so I’m going to continue to write until the world has changed for the better. I might even start a YouTube channel. Maybe. If I can get over my fear of the camera. But probably not. If you want to help me on this journey, please sign my gorgeous friend’s petition for a film with a disabled Disney princess here and don’t watch Sia’s new film ever. Give disabled actors the roles of disabled characters and don’t be a dick xoxo

PS: an extra special shout-out to my pals Imogen, Sophie, Céline and Jasmine. You will have a piece of my heart forever.

8 thoughts on “Learning to Love My Disabled Identity

  1. You are so incredibly inspirational bud. I am so proud to know you and as someone who does not experience these things, you make it so easy to connect with and understand due to it coming from your soul. Keep on writing because you enlighten us all. Also you are beautiful in every way.

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    1. I LOVE YOU SO MUCH. SO MUCH. Sometimes I’ll forget how much & then you hit me in the feels like this. Thank-you, for everything, now and always. You are one of the very few people that showed me kindness back in the day & you have no idea how grateful I am that you are still on my team now. Thank-you for the Animal Crossing chats and the funny videos because those days were so important to me & I hope you know that I am always only ever a message away. Watch me write you a soppy paragraph in the DMs tomorrow. Cannot wait to FINALLY hang out with you in real-life soon enough because maybe then you can teach me how to dress with at least a little bit of style 🤣 xxxxx

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  2. Wow just wow

    I have never seen you as disabled I’ve only ever seen you our Nelz but this new self assured (well baby steps) you is simply wonderful

    You keep going tiger I feel so positive about where you are heading – not to mention twice on Twitter wtaf 😳 go you x
    #proud
    #superproud
    #notenoughwords
    #whoareyou
    #dontstopnow
    #❤️

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    1. I love you so much for always believing in me and treating me like a human being no matter what because it’s rarer than you might think. Definite baby steps but I’m out here working on it in the best way that I know how! & you contribute to that I’m so many ways. Also: loving the hashtags 🤪🤩❤️

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  3. Wow another superb piece of writing Nelz. So,proud of all you are doing even if you think you are taking baby steps to me they are huge strides..
    To think you are making new friends and coming out of your comfort zone is amazing Danielle. just think how you are helping people both be educated and also understand what you have been going through is amazing
    I think you should look at writing a book I’m sure it would be a Bestseller if your blogs are anything to go by.
    Look forward to your next piece and keep moving forward it is so lovely to keep reading
    #yougogirl #proud ❤️❤️

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    1. Thank-you so much for taking the time to write this comment because it means the entire world to me. I am determined not to spend ANOTHER year being scared of everything & your support has been invaluable to coming this far. I want you to know that. HAHA! The idea of a book or anything still feels a little scary right now, but maybe one day. Love you always & I’ll see you soon enough, hopefully 🧡

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  4. Keep cranking it up Danielle!
    Your thirst for a happier more empowered life is very relatable.
    Yes a book!
    Work towards it….. it will be widely read and an inspiration to so many. x j

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