by Brittany Foster: For Complete Post, Click Here…
My mind once seemed wired to focus on parts of me I wish I could change.
Most of my life, I struggled to accept my reflection in the mirror. I spent a lot of time hoping for the scars to fade and the fluid retention to dissipate. I tore myself down because of my loss of muscle tone and weight. I spent restless nights trying to find a sense of purpose and some hope to hold on to.
In the last year, however, my perspective has shifted tremendously. This month, I am rewiring the thoughts of shame and negativity to instead focus on pride.
In honor of Disability Pride Month this July, when I stop to think about what I am proud of, it feels refreshing to shift my mindset to the parts of me that I value. I am proud of the marks on my body, including my scars and stretch marks. I am proud of my bravery, perseverance, and the mental strength it took to restore my will to live.
I used to spend too much time in front of a mirror. My reflection would stir up feelings of disgust, anger, and sadness. For years, I fell victim to the comparison game and suffered the consequences.
Now, although I don’t always love what I see, I have a newfound appreciation for my body. It healed after major thoracic surgery last month. My lungs are currently able to expand enough to maintain an increased oxygen level. The scars that cover my chest are a reminder of survival. Stretch marks on my side and thighs are a sign of a changing body that adapts despite dramatic weight fluctuations. My external body houses organs that are functioning every single day.
I am proud of what lies below the surface. My disability and chronic illness have taught me what bravery really looks like. I once thought that to be brave I had to hide my fear. I thought it meant I had to put on a strong face and endure the pain, even when it seemed impossible.
Through the disability and rare disease communities, I learned that strength comes from sharing and owning my story, including the good, the bad, and the ugly. Now, I have pride in my tears and my weakest moments, along with my accomplishments. For me, bravery means having the courage to be vulnerable. This level of vulnerability and the willingness to share one’s truth can be a turning point for someone else’s life story, too.