Today I want to briefly share a deeply personal journey with you all and get vulnerable. I was born with a disability—a fact that has shaped every aspect of my life. But what I’ve come to realize over the years is that this disability isn’t something to mourn or resent; it’s something to embrace and celebrate.

When I reflect on my journey, I can’t help but draw parallels to the five stages of grief. Now, you might be wondering, “Grief? But you didn’t lose anything.” And you’re right, but bear with me. From denial to acceptance, I’ve navigated through these stages, each one shaping my perspective in profound ways.

Denial was my first companion. As a child, I couldn’t comprehend why I was different from other kids. I didn’t want to accept that my disability was a part of me. I longed to be “normal,” whatever that meant. The strength and depth of my denial profoundly affected both my physical and mental health. But denial can only shield you for so long before reality comes crashing in.

Anger followed closely behind, and lingered longer than I would have ever expected. I was angry at the universe for dealing me this hand. Why me? Why couldn’t I be like everyone else? It felt unfair, unjust. I still have brief moments of anger, But in these moments, I found a fire—a determination to prove that my disability wouldn’t define me.

Bargaining came next, as I sought ways to bargain with fate. If only I could walk without assistance, if only I could do this or that… But life doesn’t work that way. Bargaining only leads to frustration when reality doesn’t bend to our will.

Depression was, and still is at times, perhaps the toughest stage to navigate. Feeling isolated, misunderstood, I withdrew into myself. I questioned my worth, my purpose. But even in the darkest moments, a glimmer of hope remained.

Finally, acceptance. It didn’t happen overnight, but gradually, I came to accept my disability as an integral part of who I am. I realized that it wasn’t something to be ashamed of, but something to be celebrated. It’s what makes me unique, what gives me strength and resilience.

But acceptance wasn’t a solo journey. Along the way, I’ve been blessed to encounter incredible individuals who have inspired and uplifted me. From family and friends to mentors and role models, each person has played a vital role in shaping my perspective.

Their unwavering belief in me gave me the confidence to embrace my disability with pride. They helped me see beyond my limitations and challenged me to reach for the stars. They taught me that disability doesn’t equate to inability, that I am capable of achieving anything I set my mind to. They helped me see that I wasn’t alone in my struggles.

These individuals—and countless others—have shaped my journey towards gratitude. They’ve shown me that true strength lies in embracing our differences, that adversity can be a catalyst for growth.

Today, I am someone who is not solely defined by their disability, but as someone empowered by it. It’s a part of my identity, yes, but it doesn’t limit me. If anything, it propels me forward, driving me to make a positive impact in the world.

So, to anyone out there grappling with their own journey, know this: You are not alone. Embrace your uniqueness, find strength in your struggles, and never underestimate the power of gratitude.

Until next time, keep shining bright!

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