Growing Up Different
I was born with a rare physical disability called Sacral Agenesis which affects the lower half of my body. I am missing about half of my spine including the sacrum which is the reason why I'm only 4 feet tall at 20 years old! I also have permanently dislocated hips which have made me unable to walk so I use forearm crutches 24/7.
When I was younger and in elementary school, I feel like making friends was a breeze. I used my wheelchair and crutches back then so that was the only difference that kids saw when they looked at me. My height was never a problem because in third grade, there was no height difference between me and my friends. The best part about elementary is that young kids are hardly judgemental.
Then came the glory days of middle school and high school. The days where fitting in and being cool was "crucial." Moving cities around this time didn't help at all either. I went from having five good friends to none. Although, I was the new kid so I waited it out. After a month in my new school, I finally found one good friend. It was nice to have somebody to walk to classes with me and to talk about cute boys but there was still that competition to be cool. High school was when I tried way too hard to fit in. I started focusing more on what could make me fit into the cool crowd more than academics. Mentally, it became so unhealthy that I made the decision to switch to online schooling. My grades started to rise and I become content with my two good friends.
I realized then that being popular is not life or death. Removing myself from the environment where kids were so judgemental was the best decision I made in my teen years.
I'm now just finishing up college but throughout my two years, I made so many friends. I never once had to try to fit in and I love that. I truly believe the reason for that is, most people going to college are older and more mature. There is no judgment and there is no "popular" crowd.
Needless to say, elementary school and college are my favorite times to look back on.
Changing My Mindset
When I was younger, I was a very happy child. My disability never stopped me from much and I rarely ever even considered myself different except when I couldn't run or participate in certain activities. Although, I had friends who were okay with staying by my side and not having to do exactly what everybody else was doing so that was amazing.
My social anxiety and insecurities started around the same time I started middle school. Things changed so fast and suddenly I was just trying to get used to the stares and whispers. Trying to be like everybody wasn't working. I had to realize that I would never be like them and that I had to be okay with that. I had to be okay with me. I started retraining my negative thoughts to positive. Every person who stared at me, I'd smile and say, "Hello!" I'd look in the mirror and tell myself that I was beautiful.
When I started doing online school, that's when my head started clearing and I truly started focusing on me and my happiness. I didn't have all of that pressure of fitting in anymore so that really gave me the time to learn how to love myself just the way that I am.
I had to be okay with me.
After High School
Today, I am happy and independent. Even though school was rough for awhile, I survived and graduated from high school a few years ago. Shortly after, I applied for college in hopes of getting my Certificate in General Office. I should be graduating this summer!
As far as my disability goes, it hasn't slowed me down a bit. I am in a much better place with myself and can actually look in a mirror and feel good about what I see. I even got my own apartment a few months ago so I'm living an independent life. Life is good right now.
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© 2018 Amanda Burnett