​Another Day...

Posted by EmpowHer Stories in Life After Paralysis on February 23, 2023 # EmpowHer Stories

Brianna WheelerAfter I was wrongfully shot and paralyzed, another day would pass by. Friends, family, and strangers said that I should be happy. I was still alive, but I felt empty. I saw myself in the mirror, but my mind felt trapped in the wrong body. My happiness seemed far from my reality. It was another day with pain filling my body, another day with people talking about me as if I was no longer human. Could I blame them? I didn’t feel human.

Yet they said I’m still alive and I should be happy.

It was another day, with new doctors, tests, and equipment. I was told what I needed to watch out for and what I would no longer do. Their words blurred together, and I thought: “CAN’T ANYONE SEE THAT I’M DROWNING?”

I knew I should be happy. But every day, I asked God why I was still alive.

I felt suffocated by my disability. I laid in bed wondering how the world could be so quiet, and yet my mind could be so LOUD. Worthless, disabled, disgusting, broken…alone? Was this all that I am now? I felt this way as I grieved the things my disabled body could no longer do. I felt ashamed of the little activities I put off before my injury. I missed things like running into the ocean, or jumping in the jumper at my brother's birthday. I missed the little tasks I took for granted: changing my clothes, taking a shower, and getting in the car. These memories were painful triggers in my mind.

One day, while scrolling on Instagram, I saw a disabled baddie smiling happily. She sat with her legs crossed, wearing a cute outfit and holding a Starbucks coffee. In her caption, she excitedly talked about getting ready for wheelchair dance camp. A thought came to mind: “Could this be me? “Could I be content with this disabled body?”

Finally, I asked myself: “What can I change to make myself happy?” Yes, I am alive. But I still needed to grieve for the part of me that died. If I skipped this step, I would be stuck in the past, waiting and hoping for a person who would no longer return. So I wrote a goodbye letter to my past self and told her how much I loved and was proud of her. I promised to make her proud in turn. This process gave me room to heal, grow, and learn to love my new life.

I signed up for a wheelchair dance camp, and it was the best decision I have ever made. I saw bold and confident people thriving in their disabled bodies. They owned their space, dreams, and achievements. I felt seen and understood, and it lit a fire within me.

Lately, I have prioritized my happiness, and my life is brightening.

I found my voice, and I feel PROUD when I speak loudly about disability rights and accessibility. I feel beautiful again in a way that I never imagined. I decided to keep pushing through life. It took time and hard days, but I changed my perspective and chose positive self-talk. I still lay in bed and wonder how my mind could be so loud. But now the words “WARRIOR, DISABLED, BEAUTIFUL, STRONG, POWERFUL” come to mind.

It makes a difference when you train your mind to speak positively instead of negatively. I didn’t feel this at peace as an able-bodied woman. I smile more and solve problems quickly. I focus on my gratitude for small blessings.

Being positive doesn’t mean life is perfect. But today is another day, I AM ALIVE. I feel my emotions, but I don’t let them control me. Practice being kind to yourself and your disabled body. You deserve happiness, and you deserve to shine. Keep pushing. Find your purpose and know that you are worthy of your dreams.

Brianna Wheeler was wrongfully shot and paralyzed at age 21. She is now a survivor, model, actress, activist, and the Women's Host of Live to Roll.

This blog is a part of the Disability EmpowHer Network and the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation collaborative blogging program, which uplifts the voices of women and girls with spinal cord disabilities.

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,700,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.