I'm Thankful for My Disability

Posted by Kristin Beale in Life After Paralysis on November 10, 2022 # Lifestyle

November is a fun month because it’s the beginning of the holiday season and the season of thankfulness. I had an epiphany in the last few weeks that I wanted to share with you. Then, I’m layin’ down a challenge.

This season especially, I’m thankful for my accident, my paralysis, and my disability. I’m not thankful for the physical and emotional pain that resulted from the loss of my friend and the struggle of my community in its wake, but I’m thankful for the truckload of my struggle, adaptations, and rerouting that it forced me to. I’ve had more opportunities, connected with more people, and been touched by more blessings than I can ever imagine if I had walked away from my accident unscathed. My trauma [and my wheelchair] means I have an automatic story to tell, something to set me apart from other people, and a platform for connecting with people.

If I could, would I trade any of my struggle or trauma for an easy, “normal” life? Not in 100 years. It has made me who I am today, and that’s someone I’ve worked hard to love – skinny legs and all.

Something I’ve noticed is how good of a job our culture does at empowering people’s sadness. The alternative, and the origin of my contentment, is to power past our bad moments and search for the good that comes from them. Looking outward, I haven’t seen much in the way of “I know you’re hurting, but where is a light shining?” Instead, I watch people tend toward, “If you’re sad, [fake-]smile at the camera, write a caption about your pain, and move on from it.” It seems to me that we’re getting too caught up in our low moments, then overlooking the good and decent ones that come out of them.

This year has been a rollercoaster of up and down for me. Does anyone else feel me on that? Without thinking much about it, I can pop up 5-10 fingers of the good and bad that have swallowed my past 11 months. But what good is that? Which brings me to the fun part, the challenge:

Make a list [or a mental note] of all the hard, burdensome, and heavy stuff that’s on your mind and holding you back right now. For every item on your list, write down [or consider] the good part(s) that resulted from it. You might have to dig deep! But this is good work. By focusing on that good, you’ll begin to rid yourself of the “but if I could just…” and “I wish I could…” thinking. That stuff is useless. Focusing on your regrets won’t get you anywhere except deeper into a pit of self-pity.

If you look for them, little glories are everywhere. The consequence of perceiving all your hard situations as “half-full” instead of “half-empty” is a switch in your mindset; switching your focus to the benefit, instead of the consequence, means you’re rooting yourself in positive thinking. And the advantages of positive thinking, experts say, are undeniable: less stress, better overall physical and emotional health, a longer life span, increased immunity, and better coping skills. Who doesn’t want those?

What’s holding you back? What good has come from it? Ask yourself those questions this week and start finding the benefit in your hard situation. You’ll be amazed at how much good that can do.

Kristin Beale is a native of Richmond, Virginia. She is the author of two books, Greater Things and A Million Suns, and a comic book, Date Me. Check them out and read an excerpt at https://kristinbeale.com/. Her comics can be found on Instagram @Greater.Things.Comics.

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.