This week, Joni Eareckson Tada spoke my university’s daily chapel. Later, I went to a leadership lunch where she spoke. Despite my fear of eating in front of others, being there was worth the anxiety.
If you have never heard of Joni, you should look her up and read about this amazing woman. At the age of 18, she dived into shallow water and was seriously injured. Since than, Joni has been a quadriplegic meaning she cannot move her arms or legs.
Instead of giving up on life, this incredible role model paints, sings, speaks, donates, runs charities and retreats, counsels government officials, and is happily married. Most of these are dreams that I have. Seeing her fighting and shining brightly despite the daily difficulty taught me that I too can touch the world despite my hardships.
Today I spoke on a student panel about disability appreciation. Being with others who understood my pain and those who want to learn more really inspired me. Life is a painful adventure that is filled with beautiful moments and heart-wrenching misery. In the end, every day is a new chance for growth, love, and learning. I might struggle with depression, anxiety, eating disordered thoughts, aspergers, and more all of my life. However, that does not mean it is hopeless. Instead, I will learn how to deal with my health issues to the best of my abilities. Normal will never be a word to describe me, but who really wants to be normal?
One thing that stuck with me from Joni was how she wakes up each morning. Before even opening our eyes, she claims that major battles are fought and won or lost. Each day, one has to combat the voice that says, “I cannot face today. I wish that I was dead. I hate myself.” Her reliance on her faith reminded me to turn to strength beyond myself. Going through each moment alone is too much for me. Others who support me help carry me through each day.
Raising awareness might be frightening but can be so inspiring and freeing. I encourage you to learn more about a disability, truly listen to a loved one, or be honest with someone about your struggles today. Find the strength to stand up for yourself and others who have a health disorder or problem of any kind. Together, we can build awareness to touch others and make the world a more understanding and emphatic place.