A woman says she has become a happier and more confident person – after LOSING the ability to walk.
Monica Thomas, 29, was diagnosed with Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT) disease when she was two years old after inheriting the genetic condition.
CMT causes muscle weakness, highly arched or very flat feet and an awkwardness walking, and gets progressively worse.
The condition meant that by 19 she was confined to a wheelchair full-time after years of using leg braces and failed physical therapy – but she now views her chair as her ticket to freedom.
The blogger, from Indiana, USA, explained: “While some people may see wheelchairs as a kind of prison, to me my wheelchair is my freedom – I’m so much more mobile now.
“I’m not as scared of going to new places and I don’t have to spend time anxiously mapping out routes or worrying about having a place to sit down – I literally always have a place to sit!
“I ended up becoming a happier person, more sure of myself, more confident. I’ve gained a real love for my body – genetic mutations and all!”
Although Monica’s condition has since plateaued, she initially deteriorated at a much faster rate than her family members.
“I was only five when I got my first pair of leg braces – three years after my diagnosis. By comparison, my dad was diagnosed at five but didn’t need mobility aid until he turned 50.
“While my condition seemed normal growing up with family members that had CMT, it became clear that my disease was progressing more quickly than theirs by the time I started kindergarten.”
As Monica got older, she started to notice the difference between herself and the other children at school.
“It was a lot harder – I stood out as someone who was different or ‘other’. I was sad a lot of the time, angry sometimes.
“I mostly just felt that terrible feeling of unfairness that we all seem to feel as kids – but instead of seething over not getting the toy I wanted, I just wanted to be able to run around.”
But she quickly had to adjust to her ever-changing abilities.
Monica said: “Just when you’ve started to accept part of your body failing, CMT isn’t far behind, ready to take another one.
“I’ve gone from walking with leg braces to needing a walker to being a full-time wheelchair user in the span of a decade.
“It takes time and energy to accept each of those things, because each time there’s a change it feels like an upheaval of your life.”
Interestingly, instead of the wheelchair being a burden, embracing it has been the best thing Monica could have done, and she was even wheeled down the aisle by her parents when she married husband Alec in 2015.
She decided to start sharing her journey publicly and educate others on what it’s like to be disabled – and why she doesn’t need pity.
“When I first joined Instagram, I just posted selfies or pictures of my dog – but never pictures where my chair was visible.
“At some point, I started following accounts of other disabled women and it was like the gates had opened to the world where I belonged.
“Because of the lack of representation of disabled people in the media, I had never really seen women who looked like me, living lives that were full and adventurous and sexy.
“Seeing the stories and photos those women were sharing helped boost my confidence so much that I wanted to share mine too.
“Each disabled person’s story is completely different because we are different people – that should be obvious, but because we’re always portrayed as tragic or inspirational, people have a misguided, limited view of disabled people.
“That’s what I want to work to change through the stories I write about my life.”
Monica is now “reclaiming the disabled narrative” on her blog www.monicaenglethomas.com