MY STORY HAS VALUE

This quote from Hannah Gadsby’s Nanette has always resonated with me but now more than ever: my story has value. When I launched the NYG membership I once again had the privilege to learn and listen to people’s stories of disability and chronic illness. Although our stories are similar, each is a unique and incredibly personal depiction of adversity, triumph and loss.

The complex diagnoses that accompany chronic illnesses and disabilities can often result in stories filled with the heart-breaking recounting of losing every part of yourself only to find something that much more beautiful beneath all those layers. For many, uncovering the vulnerable inner you and having the courage to finally step out into the light as your true self, accepting and acknowledging both your strengths and limits, is freeing.

There is power in our stories

In telling our stories we are able to connect, to see one another in a world that tries so hard to erase disabled and chronically ill people’s experiences. When we are seen and appreciated for who we are, and not condemned for everything we are not, we thrive. We are able to approach ourselves with the kindness and compassion that we would normally reserve for others.

Too often, disabled voices are queried, questioned, disbelieved or – perhaps even worse – just plain ignored. Those in the chronic illness and disabled community are too often defined by what is ‘different’ about us, rather than celebrated for the parts of our being that are truly amazing. By telling our stories we’re being true to ourselves, we’re able to be our whole selves.

This honesty means that every person who comes forward and tells their story is opening the door for others to do the same. We’re breaking the silences and stigmas around disability and chronic illness and giving those who want to learn opportunities to educate themselves simply by listening. There is power in our stories, and the power is in both the telling and the listening to these stories.

Valuing our voices

When our stories are valued, we feel valued. We can appreciate all that we have been through and how we survived even the toughest of times. The membership has introduced me to so many amazing people in our community, and I’m in awe of their bravery in sharing their stories. Our stories, collectively, can be difficult, sad, emotional or even funny, but one thing they all have in common is that they matter. We matter. Our community matters. 

Through our stories we can see ourselves more clearly, and the more we listen the more we’ll learn to judge others less harshly. Compassion isn’t a given, it’s a learned skill and every day can be a school day.

So, tell your story. Every story is worth telling, and you never know who might be listening.