How befriending veterans changed my life as young women with a disability

The soldier above all others prays for peace, for it is the soldier who must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war. -Douglas MacArthur

Growing up with a disability like cerebral palsy it could be difficult for me to make friends both with people with disabilities and able-bodied people, Mainly because not everyone understands you as a person.

It’s risky making friends with able-bodied people because they often either pity you or try to take advantage of you and your situation.

When it comes to having friends with different types of abilities like me is always nice, because I get to spend time with someone who understands what I’m going through. But it comes with the assumption of “well, she’s disabled, so it makes sense for her to be friends with people like her. “

Where Special Friendships Began

After I graduated from high school, I had a difficult time maintaining friendships. Most of my friends went off to college and we drifted apart. The only friends I had were my online friends that I met through cerebral palsy and disability support groups on the internet.
It is great to connect with people like you when you have a disability, but I wanted to find people that I could relate to in the real world.

After I turned 21, I relocated to a new city to have a new beginning, but once I got there I felt very alone. In order to make friends with the unfamiliar territory, I decided to go to the gas station every morning with my laptop. I would sit at a table with my Macbook Pro and just start writing.

Eventually, my ability to type and write caught the attention of various people, and they often come up to me and tell me their life stories. However, what caught my attention was the stories of the veterans that served for our life and liberty.
It humbled me that veterans who served this country would want me to hear their stories of how they overcome the challenges of coming back from the war wounded, and then having to adapt to everything around them. This was something I could relate to with my cerebral palsy.

Being in a wheelchair in our society is a tough job. We deal with a lot of judgment, discrimination, and more. That is something my veteran friends would discuss with me on a day to day basis while drinking a cup of joe. Being able to talk about things and connect with these wonderful people made me feel better about having a disability.

How Friendships Impacted My Life
Building friendships with veterans gave me a whole new perspective on life as a woman with a disability and being an advocate for people like me. I remember going to lunch at Gators sports bar with war veteran Jimmy Sanders. He brought me lunch and he said to me “Tylia, you’re my hero, I watch your Facebook page Stomping on Cerebral Palsy and It gives me hope when I get angry about my disability and being wheelchair-bound. In that moment I cried and didn’t know what to say. I went on a journey to find people that I could relate to and get inspired by people.” As the summer went by, I got to meet people like Mr. Jimmy with whom I was able to help talk through some of their toughest times. Little do they know how much they’ve helped me by being my friend. These veterans showed me that no obstacle is too big or too small, and no matter what the obstacle is I have to keep going because there’s always someone who can be impacted by your story in a time of need.

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