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This article is part of our Fall 2022 issue of Breaking Barriers. This installment focuses acquired disability. Most people with disabilities were not born with their disability, but acquired it through stroke, accident, illness, aging, etc. In this issue, people describe how their acquired disability has affected them, what they’ve lost, and what they’ve gained. If you'd like to read more stories from this issue, please subscribe to Breaking Barriers.

Twelve years ago, when I was 24, I was a passenger in a very bad car accident and sustained many injuries, including spinal cord and traumatic brain injuries. This led to multiple surgeries, more than a year in the hospital, and two years of physical therapy.

I moved temporarily into an accessible living residence because my home wasn't wheelchair accessible. During that time I was very emotional and struggling with my diagnosis. I was difficult to be around and fearful of what the future held. My fears were realized when I learned that my husband was having an affair. He chose to leave me, resulting in divorce.

Losing my independence, my career as a cosmetologist and salon manager, and my spouse left me physically and emotionally broken. I fell into a depression. But when I hit rock bottom, I realized that God was the rock at the bottom holding me up.

My faith-filled family, close friends, and people at church helped pull me out of this deep feeling of loss, but this didn't happen overnight. I was struggling internally, and my invisible injuries caused me more pain than my physical ones. Many times my emotions would take over and I felt unwelcome, unwanted, and unloved.

When I was welcomed, heard, and needed—asked to help in different areas, being included in groups, invited to share my strengths and experiences—the positives in my life helped me overcome the negatives. A saying I love says, "Turn your worry into worship and watch God turn your battles into blessing." 

Several years later I was able to return to the salon as a marketing specialist while also working as an event coordinator. These were positive personal experiences, but things changed during COVID and I am currently unemployed. I will be seeking employment again soon, but I have been using this time between jobs to focus on personal goals, spend time with family, volunteer, and go on vacation. 

As a volunteer on the board of directors for our local Center for Independent Living, I have developed a greater understanding of disability. I’m learning how other people in situations like mine can find resources to become more independent, invest in others, and seek opportunities for growth.

Five years ago I married Josh, a wonderful man who accepts and supports me as I am. He has provided opportunities and not allowed my disability to hold me back. Along with my amazing family, he encourages me to focus on the positives and praise God in every situation. 

Through all of this, my faith and my church family have sustained and supported me. I’m a Sunday school volunteer, I’ve grown and adapted, and through much love and support I have learned to embrace this new life that God has given me. 

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