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A Story of Post Traumatic Growth

June is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Awareness Month. A topic we should have a conversation about now as a lot of people will be dealing with the psychological aftermath brought on by 2020. Most associate PTSD with soldiers and war but reality is it can be brought on by any traumatic experience. The outcome of how we perceive and deal with that stress is what may or may not cause PTSD.

Did you know that there is a term coined by Richard Tedeschi and Lawrence Calhoun called Post Traumatic Growth or PTG? I didn’t either, at least I didn’t know there was a psychological term for it. I just realized that every time I was met with adversity, I climbed out of it with faith and in the end, I had a deeper appreciation for life and those close to me while trying to find a purpose to dealing with the traumatic experience. Apparently, that is the very definition of post traumatic growth.

There are so many obstacles the disabled population face that adding a social stigma to having a disability really is like adding salt to the wound. Don’t you think? After my own experience, which you can read about here, I decided to make a conscious effort to teach others in an effort to normalize disabilities at home and in our community. For Katherine Magnoli, she has made it her mission in life to teach kids about disabilities in an effort to normalize it so future disabled children are not met with the same experiences she was.

Katherine’s journey of navigating life with a birth defect that affects her spine has brought about a wonderful book series that sparks inclusivity in the most imaginative ways. She is the author of Katgirl and Friends, a fun series where the girl in the wheelchair is the hero, and I consider myself extremely lucky to have met her and even luckier to have had an intimate chat over coffee on Zoom. She shared stories of her family and siblings always rallying around her and making sure that, despite her being in a wheelchair, she was always included. She shared a beautiful story with me about how her mom responded to her questions when she was a young girl as to why she was different from her siblings. Her mom explained to her that her spinal cord was like a tree and her tree was just missing some of the leaves. Her early formative years were filled with love and acceptance so I can only imagine how thrown off she was when she was met with bullying and rejection in grade school - which she endured until she graduated high school. Think about that for just one moment, the formative years of her life were met with rejection. It really wasn’t until college that she was finally able to feel comfortable with her authentic self.

She emerged from a lifetime of traumas to find a better way to live. That is, in part, the definition of post traumatic growth. I’ll never get tired of saying this, the degree of one’s disability, to me, only shows their level of resiliency. Top that off with a great attitude and that is the type of friend everyone needs in their life!

I initially met Katherine at the Coral Gables Summer Literacy Festival, she was there to promote her books. I made it a point to sit in on her book reading to see how kids perceived things and she really is onto something. She rolled in and opened the floor to whatever questions the kids had. She spoke candidly about her disability and she captivated her audience both young and well, not so young. Her stories are a whimsical solution to a massive problem we rarely talk about. The psychological damages of having to grow up as an outcast for an issue that is out of your control can have very lasting effects. In the case of Katherine, it’s magnificent to see the growth that has occurred and remarkable to see her trailblazing the way for future kids in chairs.

After having gone through the trauma of being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis I choose to live life positively, to see it through a different lens, and that has served inexplainable purposes.

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