top of page
joseannie smiling wearing a vneck white top with a silver necklace and a high bun.

Illustration by Joanis Duran Image Joseannie Martinez

7 Important Self-Care Lessons My Disability Taught Me

Updated: May 29, 2023

Reclaiming my power in an able-body society through self-care, mental wellness, detoxing negative relationships, silencing my inner critic voice and falling in love with my disability.

Before becoming a child book author, I faced a lot of ups and downs. From battling depression, addressing childhood trauma to managing my epilepsy and figuring out who I was. As a high-functional performance, masking my anxiety and the negative relationship with my body was more uncomplicated. Honestly, let's process this - who decided my body was broken and needed to fit in an able-bodied society? Grapple with that idea. We live in a world with 1.3 billion people has a disability. Please keep in mind that disability looks different in everybody. Period. This ableist thinking that society approved has done more harm than good to my community! Like yours, my beautiful body is normal and doesn't need fixing! It's society's culture that needs to be repaired. Through it all, I needed to discover myself, prioritize my well-being, and learn to fall in love with all of me.

My relationship with my then-boyfriend was dreadful and took up unnecessary energy. So calling it quits was the best decision. Like boy, bye. There were zero regrets other than optimism. Now that I had all this free time for myself, taking a radical leap of faith in myself to improve the quality of my life was next on the list.

The first area of focus was creating a limited mobility workout regime for three reasons: to reduce stress, increase my happy hormone, and get my body moving. Getting dressed in my gym clothes and breaking sweat empowered me. Despite this feeling, I had to dig deep into why I had an unhealthy inner critic and other areas that needed improvement.

Living with epilepsy, my eating habits, let's say, "Was no bueno." So I started cooking healthy meals to stay consistent and provide my body the proper nutrition. And yes, I give in to food cravings. It's only right to honor my body. There's nothing wrong with that. Remember that my goal wasn't to get skinny but to maintain a healthy body in motion.

Mustering the courage to open up about my disability and sexual abuse on social media is how I took my power back. Through my platform, I make room for myself and others with epilepsy. Even as a disability activist, sometimes I second guess my worth - and that's ok. Over time, you'll master reclaiming your time by checking in on yourself when self-doubt tries sneaking in. Our disability is part of our identity - it doesn't define us. As an adult living with a disability, I've learned seven simple acts of self-care to embrace your body, change your mindset and live in your truth.

1. Say Goodbye to Toxic Relationships - and Say Hello to Inner Peace

Whoever said your inner and outer circle is vital to your well-being wasn't lying. Living with epilepsy, you count on your loved ones and friends to do the right thing, especially during a health crisis, right? Not in my case.

“34% of people with disabilities face social discrimination”According to a study by National Institute of Health

Let me preface this by saying cannabis (CBD) helped lower seizures in people diagnosed with epilepsy. In October 2019, my friends and I were chilling and smoking weed one night. And at the time, I preferred smoking weed versus drinking since alcohol is linked to triggering seizures. Then, out of nowhere, a friend mocked my disability by stating, "Oh yeah, she has a disability." To this day, I don't know the root cause of my disability being the topic or joke of the night.

Did it catch me off guard? Yes.

Did I lose my high? Yes.

Did I freeze? Yes.

I was such a people pleaser that I would've again swept this under the rug. And I had to stop making excuses for ableist language. Little by little, I started learning about stressful seizure-causing triggers. Educating myself on my disability made room for self-compassion and how outside factors affected my health. Living with epilepsy isn't easy; we have good and bad days. By saying this, the people we allow into our lives shouldn't make our experience harder.

Being ready for the new chapter meant recognizing the signs of toxic relationships and the impact on the number of seizures I was experiencing- and trusting the process. It was time to release all of this bad juju. By being intentional with whom we share our lives- family, friends, acquaintances, and coworkers. Meant holding them accountable for their behavior and when to cut someone out of your life. Creating room for new relationships who share your values, form part of your community, uplift you, create healthy boundaries, and hold each other accountable.

joseannie is posing in front of an incased chandelier. she is wearing her hair blown out, black long-sleeve turtle neck, denim jeans and leather boots and holding her purse.
Joseannie Martinez

"I'm so proud of my disability that I no longer feel invisible by my disability."

-Joseannie Martinez

2. Immerse Yourself in Your Community

For so long, I've felt isolated and depressed. It takes vulnerability, and I wasn't there yet. So what others' perceptions of me mattered to me. Looking back, keeping this facade did me more harm than good. The vast majority of my friends are all able-body. Yes, I'm fond of the ones I can call real friends, my ride-and-die from day one. But something was missing, and I wanted more out of my friendships. I craved shared similarities and understanding with someone whose diagnosed with epilepsy. As a child of immigrant parents, your community is everything.

“29% of people living with epilepsy suffer from depression” According to a study by Epilepsy Foundation

After two decades, I started to search for local epilepsy support groups, and for the first time in my life, I felt seen and heard. Sharing my unfiltered journey to the nitty gritty details of my symptoms saved me. Hearing other people's epilepsy stories and learning how symptoms vary from person to person - taught me to appreciate my body. For years I've shied away from the topic. Now I can't stop, won't stop.

I'm so proud of my disability that I no longer feel invisible by my disability. This inspired me to write my first children's book. Being diagnosed with epilepsy at 16, I had zero clue about advocating for myself and felt alone with no one to share my experience with. Within my people, I found the impossible possible. To ensure children of color diagnosed with epilepsy felt accepted in the books they read.

Our community isn't a monolith. We're enriched with culture. When we give ourselves the grace to be surrounded by human beings who love, feel, and care for each other, we feel alive. Find your tribe!

Find your local Epilepsy Support Groups

3. Taking Care of Your Mental Wellness

I will not lie or hide it- I suffer from anxiety and intrusive thoughts. However, I didn't know at the time what anxiety triggered seizures were. In my mind, all of this was normal, and everyone felt this way.

After 10 years, I've concluded that I need to handle my mental well-being. So, I started therapy to understand my emotions better regarding my epilepsy. One of the many benefits of seeing a therapist is that it helped me release trapped emotions, develop coping skills, set healthy boundaries, and address unresolved trauma. Seeking the right therapist for me was nerve-racking. I needed an inclusive therapist who was empathetic to my disability, culture, and needs. For some, therapy is a one-time ordeal, but for me is ongoing, and I made peace

with it.

I was introduced to meditation in my teens, but that didn't last long. Mind you, no one bothered talking to me about the benefits of meditation. Now, in my late twenties, practicing meditation, I've learned to listen to my emotions and mind, focus on my breathing, and live in the now. When I feel stressed, I'll start counting down, inhaling, and exhaling to calibrate my body to the present moment. Like nothing, you know how to self-care for your body without panicking.

For any person diagnosed with epilepsy in their childhood or later in life, I recommend prioritizing their mental wellness. It is not easy dealing with it alone, especially when given no knowledge about it. Please note there are no one-size-fits-all solutions. When you find the right intrinsic motivators, stick to them. Your mental-wellbeing will thank you!

4. Practice Your Gratitude to Raise Your Positive Vibrations

Working 9-5 and prioritizing others' needs before mine left me drained at the end of the day. While I was there physically, I was checked out mentally and spiritually. I felt empty. Both my frequency and relationships were of low vibration. Call it the law of attraction or "like attracts likes." I ended those relationships quickly. No one stopped to check in on me or ask if I needed help with anything. Even before the pandemic started, I noticed I wasn't living or going out as much anymore. My mind was its own worst enemy.

Who was taking care of me? No one, not even me. At the cost of my health, my happiness, and my sanctity. Learning how to raise my vibrations was new to me. I started by practicing mindfulness and gratitude within my journey. Then, reframing my brain from negative thinking patterns with daily positive affirmations like one of my favorites, "I am enough and whole as I am." And I started saying "Yes" to myself and "No" to what no longer served me.

Our words, thoughts, and energy impact our psyche and universe. Filling our own cup is our responsibility - nobody else's. You're number one, and everyone else comes second.

"I am enough and whole as I am." -unknown author

5. Silencing Your Inner Critic Voice - and Falling in Love with Yourself

How often did I use to silence my inner critic voice? Never. This negative voice only reaffirmed my self-loathing, "You aren't good enough. You have a disability." Self-critiquing to the point that I didn't love my body! The one body that I was given, I rejected it over and over again. What message was I projecting to the universe? Everything in my surrounding, my friends, family, and coworkers, weren't accepting of me. The path of self-love and resetting ourselves is emotional- yet necessary.

Loving your body starts with you. Practice in front of the mirror in the morning right before or at night by saying body neutrality mantras out loud.

"The one body that I was given, I rejected it over and over again. What message was I projecting to the universe?" -Joseannie Martinez

How do we expect others to love us when we don't love ourselves. There's no greater love than self-love. And you're your number one cheerleader. Give yourself grace.

joseannie standing in front of faux plant wall with a pink neon side above. joseannie is wearing scoop long sleeve black top with velvet beige mini skirt, black stalkings and black boots with her right arm on her hip.
Joseannie Martinez

6. Finding Yourself Through Journaling

Who am I?

What's beautiful about me?

What do I love about my disability?

Why is getting to know me essential?

For anyone who truly knows me, there are things I prefer to keep to myself - and journaling allows me to express myself without judgment. Sitting in solitude forces me to observe my feelings, thoughts, past mistakes, intuitions, and discomforts. Those pages know me better than I know myself - the good and ugly versions.

Journaling allows time for self-discovery - where you manifest your goals, a safe space to be yourself, release daily stressors, process difficult emotions, express your gratitude, and self-reflect. In those moments, you'll find self-love and the progress you've accomplished. So set time out of the day or week for self-exploration; start with 5 minutes and increase in intervals to 10 minutes until writing becomes routine.

7. Forgive Yourself & Reclaim Your Power

According to the Mayo Clinic study benefits of forgiving are associated with our mental wellness. Apologizing to yourself is two-fold. First, apologize to your younger self and then to your adult self. I forgot how resilient my younger self was. How she kept dreaming no matter what. I am here because of her. Being able to say, "I'm sorry for leaving you behind and for letting fear overshadow our dreams." Reconnecting with my inner child reminded me she's worth recognizing and healing.

As adults, we are pulled in so many directions that we bury our pain. For me was confronting my childhood trauma and those who failed to protect me. My family loved to gaslight me about the sexual abuse I experienced as a child. Instead of reporting the family member who violated me, they protected him. Early this year, I stood up for myself and faced certain family members for their wrongdoing.

For the first time, I felt the weight off my shoulders lift; my body's alarm system was no longer set to flight or run. Of course, I cried, but it wasn't tears of sadness but relief. I apologized to myself for thinking I was to blame for something I had no fault or control of.

At 28, I'm living unapologetically, cherishing my disability, and proud of the womxn I've become. Thanks to my platform, I've reimagined my world, where everyone belongs and isn't limited by their disabilities.

Self-care is our responsibility. Committing to yourself takes work, empathy, and compassion. These small changes motivate you to live the most authentic version - and build healthy relationships with yourself and others. It's not to seek perfection- it's about releasing what no longer serves us, recognizing our self worth, appreciating the journey to self-acceptance, and fulfilling our own happiness. Remember, we're all connected to: our past, current, and future selves. So be kind to yourself.


bottom of page