You may have read her articles on PUSHLiving, or have seen her YouTube videos, and have some idea about what Courtney Cirabisi is like. But what you haven’t seen is a more personal look inside her passion for writing, life, and what makes her the strong-willed goof ball she is. That was, until now. Here’s an exclusive conversation with the aspiring author.
So Courtney, we’ve seen that you have a wheelchair, but not everyone knows exactly why that is. Mind telling us a bit about it?
Courtney: It’s surprising to a lot of people because I think most just assume I was born this way, but actually I was abused by my dad when I was nine months old. It was a spinal cord injury. We don’t know exactly what happened the day that I got hurt. My dad was a liar, and I didn’t find out until 2015 that he actually did do this to me on purpose. He went to prison for four years. I have spoken to him since, but there is no relationship with him. I don’t really know what to think of him. I do know I don’t want him in my life. My mom was always there for me since day one. She never gave up on me, and her strength through it all is honestly so inspiring to me. She has told me that God is the one who helped get her through that terrible time.
You have lived a life on wheels for almost twenty-three years. What has that been like?
Courtney: That’s such a funny question to me. Honestly, it’s been, well…my life. I was so young when it happened, I don’t have any memories of the days when I could move my legs. I grew up using a wheelchair, so for me there’s not a memory or times to look back on when I didn’t have one. I don’t know any different from the lifestyle I have, and to be honest, I’m quite happy about that. They always say one can’t miss what they never had.
Do you think life on wheels has helped form your personality?
Courtney: Weird you’d ask that. I most definitely do! My life situation, and everything I’ve been through, it’s given me these insights I otherwise wouldn’t have. I strongly believe I’ve become a whole different person than I would have been had my injury not happened. I’ve learned that laughter is the best medicine, and I think for that reason I’m as goofy and giggly as I am today. Also, I realize that I’m very blessed to have been given a second chance at life, so that happiness flows in my veins every day, and that’s why I appear I’ve won the lottery even when I haven’t. I’m alive, I’m happy. I made it. Who knows if I’d’ve been this upbeat if I never needed to use a wheelchair.
That is great, but like all of us, you have days when you are sad. How do you get past these days?
Courtney: I swear I have a guardian angel who loves to laugh their butt off. I have always found the humor in every situation I’ve ever been put in. Might sound silly, but honestly, humor has, and still does save me.
What is usually the cause for the sadness?
Courtney: It’s weird, but it’ll randomly get me. For instance, if I look at baby pictures, and I see what I had to go through that most other infants don’t have to. We have pictures from the day before I got hurt, and those can make me pretty sad. Basically, if I look back too much, it starts to take a toll on me. My grandma has told me it can destroy me if I let it, so I try to avoid thinking too much about how things used to be, and it helps that I’m a firm believer that everything in life, be it good or bad, happens for a reason.
That’s great to see you’ve decided to view the glass as half full! Are there ever times you feel sad about not walking, or does it not bother you?
Courtney: The only time I ever really feel sad about not standing up is when people have treated me differently because of it. They’ve done it in the past, and still here and there it happens. However, the famous quote “Consider the source” comes to my mind when this occurs. Why should I care what a shallow person thinks? You know, I’m not going to allow myself to be pulled into a depression because certain people cannot accept me. Sure, we all want to be liked, but if I’m not good enough for someone now, they wouldn’t deserve me or my time if a day came that I didn’t need a wheelchair. I don’t walk. I’m not perfect. In fact, I don’t believe in perfection. I’m real. Nothing candy coated. Some people can’t handle that, and that’s okay because it’s not my problem, and I catch myself anytime I’ve ever started to feel like it is.
You seem confident. Have you always been this way, or has the confidence grown over time?
Courtney: Okay, so no way around it. When you’ve got a wheelchair and you go in public, people are going to look. They’re going to pay attention to you, and they do ask questions or make comments sometimes. When you roll with life, you know people will be watching. I’ve grown use to it, and in a weird way, embracing who I am in the chaos of the attention some people give, it has helped me become very confident. I see it this way: Maybe someone is having a bad day or going through a hard time, then they see someone who’s not able to walk, out there, living their life with a smile on their face. I feel like that sends the message to people “Life will be okay. It is okay, no matter what may happen”, without me even having to say a word. I take pride in that. I want to be able to help people, whether I know them or not. I’ve been blessed with everyone who’s ever taken pointers from me. I hope I can continue to make a difference in this world, feeling like I might be able to makes me very proud, and even more confident being the person I am. I don’t want to just use a wheelchair, I want to rock it. I’ve always been content with who and how I am, but I can absolutely say my confidence level has increased since I’ve gotten older and I’m thinking more deeply about things.
Let’s talk a bit about your passion for writing. When did it start?
Courtney: I remember I went to summer school in second grade. We had a writing class. I had recently watched the movie “The Perfect Storm”, and for some reason, that film inspired me to write a mini book with a similar story. I was so excited about writing class. I just soared with it. It didn’t feel like work, it felt like a whole lot of fun. That’s when it became clear to me that I loved writing, and without a doubt, I’d continue with it even out of school.
What kind of writing did you do after that summer school class?
Courtney: A lot of journaling! I use to get journals as a kid, I’d write and write and write. I have a few of them from my junior high and high school days, I would express my feelings about life, discuss how my day went, etcetera. I regularly use to a journal. It’s a healthy outlet so you don’t bottle things up. When I began to see that, my love for writing just continued to grow. I do like the idea of writing stories. More recently I had an idea for an interesting one. I might take it to the next level and begin working on it. If not though, without a doubt I will carry on with writing about my life experiences. This route of writing seems to be my strong point.
We see quite often that it’s hard for people to think of things to write. Do you have any advice for people out there who want to write as well, but can’t think of how to start?
Courtney: Well, I love talking. I’m a social butterfly. Sometimes it’s hard for me to be quiet. (Laughs) I feel like writing and talking are almost one in the same. A good way to practice and get into the swing of things with writing is to sit down with a computer or a pencil and paper and just write down anything on your mind, or anything you’d like to say to someone if you could. That’s when the sentences will just be flowing, and before you know it, you’ve written an entire paper. In my opinion, that’s a great way to get a jumpstart.
Do you ever get “writers block”?
Courtney: Oh of course I do.
How do you get out of it and back to being productive?
Courtney: This might sound weird, but watching interviews with my celeb role models or reading interviews with them in magazines, that really gets me in the mood to talk about my life and express my thoughts.
What are some of your favorite books?
Courtney: The Holy Bible. I also love J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. Mary Downing Hahn’s ghost stories, “The Old Willis Place” and “Wait Till Helen Comes”. R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps use to be scary when I was a kid, and I still like reading them as an adult because they’re goofy and his ideas are really quite interesting. I like authors who can throw you for a loop with their story telling.
After reading your mini biography on previous articles, we see that you’re planning on coming out with an autobiography. What can we expect to see featured in that book?
Courtney: Yes, I am working on an autobiography. You can expect to get to know me on a level most people haven’t. I’m sure it’s safe to say a lot of people see me as this girl who’s always joking around, which yes, that is a huge part of who I am, but there’s a more serious side to me. I’ll be discussing more about what happened the day I got hurt, the hard times since then, how I’ve gotten through them, some insights, and there’ll be plenty of flashbacks from childhood. After the book is done, whenever someone asks me what happened, why I have a wheelchair, I no longer have to say, “I was child abused by my dad.” All I’ll have to tell them is to read my book. That’ll be a big thing for me. I can’t wait for it to be out there.
Is there anything else you’d like to say before we end the interview?
Courtney: I just would like to say the opportunity to get published on the PushLiving Website has been so exciting for me. I’ve been thinking it would be real cool to get some of my work out there, but I didn’t think it would happen so soon. I’m very blessed for that, and for the people who already supported me and encouraged me to continue writing, as well as the new readers who’ve told me they like my articles. All of the support means a lot to me. I just wanted to give a big thanks to my publisher, and all of you out there who believe in me and want to see more pieces. Thanks so much everyone.
Follow Courtney on her author page on Facebook
Courtney Cirabisi is a 23 year old who lives in Michigan. She became reliant on a wheelchair for everyday mobility after she was child abused by her dad back in 1993, resulting with a spinal cord injury. She’s big on writing, acting, video editing and thrives on showing people that life doesn’t stop when you aren’t walking. Courtney knows that the mind is the most important thing a person can have, and with that knowledge she is able to confidently go about living her day to day life. She is currently working on a memoir about her life and hopes to have it out on shelves one day.
She also has a popular YOUTube channel where she discusses her views on subjects related to disability and life.
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- Part 4: Woman with Disabilities: How Accessible is the Road to Motherhood? - June 23, 2016