Gaining Success Through Independence

By Candy Hartley 01/04/2022
Gaining success through independence

When I found out that I had a panic and anxiety disorder, people initially told me that it was all in my head. They said I would never hold down a decent job. I believed it at first and quietly battled on my own.  

Fast forward a bit and now I am a member of the SourceAmerica Speakers Bureau. I will never forget the first time I was asked to give a speech. I was scared to get up in front of all those people. My story is emotional, and I cry every time I share it. But I know it’s important to use my voice to advocate for other people with disabilities. People seem to be touched by what I’ve gone through, and I hope my vulnerability will help make a difference for others. 

I have met some wonderful people and made lifelong friends. At the first Grassroots Conference I attended in Washington, D.C., people just accepted me as if I was a part of their family. We had so many laughs, sat and talked about different kind of things we experienced, and how proud we were to be a part of the annual conference. Then, I went on to Capitol Hill to tell my story to Congress. I was nervous, but confident and proud to be able to stand up for myself and for all the other wonderful people with disabilities. 

As a team, we are spreading the word about why it’s so important for those of us with a disability to be independent and succeed. Just because we may have a disability does not make us less important. We each have a voice. Although the 2021 Grassroots Conference was held virtually, I still really enjoyed it. It was so different not being able to physically mingle due to COVID and not being able to look at people’s faces when sharing our stories on Capitol Hill. I do look forward to the day we can all meet in person again. Being able to put my voice out there to advocate for all of us with disabilities is an amazing feeling. 

Everyone deserves to have a job and be a part of society. I’ve met so many people who have proven others wrong in this regard. It’s important to me that I have this opportunity, and I will not let it go to waste. I am so thankful for the programs that took a chance on me! They gave me the confidence and the tools to do my job to the best of my ability. There are times when people tell me I can’t do something, and I have had panic attacks even at the office. But I also have the right support in place, and I know I can do anything I set my mind to. 

Being selected for the Speakers Bureau came at a good time for me. It helped opened my eyes to all I can do. I am proud and honored to be able to advocate for myself and other people with disabilities, and I look forward to continuing to let my voice be heard.