Charity Michelle spent her childhood not knowing how different she was. As she got older and experienced hard times all she could wish for was to be normal, but who is to say what normal is. Charity eventually discovered that not only was it okay to be different but that being different is quite beautiful. Whether you are tall, short or can’t use your legs at all, you are amazing just the way you are.
Charity was born in the Midwest in Tulsa, Oklahoma and at the age of 7 moved with her family to Los Angeles, California. At a young age, Charity’s parents noticed she wasn’t walking and would rather roll everywhere so the doctor inserted padding in her shoes and from that point on Charity hit the ground running and never stopped, but after moving to California at the age of 7, Charity was diagnosed with Charcot Marie-Tooth Disease (CMT), and no, it has nothing to do with teeth. CMT is a neuromuscular disease that causes progressive muscle weakness, there are multiple different forms of the disease and Charity has the rare and most severe form of it known as Type 3 – Dejerine-Sottas. As Charity got older she noticed that she walked quite differently than the other children and they noticed it too. Kids would call her “crippled”, tease her for being skinny, and would even imitate the way she walked. Although this deeply hurt Charity she did her best to be nice despite the actions of her bullies. Throughout her school years, she met many nice friends who helped when she needed help. If her backpack was too heavy, then the boys would carry it for her, if she stumbled or fell while walking, her friends would help her up and when her hands were too tired, her friends would help her open her snacks. Charity was different from the average child and even though she faced a few bullies growing up, she had friends who were there when she needed them most.
During her sophomore year in high school, Charity was forced to use a wheelchair due to her school being worried that she would fall and hurt herself. It was very difficult for her to accept needing a wheelchair because she loved to walk, run and ride her bike with her friends and siblings; she didn’t want any obstacles in her way but all that changed. At the age of 21 Charity received her first motorized wheelchair that she refers to as her power-chair. Does it actually have powers? Oh yes! Charity’s legs became more tired so at the age of 22, she became completely reliant on her power-chair. Did she let that stop her? Of course not!
Power-chair, service dog and all, Charity set out to prove to herself and not anyone else that her dream of being independent and on her own would one day be a reality, but yet again another obstacle appeared. During her first quarter at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona right before Christmas break she experienced the most painful and excruciating pain you could ever imagine! Out of nowhere while watching her favorite tv show, Law & Order she rubbed her nose and felt a stabbing pain on the right side of her face.
She had no clue what had just happened and sat frozen with tears in her eyes and didn’t even know why! From that day forward her life truly would never be the same. Charity spent years trying to figure out what the shocking pains in her face were and tried to find answers but she was unsuccessful, until one day she came across an article on Facebook about a young girl who had something called “The Suicide Disease.” From just reading the title she felt so bad for the young girl that she was intrigued enough to read the article and as she was reading tears rolled down her face. Charity had just discovered that she too had “The Suicide Disease” known as Trigeminal Neuralgia (TN). For years she suffered quietly in pain only telling her parents what was happening but she was ecstatic not only to discover a name for her pain but to also find out that the doctor who specialized in the disease was less than 15 miles away. Charity experienced pain so severe that she was unable to eat, drink, or even talk for days at a time. Just the feeling of the wind on her face caused a major flare of shocking pain but now she had her answer and was ready to be cured. A month before the last quarter of her college career in August of 2015, she underwent brain surgery known as a Microvascular Decompression procedure. Charity was cured!… well so she thought, surgery occurred only on the right side of her brain but because she has bi-lateral TN she also feels the shocking pain on her left side too but thankfully for the past year she has been in remission and pain-free!
Charity went on to receive her Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Graphic Design and minor in Marketing Management but after years and years of looking for employment she was unsuccessful, so she decided to study and receive her certification as an ADA (American Disabilities Act) Coordinator so she could learn the laws regarding employment rights for individuals with Disabilities. Charity learned that although there are laws protecting individuals with disabilities there is still so much unjust bias when it comes to hiring. There is an abundance amount of effort and work to do to help people who are disabled and who want to work to actually receive employment. It is absolutely something that needs to be addressed and she hopes to one day change the stigma around employers not hiring capable employees just because they are “different”. When’s the last time you saw an employed individual with physical limitations working at a store, in an office, or anywhere?
Charity decided to write What If We Were All The Same! because she was a child who grew up feeling that she wasn’t good enough or deserved to have dreams of her own because she felt marginalized from her peers and adults around her. This book is for every child to realize that everyone is different from each other and that the labels of being “normal” or “different” should not even be a matter. Every child deserves the freedom to be who they are whether they are short, tall, skinny, bald, dark skin, light skin, wears glasses, uses a wheelchair, or anything else. None of us choose our circumstances that we were born with or into, no one deserves to be treated less than and we should all have love and respect towards each other.
Today, Charity lives in beautiful Southern California and spends her days tutoring children, writing books, and spending time with her service dog Gareth. She loves binge-watching Netflix, going to the movies, visiting museums, traveling, shopping, and spending time with her loved ones. Charity credits who she is today from her parents who never told her she was “different” and always let her try the things she wanted to do. She has 3 siblings who have been her strength and have helped her on her journey. She’s so thankful and blessed to have a great group of friends and a loving extended family who continue to support her.