Loving Yourself Before Anyone Else

About the Author: Crystal Cantu is a disabled model, influencer, and story teller with muscular dystrophy, a disease that weakens the muscles in the body progressively. She has struggled with her disease and the perceived limitations that it has, but shows on her platform how she has come to not only accept, but love her body, disability included. You can hear more about her incredible journey on her instagram here.

A woman with a disability can be a curious topic for many people, but no one really brings it up as much you think they should. I think it is especially important for the world to understand our struggles and our uniqueness that goes on throughout our lives. One topic in particular would be the dating world for a woman who is disabled.

Hi my name Crystal Cantu and I would love to share my story with you and the struggles with dating.

But first let me start by explaining my disability. 

I was diagnosed with a disease called Muscular Dystrophy when I was 7. Muscular Dystrophy is a disease that can progressively weaken the muscles in the body. (years later I was diagnosed with Limb Girdle Muscular Dystrophy which affects the proximal muscles such as shoulders, upper arms, pelvic area, and thighs ) As a child, I was still walking but the older I got, I noticed my body changing.  However, dating during my high school years wasn’t too bad but because I was still learning the changes, I didn’t share much about my disability to the boys I had relationships with. I guess I was worried what people would think of me. 

Once I hit about 18 or 19 years old, things definitely started to get worse. One day my siblings and I decided to go shopping for some snacks because a friend was coming to visit. We went for a walk down to the corner store and that’s pretty much when life changed. I tried walking on my own and I lost my balance which caused me to fall head first onto the street. When I mentioned this incident to my doctors, they insisted I use a wheelchair. I was fighting and fighting because I was so ashamed of the wheelchair but one day I just decided to stop fighting and accept this new life. The first couple of years of using the wheelchair, I wasn’t dating at all. I would use certain platforms to meet people, but I wasn’t sure where it would lead to. I was still able to walk a little bit, but it did change my body sexually. There were certain sexual positions that were difficult, and I wasn’t experienced to know how to navigate my body. That change made me lose a lot of my self confidence that I had. I think I felt like this for a while and because of this, I attracted the wrong guys. Most saw me as a sex partner and nothing else. 

Photo by Angela Michelle

I think when I found my first love, that’s when my confidence started to change a bit because I found someone who was accepting of me and wanted more. But I didn’t find that confidence on my own. I found it because I had him. So of course, that relationship didn’t work out. There were a lot of things I needed to accept that was within myself before I could give myself to anyone else. I think in our 20s we all tend to deal with that. I just feel it's more difficult to go through when you are also struggling with a disability. 

So, I started to get myself out there to use my social media platform to help others and to also help myself. I learned to model and do photoshoots; I shared my story and I participated in projects I didn’t expect to be a part of. I started to grow confidence within myself and started to love my body more. 

Throughout these new changes I did date a few people. I even started getting on dating sites, but I would always come across those guys that just wanted sex. Most of the common questions they would ask were, “Can you have sex?” “Can you feel anything down there?” when you hear these questions repetitively, it kind of becomes the new norm which is pretty sad; especially when it’s the first questions that are being asked. 

I went through that for a while but I still had my confidence in tact. I guess in the relationship aspect, I felt I was sort of giving up. 

Then... I met my second love. It was okay for a bit but even that relationship changed as well. I didn’t feel he wanted me in a sexual way. Our relationship was definitely different. Some of it I felt was forced. For example, I would initiate sex and I was most of the time turned down. I never had that issue before and I almost felt like my confidence was about to break yet again. There were a lot of issues in that relationship. It was very toxic and sometimes scary now that I think about it. The crazy thing is you never see it as a toxic relationship when you are in it. It's not until after that you realize it ended because it had to. I also realized I was trying to stay in that relationship because he was good at helping me, which was something I always wanted. However, it became so repetitive that there wasn’t love anymore. It felt like he was just there. 

I feel a lot of the fallouts in those two relationships were because they were scared of the idea of being with someone in the long run, someone who has a disability that’s progressive and having to help that person if they decided to stay. Most of the time they aren’t prepared for that. It’s as if they lose interest once they notice how your daily life is different from there’s. I had a stranger once tell me it's because they weren’t man enough to stick around but the right one will… maybe they are right!

Here I am single once again and I am on dating apps giving it another chance but it can get pretty annoying when they just bring up sex. I mean sex is amazing and I love it BUT sometimes I do want more than that.

BUT I will admit this though. Although I go through these struggles with dating and relationships, it has made me feel some type of way about myself. Don’t worry… it’s a good feeling. I noticed that I love my time to myself. I don’t have those worries in my head or tears of sadness from what my partner did or how they made me feel. I just worry about myself. I am not scared of ending up alone. Yes, it would be nice to have someone by my side through these changes I am having within my life but I’d rather be happy on my own than feel that loneliness while being with someone. I am okay with being alone. 

So, this is my message to you. Although you feel alone; you feel like no one wants you and you will never love again. I am here to tell you that is not true. There is love all around you! It might not be the type of love you are searching for but it's still love. So, don’t let these struggles stop you from everything else and don’t search for love. Accept everything that is love within your life and let it come to you naturally. Remember to always love YOU. Do not let a guy change how you feel about yourself. If you can’t love yourself as you are then how can you have someone else love you… just don’t give up on yourself! You are not alone in this and you have so much more in life to live. You are capable of any and everything! 

Photo by German Alexander