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Mariagrazia Buttitta | Embracing Differences

Cropped photo of Mariagrazia's arms crossed in front of her and she's wearing a black, gray, white and red flannel shirt over a graphic tee. The ends of her dark hair are falling in loose curls over her shoulders as she smiles at the camera.

Mariagrazia Buttitta | Embracing Differences

Contents

Editor’s Note

In March we featured Mariagrazia Buttitta as a Monthly Beauty and today she is back as our June Woman On The Move to share more of her story. Sharing the stories of people on the blindnes spectrum is how we at Bold Blind Beauty continue to break barriers. Like her website, Mariagrazia embodies “embracing our differences.” Being different is not bad, and our differennces should be celebrated.

When each of us makes an honest effort to understand and value others’ lived experiences can be vastly different from our own, we can honor their individual needs. We can create a world of greater access by breaking barriers if we stop, listen, and learn from the lived experiences of others.

But I truly have learned to embrace my differences and my diagnosis. I love everything about this diagnosis, it’s shaped the person I am today and certainly I would not want to change it for the world.

~Mariagrazia Buttitta

Beyond Sight Magazine Cover

Mariagrazia's arms are crossed in front of her and she's wearing a black, gray, white and red flannel shirt over a graphic tee. The ends of her dark hair are falling in loose curls over her shoulders as she smiles at the camera. Text on the cover reads “Beyond Sight June 2022 | Women On The Move | Mariagrazia Buttitta”

YouTube Video

Introducing Mariagrazia

Profile photo of Mariagrazia wearing a black and white striped shirt. In this photo her hair is styled straight with a center part.

Hi, everyone. My name is Mariagrazia Buttitta. And I’m excited to take part in this month’s Woman On The Move segment for Bold Blind Beauty.

So I would like to start off by telling you a little bit of my background in what I do. So I’m a national certified counselor. I am the author of my memoir titled Now I See: How I Battled Blindness, Mental Illness, an Espresso Habit and Lived to Tell the Tale. I’m also a motivational speaker, an advocate, and I’m a full time career coach and Monmouth University. I also just happen to live with an eye condition called cone dystrophy.

So I would like to start off by telling you a little bit about my journey. I was born and raised in Sicily. And it was very clear to teachers, my parents and doctors that I wasn’t like all the other kids. It was very difficult for me to complete simple tasks, tasks, such as reading and writing. And I would fall all the time and run over things.

Unfortunately, doctors never had answers for me. And teachers were very quick to label me as someone who was slow and mentally challenged. But I’m very grateful to my parents who never gave up on me. And thankfully, at the age of 14, I received an accurate diagnosis of cone dystrophy.

Cone Dystrophy

So what is cone dystrophy? cone dystrophy affects the cone cells in my retina, which is the portion of the eye that helps us in bright condition. So I experienced a lot of different symptoms. For me, I experience something called photophobia, which is that abnormal sensitivity to light. And because of that, I wear my sunglasses a lot, and I also experience day blindness.

I’m also legally blind meaning that I have 20/200 vision in dim light. I experience nystagmus, which is a shaking of the eye, color deficiency which is a type of another type of colorblindness and there are different types of color blindness as well out there. I’m able to differentiate colors from light to dark, but colors are all very confusing to me.

So, you know, again, I think, you know, cone dystrophy is a bit complex. It sounds very easy and straightforward, but it really isn’t. And I think the reason being is because the light and the environment and the details truly affect the way I see life.

Unfortunately, cone dystrophy has created a lot of confusion and I think blindness in general. I think it’s fair to discuss and talk about the fact that, you know, when it comes to blindness, people only assume there’s one type of blindness and it’s the, you know, typical can’t see anything. But a lot of us come together and try to explain to others that blindness is on a spectrum, right? Similar to the ADHD scale or autistic scale blindness spectrum, meaning that there are different types of blindness and no two people are alike and no two people will experience cone dystrophy the same way.

Embracing Differences

I think for me, the part that’s always frustrating is that people have over the years accused me as faking my blindness because maybe I can see some things and not others. Maybe I can do certain things well, I can try and ride my bike at night but maybe I can’t see one foot out in front of me or I can’t see anything while I’m at the beach for example. So that can be really frustrating.

But I truly have learned to embrace my differences and my diagnosis. I love everything about this diagnosis, it’s shaped the person I am today and certainly I would not want to change it for the world.

I guess ways in which I learned to embrace my differences are you know, self care is really important to me. You know, just therapy, family, my friends, you know my mother who’s been just incredible rock and for me as well. My dogs and just really doing things that I love to do like working out, meditating, riding my bike, anything that just makes me really feel really good about myself right? I’m really good and careful about what I eat and etc.

The Low Point

There was a point in my life where I did hit rock bottom, unfortunately. So I should probably mention that when I was 21 years old, I moved to New Jersey with my parents. And, I was very blessed for this because I, was in contact with the New Jersey Commission for the Blind, and I went to college and, you know, started achieving these great things that I was told I would never be able to accomplish back at home in Italy. But at the same time, I hit a really low point in my life where I started experiencing depression and panic attacks.

And, for me, you know, I lived my whole life being told that I was stupid, less than everybody else, and there was I was being put all these different barriers of everything I couldn’t do in my life. So I think, it was sort of normal for me to kind of, you know, experience some of these emotions. And I think, too, there’s, when somebody goes through something really difficult in their life, I think we tend to not want to validate how they’re feeling.

For me, I remember teachers, would say things like… “Well, at least” until this day, I hear this often, like, “well, at least you still have your vision, or, you know, “at least you have your arms and legs.” I’m constantly being compared to, yes, it can get worse, it can always be worse in life. But I think it’s really important that we take the time to listen to people’s pain.

More To Mariagrazia’s Story

So as I mentioned, I that is why, you know, I truly try to make sure that well being is on my top 30. So So yeah, if you there’s so much more to my journey, and my story. And if you’re interested in interested in learning more about me, the easiest way is to go on my website, and that’s embracingyourdifferences.com. And there you’ll be able to connect with me some more.

I’m always eager to share my story with cone dystrophy and health struggles. I’m happy to jump in a podcast or you know, present or just ways to collaborate and to spread the word about cone dystrophy.

So I want to thank Bold Blind Beauty for this wonderful opportunity. I also want to thank you the listener for really taking the time to listen to my story. And I hope I’ve inspired all of you to share your story because I think it’s important that we all come together we share our struggles. And you know, most importantly, my goal is in a takeaway is that I hope you are able to embrace your differences and love yourself as you are.

Thank you so much. And I hope to see you guys again soon. Bye

Mariagrazia’s Bio:

The book cover reads the following: book title; Now I See: How I Battled Blindness, Mental Illness, an Espresso Habit and Lived to Tell the Tale. A memoir Mariagrazia Buttitta and forward by Kevin Hines. The front of the cover shows Mariagrazia sitting down and smiling while holding a white cane. She is wearing black pants and a white and black long sleeve dress shirt. In the background is a zoomed picture of Mariagrazia’s face.

A native Sicilian-Italian speaker, Mariagrazia Buttitta is a National Certified Counselor (NCC), author, motivational speaker, career coach, wellness and health enthusiast, and a passionate mental health and disability advocate. Mariagrazia holds a master’s degree in Arts in Counseling: Clinical Mental Health Counseling from The College of New Jersey. Mariagrazia –– the author of, Now I See: How I Battled Blindness, Mental Illness, an Espresso Habit and Lived to Tell the Tale, regularly educates and speaks to college students and organizations about her blindness and her battle with depression and anxiety. Learn more about Mariagrazia by visiting, www.embracingyourdifferences.com.

Connect with Mariagrazia on Social Media

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Image descriptions:

  • The cropped header photo is identical to the image used on the Beyond Sight Magazine cover and YouTube thumbnail. Mariagrazia’s arms are crossed in front of her and she’s wearing a black, gray, white and red flannel shirt over a graphic tee. The ends of her dark hair are falling in loose curls over her shoulders as she smiles at the camera. Text on the cover reads “Beyond Sight June 2022 | Women On The Move | Mariagrazia Buttitta”
  • YouTube video descrription – In the video, Mariagrazia is sitting in a dark high-back chair and wearing a red v-neck and sunglasses.
  • Profile photo of Mariagrazia wearing a black and white striped shirt. In this photo her hair is styled straight with a center part.
  • The book cover reads the following: book title; Now I See: How I Battled Blindness, Mental Illness, an Espresso Habit and Lived to Tell the Tale. A memoir Mariagrazia Buttitta and forward by Kevin Hines. The front of the cover shows Mariagrazia sitting down and smiling while holding a white cane. She is wearing black pants and a white and black long sleeve dress shirt. In the background is a zoomed picture of Mariagrazia’s face.

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