Mariana Sfakianakis, 22, regularly reminds her 50,000 Instagram followers that she's not the same girl she once was.
The Sydney-based business administrator and personal assistant shared a childhood image of herself with leg casts on in hopes she could inspire other people to stay strong, even if they have a disability, reported the Daily Mail.
"I was born in Greece as a premature baby. Doctors had told my mum prior to giving birth that I was going to be a stillborn and so we had no preparation for post labour.
"I was immediately rushed over to the intensive care unit but by that time I had lost large amounts of oxygen which caused damage to my brain resulting in a permanent condition called cerebral palsy," she said in a caption on Instagram.
Mariana's condition affected the movement in her legs, muscle control and balance. She moved to Australia at the age of five in hopes of finding more advanced doctors and treatments.
"As a young kid I never understood what was really happening and why I was different to all the other kids. I got bullied for not walking like all the others and for also being in a wheelchair.
"This caused major anxiety, depression and being so young I never really knew how to deal with it besides self harm. When I reached year six I had multi level surgery, almost not making it through the eight hour procedure leaving me with nine scars on my legs," the caption continued.
MY STORY: I've been wanting to post this for a while. I hope this inspires all of you who have inspired me. I was born in Greece as a premature baby, doctors had told my mum prior to giving birth that I was going to be a still born and so we had no preparation for post labor. I was immediately rushed over to the intensive care unit but by that time I had lost large amounts of oxygen which caused damage to my brain resulting to a permanent condition called 'Cerebral Palsy'. This affected the movement in my legs, muscle control and balance. I lived in Greece until the age of 5 then moved to Australia seeking more advanced doctors and treatments. As a young kid I never really understood what was really happening and why I was different to all the other kids in school. I got bullied for not walking like all the others and for also being in a wheelchair. This caused major anxiety, depression and being so young I never really knew how to deal with it besides self harm. When I reached year 6 I had multi level surgery, almost not making it through the 8 hour procedure leaving me with 9 scars on my legs. The surgery was thankfully successful so I was on my way to recovery. I was in bed unable to move my legs for almost 8 months however I began to slowly learn how to walk again, step by step. Starting off with a frame, then crutches, to nothing at all. I had made major improvements in my walking and the fastest anyone has ever recovered from this surgery. I was so determined to get better and strut my stuff as the new me. Although I was told that I would never be 100% 'normal' my results were incredible and I was gratefully content. I never wanted to be perfect. Just better. Going through high school was also tough as the bullying continued and I was starting to lose hope. So I dropped out and joined my first gym. Thats when my life changed. I fell in love with fitness and I fell in love with myself. This journey to recovery and getting fit has not only changed me physically but most importantly, mentally. I owe everything to those who believed in me and love me just the way I am
The surgery was thankfully a success but the 22-year-old still couldn't move her legs for almost eight months. She was forced to learn how to walk again using a frame and then crutches.
"Although I was told that I would never be 100 per cent normal my results were incredible and I was gratefully content. I never wanted to be perfect. Just better," the caption finishes.
Mariana's Instagram page is filtered with incredible fitness feats and personal bests. She told Daily Mail Australia exercise is what helped her overcome longstanding mental and physical issues.
"Starting high school in a wheelchair was a struggle that lead me to depression and anxiety. It took me many years to overcome it before I decided to drop out in year ten and start my fitness journey."
The kids at school were not as educated about disabilities as they are now, Mariana explained. The 22-year-old wasn't able to run and keep her balance and was in "daily pain" as a result of her walking pattern. Children found ways to stir her about it.
"It was quiet often verbal but also physical bullying. I was always very soft and didn't stick up for myself because I was scared.
"I thought that there was nothing I could really do and if I did stick up for myself it would only make it worse.
"I spent most days crying and feeling very lonely which most times lead to self harm. That was the only way I knew how to deal with it,"she said.
Social media and exercise has completely transformed Mariana's life. Her followers see her an inspiration, particularly those in "similar situations".
"I've built myself to be a strong and independent young lady that is always focused on improving everyday. My fitness journey has had a huge impact on my life today and the support of all my friends and family," she said.
I've always been so hard on myself because I don't look a certain way. I always tend to compare myself to women I see on instagram and put myself down. I seem to forget how far I've actually come and how much I have achieved in a short period of time. I am determined and I am strong, I'm willing to do whatever it takes to be a woman comfortable in her own skin.