Having Cerebral Palsy, this may seem like a constant pattern in my 21 years. The “cannots” begin to cloud my judgment, my happiness…and I am left to my writing devices so I can somehow exhaust some of this unease.
By now, I am confident in saying I “know my body well”. Its capabilities, its quirky movements; its uneven strength and agility, poor muscle tone. But there is something dreadful and scary about the fact that for the past year and a half: My body has become unfamiliar territory due to injury and lack of the care and patience it needs to endure the physical hardships I have put it through.
Pain medication equated to loss of appetite, rapid on/off weight loss/gain… lack of exercise equated to less mental release and more atrophy. This was all foreign to me and I didn’t take to these changes kindly. Speaking about my body – as a separate entity to my being – helps me express what I am feeling; and that is frustration and anxiety. Frustration, because who wouldn’t be frustrated by the fact that their body doesn’t move with the grace and finesse of an athlete or beauty queen? Anxiety, because I know that this body is the only one I have in this lifetime, and I seek to find its center of gravity, its own happiness and stability. When something like an injury happens, it upsets the balance of your natural movement, your inner-peace, and your overall health. And to have CP and an injury that persists for months has caused much unwanted stress in my life (and in my family’s, no doubt).
I worry that I won’t be able to do the things I want to do, but I worry more about my inability to accept what I cannot change. I am done blaming myself and being upset over what I have done to inhibit my own physical progress.
So what now?
I suppose what I am left with are the things I CAN change, and the things I CAN do. I am in need of some strength to make those changes, however small and I hope to begin to focus on the positives. Although I will probably never run again, or play soccer again, I still can ride a bike. Although I will never love the way I walk, I still like the way I’ve learned to own my walk. I am not runway model, nor a star collegiate soccer player, but I can still be as confident and cool as one. I have so many other qualities beyond my body. My body is the first thing people learn of me, but it does not make me abject, or in the possession of a lesser body.
I have to remind myself of that when I feel like my body limits my growth as an individual.
What I like about having Cerebral Palsy is that it has made me more aware of my body and more aware about what it means to be a woman with a mild physical disability. I appreciate the “good” parts of my body more. My rather symmetrical face, my long legs, my womanly figure, my nice hands. Does this make me vain? How can I validate my femininity when I walk with a brace on my leg and an awkward stride? How sexy does that make me feel? These are the kinds of things I wonder about my body and its place in this existence and culture. I was raised respectfully, and hardly let the media and fashion industry dominate my experience of what is beautiful or feminine; but as I grew older in the company of my beautiful sisters and friends…as I went to high school dances and talked to boys, I realized I imposed my own insecurities, I created my own version of what it meant to be feminine and beautiful, and gauged them all by the things I “couldn’t do, or couldn’t wear” according to my Cerebral Palsy.
I tried (try) so hard not to have CP. I have to pull myself out of that zone, and remind myself that I do have CP, and that I must to value my body enough to care for it. I still forget that sometimes.
No high heels meant I didn’t feel hot enough at dances, uneven hips and ugly feet… ha! How would I ever sit comfortably naked in front of a guy? Do I love my body? These are the things I put into question, and I was convinced of the negative effects of my CP on my body image for a good portion of my teens. Although they were very real feelings at the time, they now seem insignificant and I am happy to have gone through all that because I grew from these doubts. Who really needs high heels? Not me. You mean I’d be paying for discomfort? No thanks, I’ll stick to my Nike Frees and Converse High Tops. Who really cares about the appearance of feet anyway…they exist to get you from point A to point B. As for male attention and affection? That came with my confidence and my new found openness to someone else’s love for my body, and myself for exactly who I am. Who knew? As I close, I am reminded by these reflections that my inner-peace will always lie within, and although I am always dangerously close to my fears and insecurities that create the unwanted frustration and anxiety… I cannot stop thinking about how far I have come, where I will go, and how satisfied I am with the things I have done. I rest easy in my resilience and ability to persevere through this. It helps to know I am loved by those around me, and that they have all helped guide me to communicate more, and to be a better version of myself. Thank you my loved ones! And thanks to you, for tuning in, hopefully I shed some light on any struggles that you too, are also facing with Cerebral Palsy.
Thoughts anyone? I would love to hear the male and female perspective on some of the topics that I raised here!