I have cerebral palsy; a physical disability that affects my muscle tone and coordination in the left side of my body. The whole “mind tells, body obeys” thing doesn’t quite work with me—and I walk with the grace of oh, I don’t know…a toddler who just woke up from a nap and thinks she can run down the stairs just before her legs remind me that her stride is not fully intact. One could say I’m not runway model material, but maybe I could start a new trend, who knows. I suppose that over time, my attitude toward my body has evolved from several emotional stages: my youthful and somewhat blissful ignorance, to my teenage insecurity & anxiety, which transformed itself into a somewhat frustrated indifference toward my body and its physicality for some time.
Having grown up playing soccer and always staying active around my fit family, my body decided it finally had enough and gave in to some of the pain and discomfort it had been putting off all of my life. Both my feet now have metal screws infused into my bones due to severe stress fractures that happened within one year of each other. Were my injuries preventable? Is a lifetime of injuries what I have to look forward to? How am I going to stay active? These thoughts worry me, disappoint me, and make me think twice about pushing my body to its limits.
I am thankfully healthy once more and in recovery, but I have become more wary about the things I let myself do: No more training for long runs, racing my college roommate on bounce houses, or crazy hike adventures with my friends—at least not for now. However, if any good has come from this, it is that I have learned to be more conscious of the way my body functions and its limitations due to recent injuries that have greatly affected my mobility and overall satisfaction with my body’s resilience. I think that staying active is my way of being in control and keeps my fragile emotions and stress in check. Becoming temporarily more disabled with my legs, feeling more helpless, and more discontent with my body was heartbreaking. Simultaneously, this loss of physical control revealed to me, more about life that most young people may not have the opportunity to know and understand. My loss of fierce independence attributed itself more to the emotional side of my physical hardships; I had a hard time letting go of my pride and allowing my family and close friends help me do the things I once did with great ease, before my injuries.
It is not until now, do I realize how lucky I am to have CP in my mild condition, and how fortunate I am to be in the body that I am in today; still able to walk (granted, with some discomfort) and still do the things I want to do, just slower than before. Despite my awkward stride, uneven hips, and lack of athleticism, I am who I am today because of my CP. In the same token, I am not my CP and my CP is not me. I am much more than my disability and I like that about myself.
Below, I’ve listed some of my own guiding thoughts and musings that help me deal with my CP and many other aspects of my constantly changing life. I’d like to share them with you:
Life is about perspective: Only you can decide how your CP defines your identity, your happiness, your growth.
Disability is diversity: This idea creates more of an awareness about your body; you are diverse, own it.
Everything is relative: Limitations are like guidelines, use your ability to adapt and be resilient.
People fear what they do not understand: Educate your peers about your CP. Turn their judgment or curiosity into understanding.
Thanks for reading.