Why I Don't Consider Myself 'Disabled' by My Cerebral Palsy


Recently, I was told that I almost wasn’t granted the gift of life. I knew that. It’s something I’ve been told numerous times: the whole story, from start to finish. Things were bad for me in the beginning, but that’s the thing, they were bad. Now, 18 years and some months later, I’m alive and well and incredibly happy. According to some, I’m “disabled” because I have cerebral palsy (CP). To those people, I will say this: I’m not disabled. Something can only be seen as a disability if you allow it to be, and I don’t see my CP as anything like that. After all, the only disability in life is a bad attitude, right?

Madison
Madison.

To my loved ones: I need you to know that I’m perfectly happy the way I am. I wouldn’t change a thing. Please stop asking if I would go back and change things so that I wouldn’t have cerebral palsy. I wouldn’t. Because of my CP, my life is the way it is now, and I love every bit of it.

I need you to know that I will stop at nothing to be able to do things myself. I struggle sometimes, of course, but I will find a way to get things done. I appreciate the fact that you are so quick to offer a helping hand, but I don’t always need it. I got this. If I don’t at the moment, I’ll find a way. Trust me.

If I ever do ask for a helping hand, please understand that it took a lot of courage to ask you, and I hate that I had to resort to it.

That being said, I need you to know that you come first for me. One time, I got coffee for a friend before one of my classes. I only got him one, because I struggled to carry both and decided to avoid the embarrassment of spilling coffee on myself. When I walked in and handed him the drink, he said, “Where’s yours?”

“I couldn’t carry both,” I explained. I didn’t think a thing of it, not being able to carry both drinks. It made me happy to be able to treat him, and I didn’t care that I didn’t get coffee. Not in the slightest. To my loved ones: My CP does not take precedence over you. It never will.

I need my friends to know that, when I tell you The Whole Story — the stroke, the hospital visits, the dreaded Leg Brace Incident — if I ever do, it’s because I trust you. When I finish my story, please don’t give me The Look of Sympathy that I know so well. Please don’t say “I’m so sorry.” I don’t feel sorry for myself, and you shouldn’t feel sorry for me, either.

I need you to know that my cerebral palsy does not define me. I am a writer. I am your girlfriend. I am your friend. Your sister. Your daughter. I am not my CP, but I am so much more than that. I am not my CP, but it has absolutely shaped the strong, determined person that all of you know. I’m grateful for it.

I have cerebral palsy, but I am not “disabled.”

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