Brennan Srisirikul, Actor With Cerebral Palsy, Has a One-Man Cabaret Show

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Brennan Srisirikul aims to inform, entertain and inspire with his one-man show.

The 24-year-old actor and singer, who has cerebral palsy, will bring “In My Own Little Corner” to New York City next Saturday, June 18. The cabaret performance premiered in Rhode Island in February.

The show, according to Srisirikul’s website, “includes stories of the twists, turns, and triumphs of living life on wheels” — in short, a theatrical autobiography.

A “Cinderella” lyric inspired the show’s title — “…in my own little corner, in my own little chair, I can be whatever I want to be.”

“That has sort of been my motto my entire life,” Srisirikul told The Mighty. “I also like the concept that I’m living my own fairytale, despite what others may think looking from the outside in.”

“In My Own Little Corner,” which consists of 16 songs interspersed with commentary, has been a long time coming for Srisirikul.

“I have been toying around with the idea of doing a one-man show for a while, but frankly, I was too afraid,” Srisirikul said. “I was craving to do something creative on my own terms.”

That craving originated when Srisirkul saw “The Lion King” at age 8, but it wasn’t until college that the Bangkok native began channeling his life with cerebral palsy into his acting.

He credits the transformation with one particular work session in class at Rhode Island College.

“[My teacher] began to ask me questions about my journey and identity as a disabled person as an exercise to help me to connect with the text [I was working with],” Srisirikul said. “It was quite an emotional moment being as vulnerable as I was in front of my classmates. At the end … she said,’You are enough just the way way you are.’ It was truly life-changing, both personally and professionally. I feel like in that moment, everything changed.”

Now, Srisirikul is going public with what he’s learned. He says he hopes “In My Own Little Corner” serves as a testament to what people with disabilities are capable of.

“As cliché as it sounds … we are capable of way more than what sometimes meets the eye,” Srisirikul said. “I think that transcends beyond just the disabled and differently-abled community into every community, be it about race, culture, background or sex.”

“There are so many people who are underestimated, that have so much to bring to the table. I want people to think about the things in our lives that we think hinder us,” he added. “I truly believe the thing that we think is a hindrance to us could our greatest asset. So many people sell themselves short for no reason because of preconceived notions we have.”

That’s why the Massachusetts resident, who also works with the arts advocacy organization Alliance for Inclusion in the Arts, is taking the stage: to represent his life with a disability.

“Disability is not a costume you can wear or [a] technical skill. It’s a lived experience,” Srisirikul said. “As they say, art imitates life. The more representation and exposure my community gets in the media, the better I think everything gets, because art makes people think. That’s why the arts are so important. Change starts with art.”

“In My Own Little Corner” will be performed live at the Metropolitan Room in New York City on Saturday, June 18 at 1pm. Srisirikul also has a Facebook page and a website.

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My Life with Cerebral Palsy Isn't Sad

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I have spastic diplegia cerebral palsy. One thing I really wish you knew about my life as a disabled person is that it isn’t sad. Yes, there are challenges, and I have days when I really don’t like what I’m dealing with, but my life is not sad. I don’t want your pity. I have had several surgeries and have frequent doctor’s appointments, but everyone at the clinic knows my name now. They know my interests, and what my goals are after I graduate from college.  There is a whole community of people out there who share the same experiences as I do.

Krista Grosland

Spastic diplegia CP has taught me several important life skills, too, not the least of which is adaptability.  I’m always adapting to the environment, whether it is easily accessible or not, and that’s a nice skill to have. I’m proud of the things I’ve learned, the shared experiences I’ve had with other disabled people, and the relationships I’ve been fortunate enough to form.

The biggest reason I don’t want you to pity me or feel sad for me, though, is because overall, I’m a lot like you.  I had a doctor’s appointment this morning, but you know what I did after that? I spent hours at a coffee shop with friends trying to do homework…and procrastinating more than I’d like to admit. Doesn’t that sound like you or a college student you know? And on that note, it’s time I actually get some work done for school.

Thank you for taking the time to see a snapshot of my life as it truly is.

The Mighty is asking the following: What’s one thing people might not know about your experience with disability, disease or mental illness, and what would you say to teach them? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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Why I'm Talking About Domestic Violence as a Woman With a Disability

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Why doesn’t she just leave? It can’t be that hard, I’d just go.” I thought while watching women in films and media who were subjected to domestic violence.

Enter Prince Charming.

He was good-looking, hilarious and like me, loved rock music. He seemed kind, showering me with gifts. He was the man of my dreams, the answer to my prayers. Yep, I fell hard and fast for him as I was swept off my feet. He accepted me for who I was, disability (cerebral palsy) “warts” and all. We had plans, dreams and before long, a baby on the way. It was very romantic.

The fairy tale wasn’t to last. I didn’t recognize the red flags blaring at me to get out of what was turning into an abusive relationship. It was subtle at first. We argued over menial things such as buying milk. Then he was verbally abusive, initially in private, until he was careless and degraded me publicly. In the beginning, there were apologies followed by promises of “It will never happen again,” and then there were none. I hung on to hope that my Prince Charming would return, and I continued to justify his appalling behavior because I loved him. I convinced myself he was stressed with the baby coming, our financial situation and so forth.

After the birth of our baby and the euphoria wore off, arguments escalated. Sleep deprivation was cruel, a familiar feeling to new parents. It was an adjustment for both of us. There was no cohesion or teamwork; he refused to let me do anything for the baby. My support workers hired to assist me found working extremely tense until he drove them away, and with them, our friends.

My family’s efforts to stop the abuse proved futile, because any intervention was met with aggravation and threats to my safety as well as our child. Thus, isolation came to stay with me instead. Since it was only the two of us and baby, I was blamed for everything that went awry and was punished as he saw fit. I was punched, dragged out of my wheelchair by the hair and neglected in every way possible. He would lock me out of the house if he was in a bad mood. He removed the phones and money cards from my reach. He even disengaged my wheelchair to prevent me from asking for help and leaving him.

Like many people in my situation, I believed I deserved it. I also believed I was not worthy of anyone else’s love. Who would want to take me on with a child and a disability? I thought. If I left him, he told me, I would never see my baby again. I stayed with him as long as I did to keep my family together. But I came to realize I would lose something more precious if the abuse continued. While he believed I was under his thumb, what he did not count on was my belief in God that helped reignite my tenacious spirit. With prayer, planning and support from my family and good friends, I managed to escape with my baby.

Becks and her daughter.

Away from him, I slowly reclaimed my individuality and independence. No longer imprisoned by his rules and ideals, I reveled in my freedom, making up for lost time and creating treasured memories with my daughter, something I couldn’t achieve before. We went everywhere, she thrived and I began to heal. It was such a relief.

Domestic violence is non-discriminatory and a subject many people, including me, are afraid to talk about. It can happen to all of us. I thought I would be exempt from such an experience. It’ll never happen to someone like me. How wrong I was. I know differently now I have walked in these shoes. I’m humbled and saddened when hearing stories like mine. If you know someone is hurting, reach out and simply ask, “Are you OK?” Violence of any sort is unacceptable. But it is OK to ask for help.

If you or someone you know is being abused, there is no excuse. Please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.

The Mighty is asking the following: Describe a moment you were met with extreme negativity or adversity related to your disability and/or disease (or a loved one’s) and why you were proud of your response — or how you wish you could’ve responded. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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6 Things I Wish Everyone Knew About My Journey with Cerebral Palsy

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I have cerebral palsy, and I get really frustrated when people make assumptions about me based on my diagnosis. Here is a short list of things to keep in mind:

1. Please stop apologizing for my condition.

For me, cerebral palsy is just part of who I am, like my brown hair and eyes. Personally, I believe God created me on purpose for a purpose. I like myself, and while sometimes I might wish for more mobility, when people express regret over my circumstances, it makes me feel like they think I might be a better person if I could walk. We can’t know for sure, but I could very well have become a totally different individual. Also, keep in mind that I am not any more broken than anyone else; some of my shortcomings might just be more visible than others. I don’t need to be fixed. Having come this far trusting God, I think that He is using me right where I am at. If He chooses to heal me now, fine. If not, I can wait until I get to Heaven.

2. I don’t see myself as particularly brave or inspirational.

I believe I am just a child of God, falling short like everyone else. Dealing with the hand I have been dealt is a challenge, but I try to do so with positivity. If I do confide in you about my struggles, it is not because I seek attention, it is because I trust you. Sometimes I just need to be real about what is happening in order to keep my sanity. Deep down,  I fear causing people to feel annoyed, or burdened by my troubles.

3. I am so happy you found a treatment that works for you, but…

Feel free to share it with me, but keep in mind that my diagnosis is complicated. I have a team of specialists I consult with regularly. Ultimately it is my decision whatever course I take with my health, so please respect my choices. Remember that you most likely have no idea what it is like inhabiting my body. I will do the same for you.

4. Words are important.

I am sensitive about this because I am a writer. It is important to me that people use phrases that protect my dignity and also that of others. Don’t refer to my cerebral palsy unless you have to. It is a component of who I am, but it doesn’t comprise all of me. In my book, the most offensive terms are “handicapped” and “crippled.” I understand you might not comprehend the “correct” descriptors to utilize. That’s OK, but be prepared to embark on a lengthy discussion on why I am offended, especially if you are the fifth person to call me something I consider derogatory in a given day. If you are stuck, my name is Carolyn. I prefer that to anything else. One last note, my wheelchair is not confining, and I do not suffer from my disability. My mobility device gives me freedom, and I gravitate towards verbs like “battles,” “conquers,” or “lives successfully with” to describe my experiences with cerebral palsy.

5. I get that you want to protect me, but if you are close to me, keeping me in the dark on relevant issues will not help.

Yes, I balance a lot of elements every day, but that should show you I can handle tough situations. I am a grown woman, and I want to support you by lightening your load, the same as you do for me.  I am smart, resourceful,  and might be able to come to your aid. While I lack the ability to leap tall buildings in a single bound, have you thought about what I do well? There are many areas I excel in. Trust me, if I find out I am the last to discover something vital, my feelings get hurt beyond measure.

6. Suffering is personal and relative.

I really try hard to count my blessings, but if I am having a bad day, I don’t necessarily want someone to remind me that others have bigger challenges. In that moment, I am at the end of my rope, and I just need to acknowledge my unique valley before moving on to a happier place.  If you have experienced similar issues, I appreciate your sharing, but make sure it is equivalent. Stubbing your toe in the middle of the night may be devastating to you, but it is light years away from spending 38 years unable to control your muscles. Just consider if you have actually “been there, done that” before you speak.

Follow this journey at Carolyn’s Creativity Circle.

The Mighty is asking the following: What’s one thing people might not know about your experience with disability, disease or mental illness, and what would you say to teach them? Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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A Reminder to Parents: We're Doing the Best We Can

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I know my parenting style is not like yours.

I know you’ve raised three children and never once did you do that. I hear you, I really do, and it’s so nice that you’ve shared with me what worked for you, but honestly I don’t have time to care.

I feed my 5-year-old almost every meal. I take the food off her plate to her mouth. Yes, we often sit in front of the TV when she eats. Yes, she can physically feed herself. She can lift her own fork and lift her own cup, but also she can’t. I fought for years to get her to eat. We almost used a feeding tube. If the food is too messy and gets on her hands or if she drops it on her lap or if something just doesn’t look right, she won’t eat it. It could turn into a meltdown. Everything  has to be just right.

So I take the food from her plate and put it to her lips so all she has to focus on is chewing, which was hard enough for her to do initially. I take away and eliminate any distractions I can so she’ll eat. It’s just more important that she eats. But I see you. I can feel your judgment as if it’s its own person at the table.

We’re doing the best we can.

I see you watching me carry my daughter from the car across the parking lot to the store’s door. You’re thinking she’s too old to be carried. That child should walk. I agree, she’s getting heavier and it’s not the ideal thing to do, but her cerebral palsy is tightening up her muscles and cramping up her joints. She wants to walk too, but sometimes she just can’t.

So I carry her — across the parking lot from my car to the store’s door. I will carry my child anywhere if it spares her a little pain throughout her day. I’d put her on my back and shelter her from anything. I feel your eyes staring at me with every step I take.

We’re doing the best we can.

Yes, we co-sleep. Yes, she has her own room with her own pillows and blankets. It’s the cutest little room, really; everything in it describes her. When the sun goes down, her anxiety is real. This isn’t a little tantrum or her own strategic plan. Maybe one day she’ll learn how to better handle the anxiety she holds, but for now I worry about her. I keep her close. She has sleep apnea and has had seizures in her sleep, so I have anxiety at night too. The thought of her struggling to breath in her own room all alone  is not an option for me. Every kiss goodnight I pray she doesn’t stop breathing in her sleep. I know you think this must take a toll on my marriage, but it’s funny how it doesn’t, not when we both want our daughter to be safe.

We’re doing the best we can.

When your kids come to our house wanting my daughter to come out and play I know you get angry when she doesn’t. I know their disappointed faces are frustrating to you. You want your kids happy too. Your children are lovely, and I would love for them to all be friends one day. But my daughter is struggling. She’s learning how to connect with other kids. She spends a lot of time on this topic in therapy. She’s just not ready yet; she just doesn’t want to play. I hope your children will wait for her and accept her when she’s ready.

I see how you don’t wave hello to me anymore as we go for a walk past your house. I see how quick you are to avoid eye contact when we see you at the store. You might think I’m a snob or just stuck in my ways.

We’re doing the best we can.

You’ve stopped asking to babysit because of the never ending “no” that slips from my mouth. It’s not that I don’t want a break or time to myself. It’s not that I don’t want to share her with you or don’t trust you. The harsh reality is she doesn’t like to be left. She knows you don’t understand her when she speaks. She has to hold herself together every time I leave. Some people’s emotions unravel at a faster speed. Are you prepared to handle a seizure? Are you able to understand her needs? Do you know what to do if her lax joints cause a dislocation? Do you know the foods that don’t agree with her or how sensitive she can be? I know it’s a lot of information, so I take her every where with me. I know not everyone understands this.

Each day we decide to stay brave, to remain confident in our choices. If you see us or a family like ours, please always remember: we’re all just doing the best we can.

The Mighty is asking the following: What is a part of your or a loved one’s disease, disability or mental illness that no one is aware of? Why is it time to start talking about it? Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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Dear New Mom With a Disability

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Becoming a mother either by choice or chance is a huge responsibility. You instantly become a protector of a little life. If you have a disability, parenting can be more challenging but not impossible or overly difficult.

You know your capabilities and incapabilities more than anyone. Use that to your advantage, but never fear trying new things. I have cerebral palsy, which leaves me to have involuntary movements. When my son asked me to put a straw in a juice box for him, I knew I had to at least try. It might have taken a few minutes as he sat patiently waiting, but I did it. He applauded me with a huge smile. I’ve changed diapers and fed my kids bottles in my way. Being a mom gives women extra super powers, and we are no different because we have a disability.

I learned with my oldest child that being a good mom isn’t about holding the baby, feeding the baby or changing them. Don’t get me wrong, all of these are important and necessary. But if you can’t do them and you need help getting it done, you are not inadequate. Being a good mom is about making good decisions, organization, love, time and patience. With a disability, you can add creativity and humility to the mix. Even though your child might not run to you to be picked up, they will come to you for your love, time and internal strength.

jessica and her kids

There will be days where you feel helpless and exhausted. Don’t worry — every mother feels this way from time to time. When these days occur, pick yourself up and remind yourself you are the only mother they have. Be the best you can be. No one is perfect, but as long as your child is happy, safe and loved, you’re doing what you need to as a mom.

Enjoy each moment because time goes way too fast. Learn new things together. Your child will even forget about your disability and just enjoy life. As they get older, you might want to give them words to express when their friends ask questions about you. Children are way more open to differences than adults so don’t worry. They won’t be unpopular because their mom has a disability, trust me. 

As you embark on the motherhood journey, remember to love unconditionally, think creatively and be your child’s biggest fan. You’ll do great, and one day in the far off distance, you’ll be a grandmother!

Sincerely,

Another mom

Follow this journey on CP Mommy Blog.

The Mighty is asking the following: Are you a mother with a disability, disease or mental illness? What would you tell a new mother in your position? Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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