My Hopes for Hanukkah as a Person With Cerebral Palsy

Life isn’t always simple living with cerebral palsy, but I try to push aside the negative thoughts inside my head to celebrate the holidays. I am a young Jewish adult with spastic hemiplegia cerebral palsy, and the only one in my family who has it. Hanukkah has always been my favorite holiday to celebrate, but the one thing I dread is my oldest brother’s sense of humor. This happens every year, but it can become hard to live with.

On some Hanukkah nights I get to light the candles on my family’s menorah. I get a rush of adrenaline when I hold the shamesh (helping candle) because I am afraid of burning myself and accidentally dropping the candle. My parents encourage me, which helps. Sadly, not every Hanukkah was like this. Last year, my orthopedic surgeon explained to me and my parents that I would receive the major knee surgery I felt a desperate need for.

When dealing with mobility issues because of chronic knee problems for the last 7-8 years, deep down I felt helpless. I was praying for a miracle to happen to alleviate me from the pain, anxiety, and depression this ordeal has brought upon me. I felt like my parents never understood me, that they did not know what it is like to live with cerebral palsy.

When celebrating Hanukkah, I try to be positive. However, pessimism follows me all the time, making it very tough for me to feel happy. I turn on my favorite music to cope; without music and art I feel lost. I start to feel calm and at times sing along to whichever song I was listening to. Since Hanukkah is coming close to and colliding with Christmas this year, I’ve been able to ignore all the Christmas hype to enjoy the happiness of celebrating the Festival of Lights.

I am a senior in high school, and praying to be able to pass my math class this semester. Despite being one of the few Jewish teens at my school, I still feel like I blend in, but not necessarily fit in. Blending in to me means that you can still be yourself, and everyone around you isn’t pressuring you to change anything. I am also introverted, so not quite as social with others. My only real new year’s resolution is to exercise more often and eat healthier. I also hope I’ll have less need for the wheelchair I have been using since I had the surgery and rehab.

I believe it’s important to try to be positive even if you feel pessimistic. Sometimes the bright side of life shines during the darkest moments. Just because I have physical limitations, it does not make me any different from everyone else. I volunteer at a special organization called Friendship Circle which helps kids with more severe disabilities get a chance to feel like “normal” kids and make friends that last a lifetime. I am also an Ambassador at my Best Buddies chapter here in Arizona. No matter the disability, everyone is unique in their own way.

For Hanukkah this year, I hope the candle lights burn brighter than ever. The glow of the fire gives me a sense of hope. I try not to let others put me down. I’ve never been a victim of bullying, but I have been a victim of being misunderstood. When I was in elementary school, one of my friends told me someone had spread a rumor that I would die at the age of 15. I am now 18, almost 19, and get angry that people would be so foolish and not bother to learn that cerebral palsy isn’t life-threatening.

My dad has told me I will be able to meet other young adults with cerebral palsy when I head to ASU (Arizona State University.) I believe him and hope that before I head to college, I can learn how to drive. Sometimes I feel like my dad understands me more than my mom, and that makes it easier for me. Despite everything I have been through, I now truly understand what it means to not let your past define who you are.

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