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The Importance of Self-Love in My Life With Cerebral Palsy

Throughout my life, it was not hard for me to tell I was different from those around me. My diagnosis of spastic cerebral palsy as a baby meant in my case I would have to use a wheelchair to move around. Luckily, I have been surrounded by some amazing teachers, the best family and the most wonderful friends one could ask for.

While I excelled at school, I was lacking in my social life. I would see the timid looks from people while I would be shopping and doing other leisure activities, and this would cause me to go back in my shell. This feeling was magnified when a girl I met a few years ago expressed that she had feelings towards me. However, I was not at a point in my life where I was comfortable with my sexuality, so I told her that I was not ready for a relationship. Although I’ll never truly understand what happened next between us, she came up to me a few months after not speaking and made a joke to her then-girlfriend about my inability to walk.

While that experience still stings to this day, it made me realize why I want to get involved in advocacy work from this point forward. There needs to be more visibility for the disabled community because we are just like everyone else. I don’t want people to see me necessarily as different or in some way damaged, but rather, unique just like everyone else. While the above experience has made me apprehensive about putting myself out there, I want others to know that you are not alone, and those truly worth your time will shine in the end.

Over the years, I have learned that since we are all going through something at one point or another, whether it be physical or otherwise, kindness and communication is the key to understanding. While I am aware there is way more good out there than bad, my goal is just to bring additional awareness and shed light on issues that are too often shied away from by the public. When people look at me, I want them to see someone who has worked tirelessly to be accepted by those around her in academia and in my personal life, sans the chair. While it will always be a part of me, it is just one small facet of my life and I am by no means defined by it, nor is anybody else by their disability. In the end, all of us are just looking to be understood fully, without reservations of any kind.

Lastly, to the girl mentioned here, thank you for opening my eyes to self-love before loving anyone else, regardless of how long it took me to realize that.

Getty image by BerSonnE.