Making the Most of My Mobile Years With Cerebral Palsy
“Slowing down” — a term usually used when referring to someone older or someone outside of their prime, right? So how does an individual with cerebral palsy like myself, who is only in his early 30s, come to grips with the fact that due to my condition, I am unable to do some things I could do 10 years ago?
I guess you could say I am still figuring out how to properly answer that question. If you’re like me, life already got off to a slow start due to the extensive treatment, rehab and physical therapy I’ve pushed through over 28 years. I fight the thought of “losing a step” every single day. Like many people with cerebral palsy, I am in chronic pain most days. Some days are worse than others. Sometimes it’s my feet, sometimes it’s my legs, sometimes it’s my back, or all of the above. Despite it all, it is more or less programmed into my brain to just get up and conquer whatever is on the agenda for the day. I often do this without the aid of pain relievers, and I do my best to conceal my discomfort from those around me.
Why not just accept it and take a step back? For me, it’s about making the best of however many years of mobility I have left. People with CP and other disabilities spend most of our lives being told by others what we cannot do or will never do. However, a lot of us (myself included) accomplish so much and prove the world wrong.
I am on my feet all day for work in a fast-paced environment. Sitting in a chair or even slowing down is not always an option. Sure, there are reasonable accommodations that can be made, but it is not always feasible. In the workplace, there are certain laws that protect disabled persons from discrimination. Society is becoming more accommodating, but in reality, the world often does not slow down for us. Everyone is always on the go. And regardless of condition, you either find a way to keep up or get left behind.
Slowing down is inevitable and unfortunately for persons with disabilities, it often comes much sooner than for our able-bodied counterparts. So how do we accept this and not become bitter about our situation? For me, it is about finding and befriending people that understand you. They not only understand your condition and limitations, but also the real you and the struggle that comes with your life. These are the friends that will help you up and down the stairs, that will wait till the crowd clears out at an event just to make it easier for you to make your exit. These friends will listen to you in your vulnerable moments. Be brave enough to open up to them about your struggles. I am willing to bet if they truly care about you, they will adapt situations to accommodate your inclusion.
Outside of your family, these people are the biggest allies any individual with a disability can have. These are the people that will physically carry you and “fight the good fight” with you on the days you cannot do it yourself. Yes, you’re slowing down, but your strength and testimony can make up for it over time. Share your story in any way possible; volunteer, do whatever it takes to get out there. Your impact will most likely stretch much further with the use of your mind than it ever could by doing anything physical.
They say those who didn’t believe in you will tell everyone how they met you one day. No one knows how many “mobile” years we have. The important thing is using those years to accomplish everything you can, and turn heads doing it.
Getty image by Sam Thomas.