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10 Things I Wish I Could Tell My Childhood Self About Cerebral Palsy

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Now that I’m an adult and am a little bit more mature, I look back on my life and wish there were some things I would have known or done as a child growing up with cerebral palsy (CP). So here are 10 things I wish I could tell my childhood self:

1. It will all be worth it.

All of the surgeries, the pain, hospital stays and doctors’ visits: It’s all going to be worth it. You’re going to benefit from all of this in more ways than you can think about right now. You need to look towards the future and understand your life will be so much better because of what you’re dealing with right now.

Karina Siriano the mighty.3-001
My childhood self.

2. Don’t be afraid to go after what you want.

You have so many dreams and big ideas. Don’t lose sight of them and go for it! Otherwise, you’ll look back and wish you had acted on those dreams earlier.

3. Don’t limit yourself.

Just because you have CP doesn’t mean you should limit yourself. Start getting that into your head now, otherwise you’re going to miss out on some pretty awesome stuff in life. And that will be nobody’s fault but your own.

4. Don’t be ashamed or embarrassed about who you are.

Yes, you have CP. So what? Be yourself. Do what you love and don’t apologize for who you are.

5. Learn to be approachable.

Sometimes people are going to view you differently at first. That’s not fair, I know. But that’s just how it’s going to be. So you need to learn to be approachable. Don’t seem standoffish because you are offended by the way people perceive you. Instead, smile and be friendly. It’s going to make such a difference.

6. You’re not less of a person.

Just because you have CP, that doesn’t make you less of a person. You’re just as important as everybody else.

7. It’s OK to laugh at yourself.

You’re going to fall. A lot. You will trip. You will stumble. In crowds, in hallways, in the middle of the school courtyard (where everyone can see). It’s going to be a pretty normal occurrence in your life. You can laugh about it. It’s OK. Sometimes, when you think about it, some of your “incidents” are going to be pretty hilarious.

Karina Siriano the mighty.2-001
Me as an adult.

8. Stand up for yourself and be an advocate for others.

There will be times when people are going to openly gawk. They’ll be rude and make snide comments. Don’t let them get away with making you feel bad about yourself. Stand up for yourself and be proud of the person you are. Be an advocate for others, too. You are in a pretty important situation. You have the ability to be an advocate for those who might not be able to be one for themselves. So stand up for them, too, because you can.

9. Don’t take your life for granted.

It may not seem like it now because you’re just a little kid and can’t really comprehend why you have to go through the things you do. But you’re so incredibly lucky and blessed to have the life that you do. You have a disability, yes, but things could have been so much worse. Don’t take this life you’ve been given for granted. You’ve been given it for a reason. So go out and live your life to the fullest.

10. And lastly, love yourself.

You are different, but you are beautifully different. Remind yourself of that now so that you’re not still dealing with self-esteem issues when you’re an adult. You are loved and you are important. Never forget that.

Originally published: September 3, 2015
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