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Why I Struggle With Fireworks as a Person With Cerebral Palsy

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“I walked through a county courthouse square
On a park bench, an old man was sitting there
I said, your old courthouse is kinda run down
He said, naw, it’ll do for our little town
I said, your old flagpole has leaned a little bit
And that’s a ragged old flag you got hanging on it.”
— “Ragged Old Flag,” Johnny Cash

The only thing I like about July 4th is having an excuse to blast Johnny Cash music and get away with it. Other than that, I hate the holiday. Not because I don’t want to celebrate our freedom and independence, but because of the way it affects my cerebral palsy.

Fireworks Aren’t Fun for Cerebral Palsy

July 4th reminds me that I’m not like most 24-year-olds who can go to barbecues with friends and family, have a glass of Jack Daniels and not worry about jumping or having a spastic attack. Fireworks are the worst for me. With each pop my brain starts to dread what’s about to come and how badly it affects my mobility. I jump and shake as my pain becomes more intense throughout my whole body.

People React Like I’m an Alien

Everybody stops and stares at me like I’m an alien from a different planet. Yes, I have cerebral palsy and it makes my body not like loud noises like fireworks. People always ask me, “aren’t you used to that sound by now?” The answer is no, it’s a reflex and I can’t help it. Cerebral palsy and loud noises aren’t best friends!

Struggling with the startle reflex aspect of my cerebral palsy lowers my self-esteem and makes me question if I will ever be able to go out on a date on 4th of July, or see fireworks with my able-bodied friends. Will I be able to keep my spasms and jumping attacks under control?

It Doesn’t Stop Me, Though

Although my cerebral palsy is affected by fireworks, I continue to go out and celebrate our independence day. I don’t want to live within my own thoughts and dwell on the negative side of things, so for now, I’ll keep on trying to stomp on the challenges of fireworks.

Getty photo by Iris Images.

Originally published: July 4, 2019
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