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Cerebral Palsy Through a Teenager’s Eyes

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I wrote the following when I was 17 years old. I’m now 35 years old. 

I have this thing that is never going to give me a challenge the rest of my life. It’s called mild cerebral palsy (CP). When I was a little girl, I used to think, “Well, when I get older, it will get better.” It’s almost like I thought it was going to go away.

Just recently, I’ve realized it is never going to leave. I can pretend I don’t have it, and I can even ignore it. But it’s always going to be there, and every day there’s going to be a situation that reminds me of this special challenge I have to face.

This is not really a bad thing. I think my disability has made me a better person mentally and emotionally, but I just get frustrated when there’s a reminder of what makes me different than everyone else.

I would just love to get in the mind of someone when I meet them for the first time. Actually, I would like to know what people think of me as they are gradually getting to know me better. I’m sure their first impression is usually: “I wonder if she is slow?” or “I wonder what she can and can’t do?” or “Why is she talking funny?” Then as people get to know the real me, they wonder how and why I can lead the life of a normal person.

So many times I have been complimented on the work I do and the way I keep up with everyone else. When people say things like this, the first thing I say is, “Oh, thanks, I try.” Then for a little while I feel proud of myself.

After thinking about it more I wonder what the hell that person expects me to do — just sit there and watch other people live their lives? As a young person, I’ve decided I am too strong to let that happen. The truth is, I want more from myself than just winning the battle with my CP. I want to get good grades, be a good employee and have lots of people like me for who I am.

To answer some of these questions, I am not slow except when it comes to physics, and I “talk funny” because my muscles are weaker than yours in certain areas of my body. This means my muscles have to work extra hard to keep up with my daily routine. It mainly affects my right side and the muscles in my mouth.

I call my right hand “the dead hand” because whenever I try and make it work, the muscles tighten up and make things difficult. I limp because my entire right leg twists in. When I take my shoes off, you can notice that my right shoe is mainly worn on the right because it has adjusted to my foot twisting in.

Recently, I’ve been having problems using these muscles too much. It’s like my body is telling me that it’s overworked, but I don’t want to stop mentally, so my body will have to get used to it.

Most of the time at school, I feel like a normal person. Everyone knows my personality, and they’re able to treat me as an individual. The scary thing is that next year I will be starting this whole new life with new people who have to get to know me all over again. Right now, this is happening at work. My fellow employees aren’t mean to me. but they treat me differently than they treat each other. They all make jokes together and carry on conversations. Then there’s me, who they have to watch out for to make sure she doesn’t trip or drop the trash bag.

It’s just so hard for me to allow people to get to know the real me. This is probably because I have to trust them before I can let them do this. This is because I never know when someone is being nice to me, being sarcastic, because they feel they have to or because they really want to be my friend.

I’ve learned how to read people throughout the years, and I’m able to notice the really special people who are just able to forget about my CP. My friends are able to forget about my CP. The best thing they do is make me overachieve. Every time they complain about getting bad grades, it always makes me want to do better. The worst thing about them forgetting about my disability that pisses me off is there’s usually no comment. Then I feel bad because I feel like I’m complaining. But then I realize there are no comments because they don’t know what to say. What I’m feeling at that time is something they will never understand.

I think my cerebral palsy will have an impact on the choices I make for the rest of my life, the career I choose, who I have relationships with and how I raise my children. While writing this essay, I’ve learned my greatest weakness is my greatest advantage of all. I will never change who I am for anyone.

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Lead photo by Thinkstock Images

Originally published: January 15, 2017
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