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How My Trauma Growing Up With Cerebral Palsy Led to C-PTSD

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Have you ever felt completely alone in the world, like you didn’t belong? Ever had that feeling of being misunderstood and constantly challenged by the society in which you live? Or being shunned and totally rejected by your parents, you know the ones who are supposed to love you unconditionally? Well, if you can relate in any way, you are not alone.

• What is PTSD?

Do you want to know what makes me different?

I was born with cerebral palsy (right-side hemiplegia) and secondary scoliosis in the 1970s and attended a Special Needs School, up until the education laws in the U.K. were amended. Mainstream school was fraught with needless conflict.

My parents were never accepting of my disability, as it appeared my being disabled had brought shame to the family. Invitations to family days out didn’t always extend as far as me, and I was made to stay home alone. I was also made to exercise every day without any time constraints, and as you can imagine, I absolutely hated it! Knowing this, my parents would also use exercise as a primary form of punishment. I could go on, but you get the picture — my childhood was dark.

Not surprisingly, I’ve spent the majority of my adult life battling symptoms of complex PTSD. Who the f**k wants to be “normal,” and what does being “normal” even mean? Looking back on it now I’m like, give me (the child) a f**king break. It’s been an exhausting road with therapists who did nothing more than keep the repetition of trauma alive, all but one. I’ve not only managed to survive, but I’ve come out the other side. The strength it has taken to get here today is something that remains hidden.

I realized a long time ago that my parents were never going to change, they are who they are and I needed to either accept that or walk away. I learned that focusing on our differences creates nothing more than a chain of separation, and I was not prepared to play party to that! I chose to stay, setting boundaries for my own self-preservation, and have managed to stick to them. From there, I’ve begun the journey of learning my own worth and my insight has enabled me to also help others along the way. It’s important that when we look in the mirror, we don’t see ourselves as being broken in any way, shape or form. We all hold a certain beauty within us and it just takes that one moment to see it for ourselves, unraveling all the misconceptions that have been placed upon us.

I don’t blame my parents entirely for their downfalls, as society has a huge part to play in how disability is viewed and thus treated. For instance, it is extremely difficult for disabled children to recognize disability as a positive identity when they are continuously being bombarded with messages of negativity and devaluation on a day-to-day basis. “Will she get better?” “Is there a cure?” “Such a shame.” “Poor thing.” There is also the issue of being the only one in your world with a disability, which can make you feel even more alone, if that’s even possible.

May we all stop to think about the impact of our words before choosing to speak.

Originally published: May 24, 2021
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