Why I Choose to 'Challenge Everything' in My Life With Cerebral Palsy
Challenges, both big and small, can affect everyone — no matter what walk of life you come from. As a person with cerebral palsy, even the most basic daily tasks can be a struggle. At 35 years old, I still struggle day-to-day with simple things, like putting on shoes and tying them and making my way up and down any flight of stairs. The majority of individuals with CP often face the harsh reality of chronic pain on a daily basis, and I am no different. Sure, I’ve learned to hide my pain most days, but I can never fully escape it. Some days, it is my legs in pain; other days it’s my back that hurts. I hurt just as much on days when I sit on the couch and do nothing as I do on the days when I’m on my feet for an eight-hour workday. For me, unpredictability is often one of the most frustrating things about living with cerebral palsy.
In my 35 years of living with this condition, I’ve learned that there are many things I can’t do and will likely never be able to do. However, I’ve also found out that I am more capable than most people — even myself — would have ever thought I would be. I work a full-time job, often over 40 hours a week. I also hold two degrees from a well-known university.
“Challenge everything” is a mindset that can help you be better every day. Everyone may want to tell you what you can’t do, and there will be days when your own mind and body will be your worst enemy. I firmly believe that one of the biggest lessons that life with cerebral palsy has taught me is that I need to learn how to adapt to get the most out of life. Throughout my journey, personal experience and networking with others have helped me realize that often, individuals with cerebral palsy and other physical disabilities are experts in adaptation. As people with disabilities, we are often able to make the best of any situation life throws at us. For individuals who people may see as a “step behind” others, adaptation is that “ace up our sleeve” that most of us never knew we had.
As a person with CP, I stick out in a crowd. I know it’s just a fact of life. The majority of the world around me, including my friends and family, are by and large healthy, able-bodied human beings. I have learned so much from so many of the people in my life. They’ve helped me tie my shoes, helped me up and down stairs, and helped me manage large crowds at restaurants and ball games. These are all great things, and I’m thankful to have help every day.
I am, however, willing to bet that if you were to sit down and talk to some of the people closest to me, they would tell you that when it comes to adapting to whatever life throws at me and making the most out of life, I just might be the proverbial “leader in the clubhouse” most days. It’s not this way every day because I have my bad days — just like anyone. Some days, I don’t even want to put on my shoes or get out of bed. However, much of my daily success comes down to my mindset and two words: “challenge everything.”
So here’s my challenge to you: challenge yourself every day. It doesn’t have to be a big challenge. Challenge normalcy, not only in your daily routine but also in the mindset that the general public has towards disabled individuals. I’m willing to bet you’ll be surprised at what you’re able to accomplish — not only on a daily basis but also long-term. Perhaps along the way your determination and ability to adapt will encourage not only you and those in your circle, but even more importantly, those outside of it.
Getty image by Kiyoshi Hijiki.