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How Watching ‘Degrassi’ Helped Me Cope With My Disability

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I started watching “Degrassi: The Next Generation” on the N network back in 2008 when I had entered the sixth grade and I began to struggle with accepting my cerebral palsy. I was going through puberty and dealing with everything else a typical teenage girl goes through, but on wheels. I often felt like I was the outcast of my grade, being the only girl in my special education class and being the only student that cared about her grades. I found it very difficult to be a part of that crew.

When everybody’s talking about “Friday Night Smackdown,” you feel like you have no choice but to watch it because that’s how you’re going to fit in, although you could care less about The Undertaker. I remember being so desperate to find something or someone I could relate to.  It wasn’t until I came across “Degrassi” that I finally felt like someone understood me and my struggles. It helped me see I wasn’t alone in my battles with accepting the fact I would need to use a wheelchair for the rest of my life. When I saw Jimmy Brooks for the first time sitting in his wheelchair rolling on my TV, my life changed.

I remember looking at the TV and immediately falling in love with Jimmy Brooks’ character and the struggles he faced as a paraplegic teenager. He went from the star basketball player to being a disabled teen, and had to learn to accept it and try to adjust to a new life and do the things he loved. As I’ve had to learn how to accept cerebral palsy, I can relate to Jimmy Brooks’ struggles and challenges. Being labeled for your disabilities instead of your abilities is a challenging thing.

I remember being a teen and having to deal with bullying and I would eat lunch alone sometimes. I would cry and ask myself why I was made this way, but then I’d go home to watch “Degrassi” and realize that everything will be OK. As soon as I saw Jimmy, I remembered I was not alone in dealing with society and my disability.

I thank the writers and creators of “Degrassi” for bringing awareness to the disability world and the struggles we face as humans on a day-to-day basis. I believe “Degrassi” was a new beginning of spreading awareness for people with disabilities. If it weren’t for “Degrassi,” who knows how I would have coped with bullying in middle school. I’d probably have forever felt as if I was alone in the world, with no one that understood me at that time.

I’m thankful that there are more television shows today with characters that have disabilities, like “Breaking Bad,” ABC’s “Speechless” and A&E’s “Born This Way”. These types of shows are helping show people what having a disability is like, that just because we do things differently, it doesn’t mean we’re any less human or normal.

I hope that the younger generation of people with disabilities copes with their disabilities better than before. I hope they find shows or people or characters to help make them feel better and remind them they’re not alone. Just like “Degrassi” helped me cope with my cerebral palsy.

Image via Degrassi Wikia.

Originally published: October 2, 2018
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