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What I Don't Let You See as a Person With Cerebral Palsy

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Cerebral palsy, at least for me, is a visible condition. I use an electric wheelchair to get around, I move every time I talk, and even an untrained eye can tell that my left side is weaker than my right. There’s a lot people don’t see, though. This is especially true when it comes to what’s going in my head.


The easiest way to explain what I mean is to travel back in time a little bit. In my grade 11 year I had major surgery on both of my legs. One day after I’d recovered and was starting physiotherapy, a friend and I were hanging out at my house having a good time. My dad walked in the door and reminded me it was time to do physio. Since my friend’s mom wasn’t picking her up for a few more hours, she hung around and watched. I don’t remember much of that session, but I do remember the final exercise: rolling. I remember my friend sitting on the couch as my dad lowered me to the ground and I tried to figure out how to roll from one side to the other. I’m sure she wasn’t judging me at all, but I was still embarrassed. She wasn’t supposed to see me struggling with something as simple as rolling over.

This strange need to hide the worst of my disability from others has been with me for as long as I can remember. I never really had sleepovers as a kid because I hated the thought of people seeing my morning process. When I go out to a movie, I usually bring earplugs (which I discreetly put in) to try to lessen my inevitable startle reflex to any loud noise. I never go over to friends’ houses; they always come to me. That way they don’t have to help me navigate their home. If I’m in pain, no one knows unless it’s really bad.

I’m sharing all this with you to illustrate that there’s a lot more to me than meets the eye. It’s important to remember that someone may look fine on the outside, but be struggling on the inside.

And if you’re one of the few people who’s been around long enough for me to let you see the things I hide from others, thank you. Thank you for accepting me just as I am.

The Mighty is asking the following: What is a part of your or a loved one’s disease, disability or mental illness that no one is aware of? Why is it time to start talking about it? Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Originally published: July 6, 2016
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