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It Sucks the First Time You Realize You Have a Disability. But Look at Me Now.

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I remember the first time I discovered there’s something different about me — that I have a neurological disorder called spastic diplegia cerebral palsy.

My mom was making a phone call to my physical therapist and discussing my PT goals, if I recall correctly. I stood beside her bed and burst into tears. Which is not unusual, I was and still am a sensitive person. I told her I didn’t have a disability, and I didn’t want to ever have to use a wheelchair like my sister. This began a long discussion of what cerebral palsy is and how I would not need a wheelchair because my diagnosis was mild and the most common form.

Let me tell you, it sucks the first time you have the realization that you have a disability and are different than your peers. Retrospectively, there are a lot of worse things that can happen than being in a wheelchair. I know plenty of people in wheelchairs who have a good, happy life — my sister included.

In junior high, I was bullied for the first time. I heard pejorative uses of the word retard and was the subject of rude hand gestures to connote this. Every single time, I wilted under the weight of their taunts. Thankfully, my parents, teachers and principal stood in the metaphorical gap for me, and the bullying stopped. In the latter years of high school and now college, I started to research my disability and become more educated. Today, I’m unashamed of my CP and take great pride in my knowledge. Sure, there are days when my hamstrings feel extra tight and I don’t want to walk to class, but I have a new perspective now.

On Twitter, every Wednesday evening, there’s an online discussion/support group using the hashtag, #CPChatNow. I find such encouragement and strength from these people who struggle with the same things I do. We often discuss problems or make lighthearted jokes about what it’s like living with cerebral palsy. For example, there was one instance where all of us confirmed that it’s a victory in carrying a hot bowl of soup to a table without sloshing it on your fingers. These are the days when I’m most content to have cerebral palsy. I can relate to other people, and this is such a blessing. This online discussion has given me a platform to raise awareness, and I feel myself becoming more of an advocate as I deal with my CP in adulthood.

I’m so thankful for my cerebral palsy because without it, I would have never made the connections I have. There are perks, also. The accessible parking and quick passes at Disney World are awesome. It’s interesting to think about what my life would have been like if I didn’t have CP. I would probably be a dancer, but I stopped thinking like this a few years ago. I can still be a dancer, even with my disability. I can dance in the grocery store, in the shower, on stage. I can dance anywhere because my cerebral palsy can’t limit me in that way. I’m a person with agency; the only thing that can limit me is my self-consciousness. Besides, I’ve found a passion in reading and writing. It’s soothing to write about my experience with cerebral palsy. I just want to encourage others: people with CP, relatives and/or caregivers. I’m in college, living a full life with my disability.

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Originally published: March 20, 2015
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