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4 Lessons Life With CP Has Taught Me, and One I'm Learning Every Day

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Many people with a lifelong condition can probably agree that it’s not the actual diagnosis that defines you, but rather the insight you’ve gained because of it. In honor of World Cerebral Palsy Day, I’ve done a lot of reflecting on how my personal experiences with CP have shaped me into the person I am today. The lessons my condition has helped me learn have come in many forms, but I truly wouldn’t change anything about my life! While I’m sure there are many more, here are just a few life lessons I consider personal gifts given to me — learned through the ups and downs of having cerebral palsy.

1. Compassion

I know this has stemmed from the days of sitting in doctor’s offices as a little girl. I watched kids who were categorized by society as “different” walk or roll in and out of the doors, but while other kids might gawk or ask questions, to me this was routine. I was the girl with a brace and an eye patch, and it just so happened that another child used a wheelchair or communicated in a different way. We were all there to find our potential, regardless of our condition. It was a simple lesson in tolerance that I learned young, and I’m grateful for that.

Every single person on this earth has a story. Some share it, some don’t, but  regardless of how we look or what challenges we have, we’re all beautifully and uniquely human. I’m so grateful that CP has given me an empathetic perspective on life, and I strive to live with a genuine heart.

woman with CP using a walker

2. Optimism

I believe in my heart that God gave me a life with cerebral palsy so through many ups and downs I would be able to become the best version of myself and then help others do the same. Having CP has truly empowered me and blessed me with some amazing opportunities. I am thankful for the life I live. Even when my body pushes me to the limit, I know I have every reason to wake up with a smile and go to bed at night knowing I’m doing my best to live positively!

3. Determination

People tell me all the time, “Oh, Lucy, you have an incredible amount of determination!” But I think that was a piece of CP that came to me solely through experience (AKA 11 solid years of physical therapy!). After awhile, “a girl’s gotta do what she’s gotta do.” After many sessions of PT and treatments, it honestly just comes naturally… in the form of a tenacity to conquer the next hurdle.

4. Self- Acceptance

Knowing cerebral palsy is something that will physically be a part of me for the rest of my life can be daunting. It literally took years for me to feel comfortable with how I walk. But the truth is, I realized I will always (if even subconsciously) put more focus on my CP than the rest of the world ever will. Like most teenage girls I used to be incredibly critical of my body and I just wanted to be able to wear high heels. But as the years go by, I’ve found that finding the power to accept your flaws and own them as a part of your story is one of the most beautiful things you can do.

5. Patience…

This one is my work in progress!

I’ve joked patience is the one thing I’ve struggled with since I was born because hey, I was a preemie who just couldn’t wait to make her entrance into the world! Having CP forces me to wake up every day and embrace the perfectly imperfect state of my muscles. Like any journey in life, there are ups and downs. As someone who is very hard on herself, I often have to be reminded that it’s OK to be frustrated if I can’t get my hamstring to relax or if I tripped and fell that day. Deep breathing and positive affirmations are some of the tools I use to keep me grounded in the notion that I’m doing the best I can. Having and embracing a chronic condition is a process, and as much as you have to be patient with your body, you owe it to yourself to be patient with your soul too.

Originally published: October 4, 2016
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