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Overcoming Underestimation in My Life With Cerebral Palsy

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Throughout the course of my life as someone with a physical disability, I have always been underestimated. Doctors in particular have underestimated my skill and intelligence level my entire life. Just to clarify, I am not saying my doctors intended to inflict harm on me or my self-esteem. I think they were simply doing their jobs, and they were making these assumptions based on research they had studied thoroughly. When I was smaller and not able to understand as well, I am sure this notion terrified my parents more than they were ever willing to express. I am sure they knew my life would be a challenge, but I am not sure they knew just how difficult it would be. However, I knew they were determined to give me the best life possible despite all the road bumps that lay ahead.

Not only were my parents determined to give me the best life but they taught me how to stand up for myself and protect as much of my independence as humanly possible. As a result of their sheer determination, I was breaking every milestone that had a question mark next to it. I won’t lie; some of them were more of a struggle than I would like to admit. In fact, my struggle began at the ripe age of 7.

When I was in elementary school, I had an abusive teacher who made it her mission to embarrass me. She even stooped as low as to call me grandma in front of the entire class. As someone so young and vulnerable, this hurt my pride and stung like crazy. Because of her maltreatment, I dreaded going to school and came home every night in a flood of tears. Of course this upset my parents tremendously. They attended numerous conferences with this teacher, but to no avail; nothing was done to correct her malicious behavior. Needless to say, my life was off to a very rocky start!

This may be surprising, but now that I look back on it, I am somewhat grateful for those hard times because it was only the beginning and would prepare for me for other very difficult times that lay ahead. It was hard for me to ask for help, but in my experience, when you have a disability, asking for help is inevitable. Even in my younger years, the people who were meant to help me use the bathroom would scoff when I told them nature was calling. Their sour attitude hurt my feelings; after all, it wasn’t my fault that I needed help with simple bodily functions! These sorts of actions, however, would lead me to learn that I needed to treat people who were helping me with kindness despite them treating me unkindly. I had to kill them with kindness, as they say. Maybe then they would see that I would refuse to bow down to their anger and resentment.

Later on in high school, I would receive the same kind of treatment. By this time, it stung even more because I was also discovering who I was and dealing with dark depression — depression so bad that it held me back from simple functioning. The careless attitudes of those who were supposed to help me only made me dig my own hole deeper. I felt like my tunnel had absolutely no light at the end and was altogether dismal. Thankfully though, I was eventually able to get out of my rut thanks to some extremely positive influences.

It was not until I went to college that I had the chance to fully embrace acceptance and change. I had never been in a schooling environment where my disability wasn’t the focal point. It was a very freeing feeling to finally be seen as a person and not for my disability or what made me different. It was wonderful to be recognized for my intelligence and my compassionate attitude. It was even more freeing to be making excellent grades and proving myself to the state. Even the state of Louisiana doubted my ability to adjust to college and make my mark as a student. College was definitely a turning point in my life. I was fully immersed in my studies and my confidence was at an all-time high. I spent so much of my life worrying about how I would overcome the hurdles that were placed in front of me that I hardly had time to enjoy who I really was and fully embrace my potential.

As I grew older, the underestimation was becoming a faded memory. It was fading into the background as I had always hoped it would. I understand that absolutely nothing in life is handed to you on a silver platter. You have to earn the respect of others. I may have had to work harder than an ordinary person to prove my abilities, but in the end, all of my blood, sweat and tears were worth it.

Getty photo by DragonImages.

Originally published: November 25, 2018
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