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Making My Disability Into Art

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I see myself as a normal person, except I’m not “normal,” I have cerebral palsy, mild right side hemiplegia and my body constantly reminds me of that. It reminds me when I try to move or push myself or it simply reminds with my age. I’m in my mid-20s and I’m noticing my body is getting slightly stiffer and my joints ache frequently. I notice this and take care of myself, yet I try not to let it define me.

It is a part of my body, but not a part of my identity. I know my condition is there, but I also take gratitude that it is mild. I can run and walk without assistance and just the other day, I even set out on a 6 km cliff walk with friends. I had to stop and rest my feet often, and they helped me by holding my arm and guiding my footing over a muddy mount of rocks, however I can take pride in the fact that I finished that walk, even with my condition in tow. These are victories I celebrate frequently, no matter how trivial they may seem to others.

I have always tried to hide this about myself until recently, when I began to write and develop a solo theatre show about the relationship between my disability and my femininity. I have always wanted to distance myself from my condition, but now it is literally “center stage” in my work. Carrie Fisher once said “Take your broken heart, make it into art” and that’s what I did. I took my “broken body” and made it into art, more specifically a play. It is my way to investigate my relationship with my body, the feminine side and the disabled side together in a place where I cannot hide it: the empty stage. I have put myself on display, making an exhibition and a spectacle of my body, one for people to see but that I control. I am in control of my story and that is rare to find in the narratives presented in TV, film and on stage. There is no tragic ending — there is an ending of visibility and representation.

I exist in real life and I can exist on stage too, in all my glory. I never thought I would be bringing my CP into my art, but it has been the most challenging and personal project. While writing this play, I researched the facts about hemiplegia because I want to educate as well as enlighten people about my story. I want the audience to understand what it is like through my eyes and through my feet.

It’s almost like a memoir in some ways, and this project has helped me come to terms with my condition in a mature way. I had to delve deep into the uncomfortable stuff emotionally and physically, yet it has made me the woman and the artist I am today, and I hope to continue growing as I go on to write and perform a full version.

Getty image by Baytunc.

Originally published: May 8, 2018
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