What happens to Cerebral Palsy when you age?
My name is Chloe Tear, I am 20 years old and am studying Psychology and Child Development. I have mild Cerebral Palsy that affects my legs and left arm, as well as being registered as partially sighted. In my free time I am a blogger and freelance writer, and have written my blog, ‘Life as a Cerebral Palsy Student’ for the last 5 years.
What do you see when you look at me? Do you see a young woman who is at university and having fun with her family and friends? Or do you see an old woman who can be hunched over with a walking stick with eyesight that’s decreasing way beyond her years?
I hope it was the former option, yet I am likely to be the first to joke at how much of an ‘old woman’ I can be. Laughing about certain aspects of my disability may seem criminal to some. However, making light of a situation can encourage a more open outlook and make things more pleasant for yourself. At least you could call me a stylish old woman with a bright yellow stick, with yellow being 'the colour' at the moment. Although, I really don't help myself, if I look like I've stepped out of the 1950's then I'd consider that a success! Even if there is just a hint of vintage, I can't see my fashion sense changing any time soon!
I have used a walking stick for about 4 years now, but I wish I had started sooner. It really helps to alleviate pain in my hips and knees, but also can act a bit like a security blanket if I trip and nearly fall! Nonetheless, it is my stick that has made me ‘young’ again, allowing me to walk further and manage chronic pain symptoms.
All joking aside, what happens to Cerebral Palsy when you age?
I know 20 years old is not a feat, especially with the ageing population, but Cerebral Palsy already has a way of making you notice you’re getting a little older. We walk in a way which can only be described as disjointed and wobbly, something our joints really do not appreciate! I have found that even in the past year my joints crack a lot more, they ache more on an evening and seize up as a result of pretty ordinary things. Muscle spasms have also become a lot more prominent in my daily life. I have started taking Baclofen again, which is a muscle relaxant: without this medication there is a drastic difference in the way my muscles behave. Even with the medication they can act like a child going through the ‘terrible two’ phase of life.
Many may associate deteriorating eyesight with something else that comes with age. I am not saying everyone who has Cerebral Palsy will become partially sighted- far from it! But for me, my age, even a matter of years, has led to this. As a young woman it can be strange when things happen to your body which may be associated with ageing. You can feel trapped in an older body, but also determined to ‘beat’ what is happening and continue regardless. I just want you to know that people can have achy creaky joints and can be partially sighted and be 20 years old. An ‘old’ body is not reserved for pensioners; busy university students sometimes qualify too.
On the other hand, age gives you experience, even if it is just 20 years, and experience leads to knowledge. Although I am still at university, my graduation is not far away. I feel I have the knowledge in how to pursue things in the future as my CP continues to ‘age’, but I am still young. Over the years I have had to change expectations of what I believe is possible- and this is coming from someone who is stubborn in the goal but flexible in the method. Over the years I have learnt how to manage certain aspects of my condition, whether that is pain, fatigue, choosing mobility aid or staying upright!
What do you see when you look at me? I hope you see Chloe.
What do you think of Chloe’s story? Can you relate to her experiences of CP?