It's how I am not who I am
I have written a post to share in the hope that others can share their own experiences if they wish too and I would like to please thank you for taking your time to read this. It is my first post talking about my own experiences so I apologise if parts come across unclear.
I am in my mid-twenties and I have Cerebral Palsy. My disability causes a variety of physical challenges which present themselves on a daily basis, however, for me, these are not the most challenging part of living with CP, for me it is the emotional and mental challenges that it can present. For years I have struggled to come to terms with the fact I have Cerebral Palsy and what that means for me, my family, my friends. In particular, during my teenage years I found it exceptionally difficult to deal with, causing me to shut down emotionally and not talk about my disability on a deep level. I think these feelings were triggered by the thought of ‘What will happen when I leave school’, ‘Will I be able to get a job’ and ‘What level of independence will I be able to achieve’. I attended a mainstream school and many of my peers were making plans that to me appeared to be possible whereas all my plans seemed to be impossible. My dream career choice was out of the question and during this period I started to face more health issues related to my Cerebral Palsy. I was at a point of being completely lost, with no direction.
Now I am in my mid-twenties and I have come a long way from where I was when I was at school. I have a part-time job which has presented me with many opportunities, I am enjoying making memories and trying new things, but for me the most important aspect of my development is how I am now able to work through my disability and the challenges it presents on an emotional level. For a number of years, I didn’t talk about my disability and how it made me feel, meaning that I buried these feelings deep and this made me change, over time, as a person. However, when it felt right, I decided to seek professional help to help me work through my feelings and it is one of the best decisions I made. It is an ongoing process, and I still have periods where I find living with my disability frustrating and saddening but these periods are becoming less frequent. I have started to regain my child-view on disability which is it should not stop me from doing the things I want to do. Yes, it can pose barriers but barriers can be overcome and aspirations achieved. It may take time, my bucket list gets longer rather than shorter, but I know one day I will achieve my goals, and as I reflect, I already have achieved some. I think sometimes there can be a pressure that an achievement has to be a big thing but I have learnt this is not always the case, as long as it is an achievement to that person, then that is what counts. There are some things that I have spent a long time trying to achieve but in reality, the way I saw the achievement was not possible but with changing my viewpoint on what the achievement looks like, it can be possible. In recent years I have had to be in my wheelchair for much of the time and to begin with this I found this exceptionally difficult to deal with, but with the support of my family and friends, who I appreciate more and more each day, I have tried to deal with the emotional difficulties this has posed and I now am beginning to accept this. Part of this acceptance was to set myself a challenge, so I participated in a four-mile wheelchair event to raise money for a charity close to my heart. I self-propelled the whole way around the hilly course, stopping for breaks when needed. It is one of the most physically challenging but rewarding things I have done and the support I received was so overwhelming. It is one example that proved to me that my disability will not stop me and in some ways my disability has enhanced me as a person, it has blessed me with a developed determination and empathy which may not have been so strong.
I am me, a person with hobbies, interests, beliefs, aspirations. I am not a disability, I am a person with a disability. I have learnt it may be how I am but it is not who I am. Thank you for taking the time to read this.