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An Open Letter to My Body with Cerebral Palsy
Rebecca R writes an open letter to her body.
Where do I even start with you?
Everything in me wants to curse you out right now, but I know that isn’t going to do any good. I hate you most times, but yelling at you won’t change a thing because the things I hate the most about you aren’t able to be fixed.
You’ve given me a reason to be angry at you from the day I was born. I know it’s not your fault your brain got damaged along the way causing cerebral palsy, but how you decided to display that damage outwardly does not make me happy one bit. You make me have legs that look like they come from different people. You make me limp. You make me trip over my own feet.
You cause me physical pain. Every morning when I wake up, I feel like you’re working against me. I spend the first minutes of my day stretching out my body in ways other people don’t have to just so I can function throughout the day. And even with that, my muscles ache all day even after I take medications to help control the pain. I work out more than the average person just to keep you functioning on a very basic level. Your best isn’t even close to the average for most people.
[Woman looking into a cracked mirror]
You cause me emotional pain. Years of bullying made it hard for me to trust people. Because of you, I’ve been called a cripple by a teacher. Because of you, I’ve been called a faker. Because of you, I’ve spent years in therapy trying to unravel all the pain you’ve caused. Because of you, a male therapist asked if my breasts were the same size when I told him I felt asymmetrical living in you, body. He didn’t ask if it was because of your CP, but he asked about your breasts because asymmetrical breast size is common. He taught me that it’s not safe to talk about what you look like in that way.
You took away my childhood. Years of Botox injections, stretching casts, surgeries, and physical therapy led to burnout so bad that, although I already had been moderately depressed for some time, I crashed into my first major depressive episode my senior year of high school. So yes, I will blame you, body, for initially pushing me into my depression and making me unable to function.
Every time I look in the mirror or watch you walk, I see someone who isn’t confident because society taught me that confident people can stand straight and don’t limp when they walk. Every time I look in the mirror, I don’t see perceived flaws in you, body. I see real, tangible evidence that your legs are two different sizes, that one leg is ½-inch shorter than the other and one foot is a full shoe size smaller.
You caused me to start comparing you to others’ bodies since preschool when I didn’t see my classmates going through the same medical treatments. And it only got worse when grad school tipped it over the edge while having to dress in sports bras and athletic shorts for PT labs. I saw all my classmates in their beautiful bodies and then I saw you as distorted and atrophied in the mirror.
You make me stay stuck in my eating disorder because providers don’t know how to help me. They always say to look at bodily function instead of appearance, but they don’t know how to answer me when I ask what happens if I don’t like the way you function, body, either.
Most of the time, you don’t make me very happy, but I know you’ve given me a distinct perspective on life. You’ve encouraged me to be an advocate for disability change. In the last month alone, I’ve talked to the local Macy’s about getting their benches back in the store, which they are, and I’ve advocated for adding an automatic door to the bathroom at a local health clinic, which is also happening. But I wouldn’t have done any of that without the experiences you’ve given me, so I know you’re not all bad.
While things could be better at times, I also know things could also be a lot more difficult at times too. Every day is a new adventure with you, body. Let’s see what’s next.
Specialist Information Officer and Cerebral Palsy Programme Lead
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