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I'd never had a close friend whose life experiences aligned so closely with my own
They say you can't miss what you never had.
Until I realised there was a global cerebral palsy community and, specifically, before I met my friend Nic, I thought that was true.
Nic has cerebral palsy (CP), just like me. She loves to read and write, just like me. She uses a power wheelchair and experiences anxiety, just like me.
We're similar in so many ways that we joke we're twins.
Before I met Nic I'd known other people with CP, mostly through Twitter, but I hadn't had a close friend whose life experiences aligned so closely with my own.
Nic is funny and clever and so generous.
She encourages me to advocate for what I need and deserve and insists that I have the right to live in a way that acknowledges my limitations and celebrates my disability.
I started to identify as disabled in 2019 and worked for a couple of disability organisations, which was how I heard about Nic.
We were introduced earlier this year by a mutual friend who recognised our similarities and knew we'd get along.
I was hesitant (as I am when I meet anyone new), but with Nic, I felt instantly at ease. It was as if I was talking to a version of myself.
Last year we were strangers and this year we talk every day
Recently I've been having trouble with my wheelchair.
Having a wheelchair is brilliant because it allows me to travel further and faster than I ever could on my legs, but this one is old and unreliable.
When I called several repair places and was told I'd have to wait several weeks for an appointment, Nic told me to call her mechanic and tell them I was her friend. I did, and a repair person came out the next day.Last week, I started sobbing in her lounge room because my brain was telling me I was a burden: that my wheelchair and my clothes and my books were too much. That my presence was a disease and the only cure was to leave.
Nic was understandably confused because we'd been having a normal conversation mere minutes before.
But Nic held space for me: for my wheelchair and my clothes and my books and, more importantly, for my anxiety and self-loathing and sadness.
I will never forget the earnestness of her tone when she turned to me and said: "Why would you leave? You belong here."
I found disability pride and community in 2019, but I found sisterhood in 2022.
I learn as much from our differences as I do from what we have in common
Nic has a different kind of CP from my own, which is spasticity. I have more strength and mobility in my legs than she does, but she doesn't experience the painful and involuntary muscle movements that I do.
The first time we met in person, I made her a coffee. I was so pleased because I'd managed to carry it to her without spilling it, but I'd neglected to give her a straw. I didn't even have any straws in my house.
Through my friendship with Nic, I'm more aware of people's different access needs.
Nic is brave in ways I never thought I could be.
If she sets her mind to something, she works hard until she makes it happen.
If she needs to contact someone, she won't hide behind an email or a text message like me. She'll pick up the phone, showing me that I can do the same.
She has a blog featuring insightful interviews with extraordinary people. Her commitment to her writing fuels my commitment to my own.
I'm extraordinarily lucky to know Nic
My life is so much better because she's in it, even though she might struggle to believe that sometimes.
As a young person, I knew that there were other people with my disability but I thought of myself as separate from "them".
I thought I would never quite belong.
I do belong. And I'll keep writing about disability and friendship and pride and joy because I want every other young person with CP to know that they belong too.
Specialist Information Officer and Cerebral Palsy Programme Lead
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