Today is December 3rd which makes it The International Day Of Disabled Persons. I am part of world’s largest minority having been born with cerebral palsy. Being disabled has affected every aspect of my life.
In recent years, my feelings about my disability have changed. It’s only within the last several years that I’ve truly begun to accept my disability. Growing up, I wanted to be non-disabled because I wasn’t happy with the limits that I had because of CP. It was hard to fit in with my peers in school and the older I was the harder this became. In elementary school, I fit in pretty well. However, middle school was a different story. Peers who were my friends suddenly wouldn’t talk to me anymore.
The older I became, the more isolated I felt from my peers. This led to me becoming more reserved and would later lead to depression which still persists to this day. Not getting a driver’s license or part-time job when I was a teenager made me feel worthless. Now that I am 22-years old, my social life hasn’t really changed. It’s hard to watch people my age be able to interview for jobs without the employers wondering if they’ll be able to the job just because they have a physical disability.
In terms of having a romantic relationship this is also something that weighs heavily on my mind. I wonder if people would think that I’d make a terrible spouse or represent a burden to them because of CP. Given that my partner would have to help me with specific tasks like driving and cooking, I wouldn’t want them to become sick of me and my needs. I wouldn’t want them to end up feeling like my babysitter.
I’ve often thought about having children later on in life as well. I do wonder if society would deem me unfit for motherhood because of my Cerebral Palsy. My biggest fear is that my child would resent the fact that they had a disabled mother. I wonder if my child would want a non-disabled mother instead of me. I wouldn’t be able to go down slides with them or pick them up if they fell. However, just because I have CP doesn’t mean that I cannot raise a child if I so choose. I may have to find creative parenting solutions, but that is fine with me.
Cerebral Palsy is a challenging condition at times, but that doesn’t mean I don’t experience a unique kind of joy. For example, in March of this year, my new power wheelchair was finally delivered. The night before the wheelchair was scheduled to arrive, I hardly slept. I felt excitement akin to what I felt on Christmas Eve as a child. The following morning, I waited eagerly in the driveway for the company’s van to arrive.
I also find joy in using the Internet and social media to connect with fellow disabled people. When I read the blogs and social media posts of fellow disabled people, I find it comforting to know that I am not alone in this world. One of the most challenging things about having a disability is that sometimes it can be isolating. One of my favorite blogs to read is The Squeaky Wheelchair. Kathleen’s stories about hiring personal assistants and experiences with having cerebral palsy are all too familiar to me. From picking out a new color of a wheelchair or AFOs to turning 22 and aging out of pediatric care, these are experiences that are a bonding experience among those in the disabled community.
I have met so many different people because of CP. Among them are many fellow disabled people I connect with through the power of the internet to my team of doctors and other providers. I am fortunate to have gotten to know excellent doctors, physical therapists, and personal care attendants over the years.
A lifetime of ableism has led to severe depression and questioning my worth daily. However, at the same time I am thankful for the patience and compassion CP has taught me. I’m working on seeing the value in myself because everybody is worthy and has something to contribute to society.
Caprino, Kathy. “The World’s Largest Minority Might Surprise You, And How We Can Better Serve Them.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 14 Apr. 2016, http://www.forbes.com/sites/kathycaprino/2016/04/14/the-worlds-largest-minority-might-surprise-you-and-how-we-can-better-serve-them/?sh=737aa3ca496f.
Choudhry, Gaz. “International Day of People with Disabilities: Gaz Choudhry on Progress and Portrayal.” BBC Sport, BBC, 3 Dec. 2021, https://www.bbc.com/sport/disability-sport/59496598.