I’ve been writing this week about unconventional paths when you have Cerebral Palsy. All of my life, I’ve wanted to be included in my community. When I was younger, this was relatively simple. I was invited to birthday parties and included in all activities at school. As I grew up, this was not the case. In middle and high school, I felt like I was on a different planet sometimes. By the time I was in high school, I had nearly lost all interest in making friends. There was always a push to get me to be social while in school. Looking back now, I think that this did me more harm than good.
Outside of the classroom, I participated in extracurricular activities, including baseball and martial arts. I began taking martial arts when I was 11-years-old. I had no idea that I’d form a friendship that would change my life. Because of Tae Kwon Do, I have two friends whom I cherish deeply. One of them is now my live-in PCA. I met my other friend after being invited over to play cards one night. Over a decade ago, I would never have imagined that taking Tae Kwon Do would lead to such meaningful connections. I consider them a part of my family.
My friends have helped me through some very challenging times in my life. Last summer, I had Botox injections for spasticity. They were both at the hospital with me. Having both of them there with me made me feel at ease during the procedure. After going home, my friends showed that they cared about me in their own ways. My friend, whom I live with, was always around when I needed him. My other friend was texting me to check on me after my injections. It made me feel good to know that they both cared so much.
I’ve also met many wonderful teachers, doctors, PCAs, and therapists. The devotion they’ve all shown me over the years hasn’t gone unnoticed. I am forever grateful to everyone that I’ve worked with. My doctors and therapists help me live my life to the fullest and treat my Cerebral Palsy.
My PCAs help me live independently and not live in a nursing home or other facility. I am proud to live in my own apartment, which wouldn’t be possible without PCAs. I know they don’t have an easy job, but they care so much about me. I’ve known some of them for years now.
My teachers helped me get the most meaningful education I could. I am thankful that I had the opportunity to attend classes with my peers and that my teachers saw me as a whole individual and, more often than not, embraced my disability. I will always be grateful that my teachers were willing to accommodate my disability in the classroom.
In addition to my friends and other professionals, I’ve managed to find a community through social media and blogging. Through my blog and social media sites, I’ve met people with various disabilities. It’s comforting to know that I’m not the only disabled person in the world. My blog has reached people in Australia, Canada, Ireland, Germany, and even Kenya. This is beyond my wildest dreams and more than I could have ever hoped for. When I started my blog last year, I assumed that few people would read it beyond my friends and family.
I’ve also been blessed to have a fantastic family. I have been surrounded by loving people my whole life. My aunts, uncles, grandparents, parents, my younger sister, and cousins have always been there for me. Many people aren’t as lucky as I am to have such loving and supportive families. From my earliest years, I’ve always known what family is all about. I am so blessed to have the family that I do.
Cerebral Palsy is tough to deal with at times. Having my community’s support along the way has made it much easier to deal with. Sometimes, you find your community where you least expect it. I wouldn’t be where I am today without my community. I am so lucky to have all of them.