Cerebral Palsy means I need help with personal tasks such as toileting and showering. Needing help with activities of daily living is one of the most challenging things about having Cerebral Palsy. Many people have helped me use the bathroom and shower. I rarely had a say in who helped me with my care growing up. My mom found my PCAs for most of my life, and my paraprofessionals were assigned to me by the school district. This has made the idea of intimacy very scary to me. I don’t want to be intimate with someone if I don’t have to be.
Forced intimacy has made the idea of a romantic relationship very frightening. For a long time, I felt like I didn’t have a say about my body. During my childhood, I learned about body safety, but I felt like I didn’t have a choice. If I had a PT session, I had to let people work with me. I felt terrible last year when I didn’t want to work with an intern because I was uncomfortable with her.
I thought I couldn’t say no if someone helped me use the bathroom in school. If I were to say no, I thought I’d miss my chance to use the bathroom. I never had much to drink during the school day, so I wouldn’t have to use the bathroom more than once. For some of us who have physical disabilities, we are all too familiar with the need to limit our fluid intake. I became skilled at remembering just how many ounces of fluid were in the drinks I brought to school every day.
When I was a teenager, I wondered if I could be involved romantically with someone. I wondered if CP would mean I’d be unattractive. When I set up an online dating profile a few years ago, people were not interested in getting to know me. Every inquiry I received had to do with my disability. I was immediately discouraged and wondered if I’d ever have a romantic relationship.
Right now, I can’t legally get married without losing my disability benefits. In some cases, disabled people can’t even live with their partner. In the future, I hope that this changes as well. Disabled people deserve marriage equality.
I’m not sure how I’d be intimate with someone. I don’t enjoy the thought of having my romantic partner help me use the bathroom or take a shower. It would be hard to see them as my romantic partner; I’d see them more as a caregiver.
Cerebral Palsy affects every part of my life, including my relationships. Cerebral Palsy doesn’t mean that I am unworthy of a relationship. Disabled people are worthy of loving, committed relationships just like everyone else.