7 Questions: A Few Years Later

A few years ago, in my 20s, I did an interview on another blog. I thought it would be a good idea to update my answers. Plus, I’m running out of topics.

Tell everyone a little bit about yourself.

I’m in my 30s. I have a master’s degree in theology. I work full time as a speaker and writer. I also contribute to medical education and improvement of medical care for people with complex and chronic health conditions. I also have a few part time positions. I live on the East Coast and still prefer to keep things low key. I have fully embraced my introversion and often don’t get out of my PJs to get work done.

Can you share a little bit about your CP, and what kind of therapy was most helpful for you growing up?

I have Spastic Diplegia. I’m a GMFCS level 2 (last time I checked). I had PT at least twice a week from roughly 1-15 years old. I can’t say how helpful was or not because I didn’t have the opportunity to try anything else. These days I swim (on my own and with a coach) and go to the gym (with a trainer) 1-3 times a week, depending on my schedule.

How has having CP affected your life, do you think?

It’s still hard to say how CP affected my life growing up but I do think it affects my life more now than it did even a few years ago. Part of it is by choice, because I make a living by talking about the fact that I have Cerebral Palsy. The other reason is that although CP doesn’t get worse it does make aging more interesting. I have more difficult days with joint pain, spasms, etc than I used to have (I think). I’m doing more to manage my CP than I had been, just to keep myself in the best shape possible.

What’s been your greatest success?

I still think I’m waiting for my biggest success but getting a post grad degree was a big success. Also being able to use my live with CP to improve the lives of others with CP means a lot to me.

And what’s been your biggest challenge?

My biggest challenge depends on the day, if I’m in a lot of pain my biggest challenge can be getting out of bed, other days it’s trying to figure out the best way to get to a speaking engagement, sometimes it’s the metal challenge of getting through a swim practice or workout. Luckily my schedule is flexible enough that I can make adjustments when needed.

What’s your biggest aspiration?

My biggest aspiration is to have a career where I can sustain myself with as little assistance as possible. I really like being involved in medical research and education from a patient prospective, so I’d like to stay involved in that in some aspect. I also may teach at some point in the future, what I’ll teach is still a work in progress, but it’ll happen.

What advice would you have for parents raising kids with CP?

They probably don’t realize they’re disabled as much as you do so treat them like a normal kid as much as possible. Don’t lower your expectations just because they have CP. Don’t take what other people, like doctors, as gospel truth. There’s a lot going on in terms of care and treatment for people with disabilities and chronic medical conditions so what you were told five years ago may not be true five years from now. Seek out multiple opinions and do what’s best for your child don’t be sold on the “in thing” to do.

So, there you go, some of my answers are different, some are mostly the same. I’ve learned a lot more about myself and about Cerebral Palsy in the last few years. Oh, to be in my 20s again, or not, sometimes being young and stupid can double edged sword.

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It’s Not Easy Being Green

When you think of March what color do you think of?

I’m guessing green since St. Patrick’s Day is in March & St. Patrick’s Day is all about green (at least the “rated G” version is).

Guess what color Cerebral Palsy awareness is?

Green.

I believe I have figured out one of the barriers of raising awareness for Cerebral Palsy.

Allow me to take you through my thought process.

October is breast cancer awareness month.

The color for breast cancer awareness is pink.

A color most associated with October is orange, due in large part to Halloween.

Would breast cancer awareness be as big as it is if February were its month?

Something tells me the answer is yes, but it’s still something worth considering (especially for the sake of this argument).

There are too many similarities in the basics of St. Patrick’s Day & CP awareness. There’s not enough curiosity of “check it out” factor to make awareness easier (but that’s just my opinion).

There’s also been talk of why green is the color for CP. Green happens to be one of my favorite colors so I have no problem with it, but I know not everyone is a fan.

I’m curious as to why March ended up being CP awareness month. Let us also remember that the r-word day and Down syndrome day are also in March.  It just seems kind of odd that a lot of disability related awareness is in one month. If this was on purpose then why isn’t March “Disability Awareness Month”, which is actually in October (or has that now been deemed “Disability Employment Month”).

Is the confusion part sinking in yet?

I’m not suggesting that we change CP awareness’ color or its month. It’s too “late” in the game for that. Changing any of those details now would just add to the confusion and just continue to feed into the attitude of “un-awareness”.

So what’s a community to do?

The answer is easy.

It’s the execution that’s more difficult.

The good thing about the CP community is that all its members are used to difficult. It’s practically in our DNA.

The solution?

Be the loudest group.

However, it’s not a “he who yells loudest wins” situation (although that would make things slightly easier).

The CP community needs to be the loudest but it also needs to be the smartest (as well as the stubbornest).

The odds are stacked against the CP community. They always have been, and for way too long.

I think Kermit the Frog said it best, “It’s not easy being green.”

*A similar version of this post was written on March 26, 2014

Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month: 2019

If you follow me on social media you can probably guess what I’m going to say because I’ve been posting annoying Inst@gram Stories and tweets on Tw!tter for the past month.

Today is the start of Cerebral Palsy Awareness month.

I’ve done this before, and I want to do it again.

I’m going to write a series of posts pertaining to Cerebral Palsy, but I need your help.

What do you want to know?

What questions do you have?

What have you heard, that could be fact or fiction?

What do you know about Cerebral Palsy?

What do you wish you knew, or even had the slightest idea about?

What do you wish other people knew about Cerebral Palsy?

What would you like to share about living (and/or working) with Cerebral Palsy?

I know parents of kids with CP & young adults with CP read my blog. Both groups have questions and opinions (I would too if I were in their place).

I may not have all the answers to every question or myth that there is out there, but I believe I can provide guidance and provide inroads.

I’ll be the first one to tell you that I’m not in expert in Cerebral Palsy, but I do have live experience to draw on, and that’s not something I take lightly.

I’m open to feedback for the entire month, so if you can’t think of anything right now never fear there’s still 20-ish days that need material (just contact me).

#ILoveMyDisability

There was a time when I’d spend my nights reading blogs, but these days I’m more likely to read threads of hashtags.

#SayTheWord & #StopAbleism2015 are two that kept me up late at night scrolling though people’s thoughts. #ILoveMyDisability is just the latest one.

I thought I’d share a few of my favorites, in no particular order, for no particular reason:

 

International Day Of Acceptance

IDoA

When I started gaining attention for being an “adult with special needs” (seriously that’s what I’ve been called, more than one should), I spent time reading other blogs, mainly seeing if there were any common myths out there that needed to be debunked (not many worth debunking, for the record).

I noticed that a few people, mostly CP moms (as in moms who have kids who have CP), would mention something called 3E Love. Curiosity got the best of me so I checked out 3E Love for myself.

I bought my 1st wheelchair heart tee shirt (& sweatpants) at my first Abilities Expo. I LOVE the sweatpants. I wonder how I ever traveled without them.

I bought my dad his first shirt before his first Abilities Expo, and did the same for my cousin (it’s become a tradition I guess).

Several people in my life have 3E Love products; my dad even uses a 3E Love sicker to cover up a ding on his car.

I was able to hear Stevie (also known as Annie’s brother) share the story of 3E Love & speak to him personally a few times.

I never had the opportunity to meet Annie but I have a feeling I would’ve liked her based on what I know about her. Our shared skill of using kitchen tools as accessibility aids notwithstanding, I’m pretty sure she was an awesome person to know.

3E Love & the Wheelchair Heart were created by Annie (also known as Stevie’s sister).

wheelieheart

Stevie & his family started the International Day of Acceptance as a way of remembering Annie.

Join in the movement of acceptance.

*A similar version of this post first appeared on an old blog on January 20, 2014 & January 20, 2017

Normal Is Nice

Fall means a season of follow ups, and usually a mix of emotions.

The emotions are still there, but I’ll get to that later, or not.

The follow ups are still there, and they will be for the foreseeable future, but they’re different.

I was sitting in an exam room waiting, actually I was staring at the sink, when I thought of a poem.

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Yes, I was waiting a long time. Yes, I do get philosophical the longer I wait.

I remembered waiting to be told I had healed enough that I could stand up, and then feeling pain shoot up my legs as they took on my body weight. It was pain, the very reason why I put myself though all of this, but it was different pain, and I was happy about it.

As the weeks of rehab turned into months my feelings towards standing went from happiness to anger, as happened in every stage of my recovery process.

Every follow up I’d wait, and wish someone would find something that would make me better, a more improved version, faster.

That never happened, at least not yet. And no one ever declared me “recovered,” not officially, that came with some self-acceptance.

I sat in the exam room, again, but with a different expectation.

The expectation of normal.

“Normal is nice,” I kept thinking.

And it was, the follow up went as I expected, and I wasn’t upset or overly happy over it.

It was normal, and it felt nice, to be OK with this (not so) new phase of my life.

Regardless of how you feel about standing, normal is a nice place to be.

Defining normal, that’s the hard part.

“She’s A Really Good Swimmer”

Two cousins gave me my first swim lessons, basically by letting me fend for myself & pulling me up for air occasionally. Summers were spent in the pool so that’s where I wanted to be. It didn’t matter how I got in there. I’ve never been the biggest fan of lifejackets so I learned to swim early and often.

“Did you hear that Michael Phelps has wicked ADHD & the only way he could focus was under water because he couldn’t hear anything.”

Whether that’s true or not for Michael Phelps I can tell you it is true for some. Go jump in a pool, stay fully submerged, and then look around. What can you hear? Not much. Swimming is as simple as it is complicated, swim to the “X” at the other end. It’s pretty close to perfect as far as focal points go, especially if you’re looking for ways to block people out.

I don’t talk about it often but I was bullied in school, most notably grades 5-8. I was the new girl in the world’s smallest class, I’m also different from your average person, and girls can be relentless. I could hear people whispering and I knew it was about me so I did what I always did. I pretended I couldn’t hear them.

”She’s a really good swimmer”

I had met two of my classmates the summer before school started in the pool of the club our parents belonged to. I had hoped we’d become friends once school started, no such luck, but they acknowledged I was good at something.

I was around 11 by the time swim lessons involved swimming full laps. My first lesson was pretty exhausting but by the end of the swimming “term” I was able to keep up with the class. It was breaking through a glass ceiling for me. I was finally able to swim full laps, the catch is, in my mind that meant being “old enough.”

As soon as I could swim full laps I had a friend teach me how to do a flip turn and practiced it endlessly. We’d turn on the flood lights & go swimming at midnight in my aunt’s pool when we couldn’t sleep. I wore one piece racing suits & swim caps. I was ecstatic when my aunt agreed to buy me my 1st pair of mirrored goggles. I was just as heartbroken when I lost them over the winter.

I hated the words “adult swim” because the adults were allowed to swim laps only, and that’s all I wanted it do. I watched the swim team from afar every year wishing I could wear the same blue racing suit.

I read Andi’s love/hate relationship with her daughter being on the swim team.

It stirred up some feeling, mixed ones at that.

One summer I asked my mom to ask “Coach” if I could try out for the swim team (I was too intimidated by him to do it on my own), maybe practice with them a few times if he thought I wasn’t ready. I knew I probably wasn’t as ready as he would’ve liked but I knew he could work with me.

He had said “No.”

He knew he wasn’t going to let me join the team no matter how well the tryout went so he didn’t see the point in my trying.

I was crushed. If he didn’t even want me to try out I guessed I wasn’t a swimmer at all.

“Coach is a jerk. You wouldn’t have had a good time on the swim team anyway.”

It took a wise all-knowing high school aged babysitter to help me get past it, because when you’re in middle school high schoolers know more than your parents. She had also known “Coach” longer than I had and had friends survive life on the swim team. She was also the one who helped me survive the girl-piranhas. Her opinions were more than valued in my house.

I get where Andi’s coming from.

It’s hard to watch someone come in last. I often watch World Championships & even Olympics where someone comes in not just last, but painfully so. I use to wonder why someone would allow such an embarrassment for their country. One day while watching a race it hit me, like a ton of bricks.

This is the biggest stage anyone can compete on, ever. No matter what happens they made it this far. That in itself is an honor & deserves to be respected. Sometimes “just showing up” does make a difference. And just like someone has to come in first someone has to come in last. It’s one of the not so fun aspects of life.

I understand Sarah Kate all too well.

She’s having fun with her friends, and probably making a few new ones. She’s not she-who-has-cerebral-palsy is having fun with her able-bodied friends. She’s having fun with her friends.

That’s enough. In fact, that’s plenty.

Coming from a girl who wasn’t even allowed a tryout

Just knowing Sarah Kate is allowed to compete makes my loss not feel like one any longer, it’s a sign of progress.

Although it would be nice to find that coach after all these years and show him what I’m made of.

*A similar version of this post was written on August 9, 2012

Acknowledging Your Personal Puzzle

There are a fair number of analogies of what it’s like to live with a disability, I find some more accurate than others, but countless people disagree with me, which is why there are so many analogies.

There’s also something to be said for basic language around disability, person first, identity first, whatever.

There’s so much to be said about so many topics that divide the disability community but I think I’m starting to find a common thread in all of them.

The path to self-acceptance or one’s own disability.

While I sometimes forget I have Cerebral Palsy, it took me a while to accept the fact that I had Cerebral Palsy, and that it did in fact inform every aspect of my life.

Once I figured that out I thought my life would get easier, at least somewhat, mentally, but it’s not really like that. It can actually be hard to be conscious of how your disability is integrated into your everyday life, especially if you find yourself thrust into the world of activism.

At what point do you highlight your disability, especially if it isn’t visually obvious?

How do you identify as disabled?

To what extent do you bring attention to your disability?

The Cerebral Palsy community is an interesting one, for various reasons, but not limited to how much a person allows CP to be part of their life. It’s always a piece of the puzzle, but the size of the piece is the question.

Some get to make the choice, others don’t, to some extent.

Making the conscious decision to embrace it, and all the opportunities that come your way because of it is a completely personal decision.

As someone who didn’t embrace their disability until their 20s I wonder just way I waited so long. I’ve gone back in my head wondering what and/or when I would’ve done something differently multiple times and I can’t come up with and I can’t come up with something, anything, that I would willingly change.

I guess that’s one of the pieces of my own puzzle.

Cerebral Palsy Awareness Day

I’ve made no secret that I’m not the biggest fan of awareness days, yet I feel obligated to participate in them. Tomorrow is National Cerebral Palsy Awareness Day in the US, not to be confused with World CP Day which occurs during the fall.

Last year there was (finally) a senate resolution officially designating March 25th as National Cerebral Palsy Awareness Day.

I’m not one to keep up the daily goings on of the senate, or any other governing body, so I don’t usually read official documents, but I read the resolution to see what it entails.

S.Res. 400 is a bit of a disappointment, unless I’m misunderstanding the purpose of senate resolutions, and if that’s the case someone please feel free to explain it to me.

All it says is what we already know, or information that can readily be found during a basic internet search.

I was hoping for something more, even just a little bit more.

I know the government is deeply divided but if this has become standard operating procedure in order to get our elected officials to agree to known facts than maybe we need to reexamine how things are run and who we are electing to run things.

So the government needs to agree that a condition that’s been around for 100s of years before agreeing that it needs recognition. Does this not sit well with anyone else, or is it just me?

We have a resolution that says tomorrow is National Cerebral Palsy Awareness Day. But what does that really mean? More importantly, what comes next?

march-25th-is-like-and-share-cerebral-palsy-awareness-day

*A similar version of this post was written on March 25, 2016

Owning It

After all my thinking I’ve come to a realization.

I think.

And it wasn’t even a result of all the thinking.

Instead a statement from the oddest of places.

“I can’t believe I get to live in this body”

You could practically hear my brain scream “THAT’S IT.”

I can’t believe I get to live in this body.

Not

I can’t believe I have to live in this body.

Which is pretty common statement when you have CP, because if your body doesn’t always do what you want it to do it’s not always your favorite thing and you resent it every once and a while. It’s a part of poor body image that no one ever considers; your image is poor because your body is often at times, well, poor.

Anyway.

It’s not that I had a poor self-image, other than the teenage years and whose self-image is great at that time anyway, but there were times I wished things were different. Mainly why I wasn’t naturally gifted at most things that interested me. I didn’t want to work as hard as I had to to do anything, which included working out.

I knew what I had to do to maintain function. I’d been told it countless times. I didn’t listen. I didn’t want to. I didn’t care. I wasn’t like all the other people I’d been told about. I was different.

I was in denial.
(Am I saying that I spend 20+ years denying that I have CP? Probably, yeah.)

Then I had my wake up call.

And rolled myself off to fix my mess.

Part one was surgeons.

Part two was all me.

And I thought I knew how it was all going to go.

I may talk a big game but I’m still in the early stages of figuring this all out.

I thought I’d recover from surgery, just like I have from all of my other surgeries, and return to some sort of status quo I’d been living with, and hope I’d have a good chunk of time before I had to repeat the pattern.

Because that’s how CP works.

WRONG.

I felt (and still do) so different with my new hips. I have my good (when I could tell my jeans wouldn’t fit) and bad days (when my jeans didn’t fit) with them. At first it was difficult to adjust to them. My brain recognized the correction but often couldn’t get it together to work with it. Even though it was/can still be frustrating it’s amazing.

I’ve come to a level of acceptance that makes every day fun in some aspect.
”Let’s see if I can do this.”

Some days I do.
Sometimes it takes more work.

It’s O.K.
It’s me.

I’m still in shock that this body is mine.

It’s really cool.

Work with what you have & own it.

Keep raising the bar.

You’ll keep surprising yourself.

*A similar version of this post first appeared on an old blog on February 25, 2011