Cerebral Palsy: The Review

Another Cerebral Palsy Awareness month has come to a close. In year’s past I’ve come up with some kind of “wrap up,” this year I have nothing. The tank is empty.

Note to self: do a better job organizing posts to avoid blogging in circles.

Another note to self: Make plans.

Additional note to self: keep a file of topics and questions.

Here’s A Complete Listing Of This Year’s Posts:
End The Word
What Is Cerebral Palsy
The Matter Of Privacy
Athleticism + CP = ?
Things That Make You Say Ow
BYOC
Life Without An Off Switch
Hide & Seek
CP is a Finger Print
Is This Thing On?
Of Ice & Pies
Gifts Of CP
It’s Not Easy Being Green
CP See, CP Do
Brain Matter(s)
Confessions From A CP Adult
An Ode To Sweet Caroline
Cerebral Palsy Awareness Day
Is Disability A Choice Or A Destiny?
Acknowledging Your Personal Puzzle
A Deck Of Cards
PwDs Are People Too

Lists of posts from years past:
What Is Cerebral Palsy Anyway: Review
March = Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month + Review
HAWMC Recap

PwDs Are People Too

For some reason people with disabilities (PwDs) are often seen as less than human or in some way super human, and this is just one of the many binaries we get put into. It’s frustrating, but at the same time a fact of life that we have to deal with, no matter the disability.

Just because I have CP doesn’t mean I don’t deal with the same things “normal” people do.

I get up and I go to work every day, just like everyone else.

I go to work and I make a life for myself, just like everyone else.

I’m making a life for myself, it may not look like I thought it would but I make it work, just like everyone else.

I’m making it work, sometimes because I don’t have any other choice, just like everyone else.

I make choices every day to get one step closer to my dreams and goals, just like everyone else.

I redirect my focus when my choices don’t get me one step closer to my dreams and goals, just like everyone else.

I make plans for what I think my life will look like in 5, or 10, or 15, years, just like everyone else.

I get mad when things don’t go according to the plan I had in my head, just like everyone else.

I lay in bed almost every night and think through my day, just like everyone else.

As I think though my day I think about tomorrow, and the tomorrow after that, just like everyone else.

As I think about my tomorrows I fill them with my dreams and hope that one day they will become reality, just like everyone else.

Next time you think a person with a disability is just so much different than you are think about what you think about every day. There’s a good chance that person with a disability is having at least half of the same thoughts you are that very same day.

 

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.

Is Disability A Choice Or A Destiny?

Would you believe that sometimes I forget I have Cerebral Palsy, and that’s one of biggest things that makes me different from most people?

So sometimes it catches me off guard when someone makes a comment about it, not unlike this one:

 

Here’s the thing most people don’t get: from a disabled person’s point of view there isn’t another option, especially if their disability doesn’t come with a before & after, like Cerebral Palsy.

It’s only when we’re presented with a different point of view that you realize you’re different.

That there’s a chance you may not be able to do the same things in the same way as everyone else.

But that doesn’t really occur to you until someone points it out, and that your way is seemingly more difficult than the “normal way.”

You can think about it every time someone brings it to your attention but it’s easy to get dragged down that way, so if you’re me you try and avoid situations in which people might bring it up.

There’s also something to be said about making the conscious decision to not give yourself the option to do something, like letting your disability stop you from doing something, or anything.

It’s almost like when someone thanks you for responding favorably in a crisis. Sometimes there is no other option, at least not one that would end well for you (and probably other people too). Think of a first responder receiving an award and their response is, “I was just doing my job.”

Not “letting a disability stop you” when you have a disability is “part of the job.”

Because the only other option would be to stay in bed forever or kill yourself, and neither of those sounds more appealing to me.

Speaking for myself there are times when I do let the fact that I have Cerebral Palsy stop me from doing something I want to do (although I wish I had the choice with some “need to dos, if we’re being honest). But on the whole I don’t let it stop me.

I don’t let it stop me, because I don’t know any different, unless someone points it out.

I don’t let it stop me because there isn’t another choice.

Brain Matter(s)

I remember my 1st meeting with my physiatrist. I didn’t want to be there. I had already seen a physiatrist I liked. I was only there because she wanted me to consider having him take me as a patient instead, but he was on time (not doctor time, actual people time) and he seemed to wanted to be interested in all of me, not just parts.

After his “litany of questions” (which is really what he called it) he said something that caught me off guard.

“Now if I were to look at a CT scan of your brain I guess I would probably see……”

I never put much thought into what Cerebral Palsy had done to my brain, mainly because the focus had always been on my muscles & bones, I wasn’t diagnosed with a learning disability until my early 20s & even then I didn’t think it was CP related, learning disabilities are in my family so I saw it as something that made me more “alike” than different.”

Admitting that this postulating what my brain looked like was what sealed the deal in agreeing to be under his care would be a lie, but it did play a part in my decision.

I haven’t had many CT scans in my life, and only one of my head, but they were looking at my sinuses, not my brain. Intrigued I asked if he would be ordering a CT scan of my brain, adding that I wanted to see it for myself.

No

Why?

Well OK then.

For the record, I still want to see what my brain actually looks like.

It’s hard to understand a condition that you can’t always see the root cause of, never mind try explaining it to anyone else, no matter how educated you are on the subject.

People like to be able to see things, to touch them, hear them, anything tactile really.

Cerebral Palsy isn’t like that, instead it’s like trying to find the leak in a pipe. You have a puddle on the floor from the water dripping from the ceiling but you don’t really know where the water is coming from, except with CP you may never be able to actually see the true source of the leak.

Is This Thing On?

My of my biggest worries as a blogger is that I repeat myself. I’ve been at this for long enough now that I know it’s more likely to become a reality, therefore I have tried to be better about organizing my posts.

However, I almost wrote a post today that was going to be almost identical to a post I wrote last year, almost to the day.

Are you creeped out? Because I was, kinda.

I feel like I’ve blogged myself in a complete circle.

I may be on the verge of an existential bogging crisis.

I don’t want to keep reposting previous posts, although sometimes they do have their place, but what else do I have to say?

How much more can I write about Cerebral Palsy & what it’s like to live with it?

My brain can only crank out so much information before I’m just shouting into a void, regardless of what anyone else thinks.

The last time I felt this way I was told it was OK if I repeated myself because people needed to hear it again, but even that can only last so long before I sound like a raving looney tune.

Social networks have been great to me in this year’s undertaking. See a tweet. Have an idea. Write a post. Include tweet in post. Add post to retweeted tweet.

But I don’t feel like that can carry me though the rest of the month, or even through the next week.

I could get ideas from my podcasts but here’s the thing with that: as soon as we stop recording I forget everything I’ve said, which makes doing the show notes interesting (because I have no interest in listening to myself).

I know people are reading, sharing, and commenting.

Is there anything you’d like me to say, or try to say, that I haven’t already said?

I’m hesitant to promise an “ask me anything” type post but I’d be willing to give it a shot if people are open to hearing what I have to say (or not hearing anything if I deem something off limits, but I’ll disclose that).

CP Is A Fingerprint

There’s a nice thing that comes with having a blog, you can pretty much put your thoughts out there and let it go. But there are times when people want to engage with you, and it’s great, but also a challenge.

Having a blog about CP is no exception, especially when resources are limited and CP is such a broad diagnosis.

Even if two people with CP have the exact same diagnosis on paper it doesn’t mean that they’re effected the same way, in fact I can almost guarantee that they won’t be effected the same way.

So, when I get asked questions or get presented with other people’s opinion on my care, or the case of others, I ask everyone to take it with a grain of salt.

I don’t have all the answers, but no one else does either, but it’s hard to remember that when you so desperately want answers (or want to give advice).

It’s natural to want to be surrounded in a community of people you have something in common with but when it’s something like Cerebral Palsy it can be hard to find the common ground you’re looking for because at first someone may seem “like you” but when differences start to appear it can be hard to not compare & contrast (and then potentially get bitter).

We are a community, but it can be easy to forget that we’re individuals first.

Hide & Seek

Despite having Cerebral Palsy for 30+ years I’m still learning about it, it’s effects on me, and how it affects others.

 

I could go in-depth as to why I think that’s the case but that’s probably a topic for another day (before I put my foot in my mouth) but the short version is that there’s little research on people with CP over the age of 18.

Cerebral Palsy effects how the brain communicates with muscles so there’s a misconception that it’s a muscular disorder.

It’s easy to do when the majority of Cerebral Palsy related surgeries deal with bones and muscles.

But a lot of the largely unknown aspects of living with CP have to do with the nervous system.

There’s a startle reflex.

Chronic Pain.

Temporary, yet extreme pain, like a kidney stone.

Side effects from medications.

Trying to do two things at once that requires different areas of your brain, like getting dressed and holding a conversation.

If it has the potential to cause any neurological issues for a person with a normal nervous system there’s a pretty good chance that it’s going to cause issues for someone with CP.

 

Athleticism + CP = ?

Personal note: The timing of this post and the events in my personal life are in the realm of “God laughs at me, all of the time.”

Growing up people always seemed interested in whether or not I had athletic aspirations, conversations which never seemed to go how you would expect. I was always picked last in gym class and never could try out for a team. I was somewhat relieved when I went to a high school that didn’t offer team sports, then my answer could be “my school doesn’t have sports” without further questions. But that didn’t mean that I didn’t have athletic aspirations.

I didn’t think I’d ever become an athlete but now I can’t help but call myself one, if asked. Although I do get more quizzical looks now than I probably would have way back when people would ask about my interest in sports.

People think I swim as part of rehabilitation, that’s how it started but that’s not what it is now. Are their rehabilitative aspects of it, sure, but that’s not the primary goal these days.

I’ve made the mental shift from recreation and rehabilitation to athletic pursuits and then the physical shift followed.

As I spent more time in the pool I realized I needed to spend more time in the gym. The more time I spent at the gym has meant, among other things, that I’ve needed to spend less time picking myself up off the floor after a fall.

The more time I spend at the pool and in the gym the more I ate, and the more attention I paid to what I ate. I can’t just eat whatever I want and expect it to sustain me through a 2 hour swim, just one 25 yard sprint makes that point really fast.

Never mind the fact that people with CP burn calories at a faster rate than able bodied individuals, and that certain foods seem to have adverse effects on muscles prone to spasticity.

If I don’t have the fuel I can’t workout. If I don’t have the right fuel I can’t get the most out of my workouts.

Not everyone can be an athlete, but having a disability doesn’t automatically exclude you from becoming one.

People with CP can be athletes. I know, because I am one.

The Matter Of Privacy

Disclosure is a common topic for people with disabilities, so much so that I took a shot at giving my point of view on the subject. But there’s another subject that doesn’t get the attention it deserves. So much so that it’s taken me months of looking at a tweet to formulate some sort of thought process.

 

Privacy is an odd thing when you have a disability, practically one like Cerebral Palsy that can have more variations than can fit into a textbook.

People want to talk to you, and ask you all kinds of questions. Questions they wouldn’t think of asking anyone else in the same manner.

People want to see you, in some state of undressed, yet still somehow dressed. But no one would ever expect you to go out in public like that, and if you did there’d be a problem or two, or twelve.

I won’t say privacy goes right out the window, but it does have a drastically different definition, especially if you have any understanding of HIPAA.

Being an advocate means giving up more of that privacy for the sake of others who don’t want to or don’t feel comfortable doing so.

I understand that people don’t like to discuss certain topics. I’m no exception to that statement, but I do discuss most of those certain topics because there are numerous stigmas that need to end, particularly around more personal issues, like health, relationships, sex, romance, healthcare (to name some examples).

It shouldn’t be anyone’s business when I started puberty, again another example, but it’s not something that’s generally discussed in the CP community, unless it’s related to skeletal maturity, but even then, the relation to skeletal maturity is left out of the conversation more than it’s included.

I know people want to know things, they have questions. I know because I had them too, I still have questions in some cases.

Privacy is a weird subject when you have Cerebral Palsy because so much of it is stripped from you at a young age, sometimes you’re so young you have no idea that you have a choice when it comes to what you want to be private and what you’re willing to share.

There’s also the matter of topics just not being discussed, like those I’ve mentioned, because of the stigmas of having a disability. We’re human, and not human at the same time. So, there are topics that you don’t feel like you can talk about, or even research without raising suspicion.

I sacrifice my personal right to privacy in the hopes that it helps others, and that maybe someday, sooner rather than later, no one will have to anymore, myself included.