Life with Cerebral Palsy is not easy. Sometimes, you feel like you are the ugliest person in the world and that you do not matter to it. The truth is, however, that you most certainly do matter and that you are the most beautiful person. There is a life despite Cerebral Palsy. You can never avoid the CP, but you can make life worth living despite the CP. There are 10 do’s and don’ts for someone with cerebral palsy.
Each time you meet a new person, remember to always smile. You may think that the first thing that people notice is whatever part of your body is affected, but the reality is that the first people notice is the smile. They may notice something is different physically, but will forget about it once you start talking and show your personality. People do not care about physical appearance. When making friends, people look for personality.
It’s okay to not be okay sometimes. Remember to do it on your own time or when you are with people you feel most comfortable with, such as family and close friends. Confidence is key when it comes to a healthy lifestyle. If you let people see that you are fragile, all people will want to do is feel sorry for you. If you let people see you cry, the people you meet will only pity you and not necessarily want to have a continuous friendship.
3. Be Positive
Don’t be negative about yourself all the time. It’s okay to use humour as a way of coping, but if you keep repeating yourself with the same joke, things will start looking down for you as your brain will get used to what you say and will interpret everything as if you really believe in what you say. Life is like a rollercoaster ride. It can never stay in one place. When it’s looking down, hope for the best. When it’s looking up, be ready for the worst. When everything seems to be good in your life, try to enjoy it as much as you can. Don’t think negatively too much, because then the worst may come sooner than you think.
Getting hurt is a part of life, whether you are disabled or not. It’s part of living and learning. If you stop making mistakes, you stop growing. Every negative has a positive. Whether it is bullying, a bad relationship, an unhealthy friendship that you are going through, you have to find a meaning for everything. I got bullied from grade 1 to high school. It was the worst time of my life. However, if I did not have that experience, I would not appreciate what I have now. All the people I have in my life now that are friends with me despite what I have. It’s the best feeling in the world when you see that people want to spend time with you and get to know you despite your disability.
5. Believe In Yourself
Life with Cerebral Palsy is all about proving everyone wrong. No matter where you go or how many people you meet, there will always be someone who will bring you down and say you can’t do a certain something, such as play sports, play an instrument, or do well in school. If you truly believe in something, you can make it happen, even if it is the impossible. My parents were told I need to go to a “special school” where there are four students and eight teachers. Being there meant no high school education let alone college or university education. I went to a normal school and am now in college with a 3.0 GPA. I took dance classes, I know how to swim, and I know 3 languages fluently. I have accomplished these things all thanks to those who put me down and thought I would fall.
6. Open Up to People
Don’t start a conversation with someone by saying, “My name is…. And I have Cerebral Palsy.” You may see them take a step back from you. Open up about your disability if someone asks you about it or if the topic comes up in a conversation. People really appreciate you more when you open up to them about something as personal as a disability. They feel closer to you and feel more connected to you through your story. However, make sure you open up to someone you feel comfortable opening up to. Make sure you trust them that they will not judge you and will not look at you any different. If someone asks you questions such as to why you are limping and you don’t feel comfortable to say the real reason, tell them you fell. If they see you enough, they will figure out that that’s not the real reason why you are limping eventually anyway. If someone talks about your problems with someone else or at an event like a party without you wanting to talk about them, do not get offended. Simply explain to them that it is not the subject of the day. Explain to them that it is your problem and it is up to you to decide when and with who to talk about these problems. If these people are really your friends, they will understand.
7. Cerebral Palsy Is a Part of Your Life, Not Your Life.
Cerebral Palsy does not have to be your life. If you believe that it is just something you have, you will live a long, happy and fulfilling life. No matter how hard you try to hide it or make it disappear, CP will always be a part of you. However, it does not have to define you nor does it have to affect your everyday life. You can still have as many friends as you want, go to bars, go clubbing, dance until dawn, etc. Do not let the disability put you down. Do not hesitate to have a good time because life goes on despite the CP. Life is worth living despite the CP.
8. Always Remember it Could Have Been Worse
Always remember that there are people who have Cerebral Palsy as well, but have it much worse than you. I used to think that I was this poor little girl with no hope or future ahead of me. Then I met a girl with CP at camp in a wheelchair, is mentally challenged, and is unable to talk. She will probably never have real friends, a significant other, or just have a normal life. Yet she seemed so happy all the time.
My parents have been married since they were 19 and 20 years old. My Dad stayed with my Mom after they found out I have Cerebral Palsy, which is rare coming from a person coming from Russia. In Russia, statistics show that 9 out of 10 men who have disabled children left their families when they found out they have a disabled child. Reasons for men leaving their families include, not having enough money to support the family. Because my Dad stayed, I was able to have all the treatments to improve my condition. The 9 out of 10 fatherless children with CP most likely do not have a chance of improving their condition due to lack of money.
I know someone who ended up in a wheelchair when they were 9 years old due to getting sick. Another person got a spinal cord when they were 9. The person had CP too but only limped. They ended up being in a wheelchair for the rest of their lives. The person that got sick is now walking, even though doctors told them they would never walk again. The person who had a spinal cord walks with canes, but doesn’t let it affect his daily life. When I was 9, I had surgery to reduce my limping. When these 2 people were 9, you can say their lives were “ruined”. When I was 9, you can say I had the chance of making my life better.
These situations make me realize how lucky I am. I have come to the realization that I really have nothing to complain about. I should be happy with everything I have and just be thankful for the family I have and the friends I have and for the life I lead. Complaining is a waste of time. No one will listen anyway.
Okay, this is a truly a hard one. You may think that just because you do not look the same as everyone else, no one will notice you romantically. Everything comes with experience and time, and love is one of them. There will always be someone coming in to your life that says he or she does not want to be with you because of your physical appearance. Think of it as their loss. Eventually, though, you will meet someone that will notice you despite your physical appearance. They will love you for you.
When I was a teenager, I walked around the mall and saw a cute couple holding hands. She was limping really hard. I got ahead of them and looked back. The man smiled at me. He looked so proud to be with her. He looked so proud to hold her and call her his.
My mom told me a true story of a man who fell in love. He is 6 foot tall and she sits on a wheelchair. When they were outside, they held hands. His parents loved her and wanted their son to marry her. His friends told him he could do so much better.
It does not matter what people think. Why is it important why they chose you rather than someone who can do winter sports? There could always be someone better for them, but your partner is with you enjoying your company and that’s all that counts. When you find the person that accepts you for who you are, don’t let that love go.
10. The 3 L’s: Live, Laugh, Love
These three simple words are so easy to say, yet so hard to do sometimes. Live your life to the fullest. Set goals for yourself, long and short term. Go to as many places as possible. Meet as many people as possible. Take as many pictures as possible. We all have 100 years to live. It seems like a lot, but it really isn’t. When we are old and blue haired, we all want to say, “I had the most amazing life.” Sadly, not a lot of people can say that. Live like it’s your last day living. Laughter is the best medicine anyone could fine to release all pain in your life. Laugh until you cry. Laugh for no reason. Let people think you are weird. They already think that you are anyway. Being too normal is never good. There always needs something weird in you. Love everyone around you and you will get the love back. There’s nothing more important in life than knowing you are loved by your family and friends, as well as a significant other. You feel that your life is happier and healthier and when the people that care about you the most are in your life. They are all in your life despite whatever obstacles you may have. They know you are a good person and that’s all that matters to them. But the most important thing to remember is to love yourself.