When I was little, I used to hate having Cerebral Palsy. It was because people would always look at me funny, or ask me things like “Are you crippled?” Other times people would say, “I feel bad for you,” or, “I do not want what you have.” There were many times where I would struggle to do things as well, and it made me pity myself.
I kept asking my parents whether there was a cure for Cerebral Palsy, just so that the labels could come off. I did not want to be described as the crippled, sick, or diseased girl. I did not want to struggle constantly. So, since there was no cure, I sort of psyched myself to believe I did not have a disability. I did the things everyone else did, without thinking I had CP. Now that I think about it, having a disability was not a tragedy, but rather a blessing for me.
The things I have learned from having a disability are:
- Compassion: Even though compassion is a natural trait, I learned to be compassionate towards those who have disabilities of all kinds. I have become mindful of the things I say, and if I am unaware of something, I ask in a non-offensive way.
- Not to encourage stereotyping: Since I have been stereotyped myself, I try as much as possible not to stereotype others. If I do, I apologize and learn from it.
- Accept myself wholeheartedly: I learned that in order to accept myself, I also have to accept that having a disability is just a part of me and that I accept that part too. It does not mean that it defines me as a whole, but it is a part of me that makes me whole as an individual being.
- My disability is not a barrier, even though I may have my limits: I have limitations, but my disability does not stop me from what I can do, such as the goals I have set and the ones I will make in the future.
- It has taught me to be self-aware: I have learned how my body functions—whether it is pain, stiffness, or posture. I try to “treat” my problem areas to improve my quality of life (e.g. working out and using muscle relaxer creams).
- I am in control: I am in control of my thoughts, emotions, and what I do. I can choose to believe that my disability is a life sentence and give up on living life, or I can choose to see that I am more than just a label. I can get up and defy the odds if I want to. I am in control, and I have a choice.
- Empathy: People have different disabilities, and even though I may not understand them fully, I can relate and understand the fact that I have one, too.
- There is nothing wrong with me: Just because I have a disability, it does not mean there is anything wrong with me. We all were not meant to be “normal”. We are all different.
If I could go back in time, I would have told the old version of me to always believe, to never doubt or pity herself, and live life the way she wants. That she knows herself more than anyone else could, and that SHE defines who she is.
This is what I have learned.