Social rejection through the eyes of a CP adult.

3 Oct

I walked into my Community Psychology class this morning to see the following prompt written on the board:

Journal about a time when you experienced disapproval or rejection from peers. What happened? What kind of thoughts and feelings did you have?

When I was in middle school, I took a required Physical Education class every year. In my middle school PE classes, we played “slaughterball,” which was our definition of dodgeball. I think “slaughterball” is a more accurate description of the game though. Every week in PE, I was chosen last for slaughterball. Even though being chosen to play was better than not being chosen at all, being chosen last was one of the worst feelings I ever experienced during my middle school years. When someone who sprained their ankle the day before and was on crutches was chosen over me, it pretty much felt like getting punched in the stomach.

Even though I know that many middle schoolers go through the experience of being chosen last for a game or sport, it didn’t feel the same. Though I know that other kids who were chosen last may have experienced the same feelings of hurt, frustration, and not being good enough, I know that I was chosen last simply because I didn’t have the level of physical ability that my other classmates did. I can’t even count the number of times I came home from school crying because, once again, I had been chosen last. I think it was even harder for me due to the fact that I couldn’t change the fact that I had CP, while the person who had sprained their ankle would be healed and ready to run around with the other kids in a matter of weeks. There never was a 6-week period for me to “recover” from my Cerebral Palsy. At the same time, it’s not something that I suffer from. It is just something that I have. No amount of exercises or talk therapy can change the fact that I am a 20 year-old girl who has Cerebral Palsy.

I’m incredibly familiar with social rejection. I’m way more familiar with it than I want to be. From being chosen last in slaughterball to getting pelted last in slaughterball because the other kids knew that I couldn’t move fast enough to avoid the ball coming at me, I’ve felt it all. I know what it feels like to be stared at, not just by kids but by adults as well, due to the fact that I walk funny. I know the feeling of sitting in my high school auditorium  watching a mini-play in which the main character had Cerebral Palsy…letting the tears come…and wanting so badly to just get up and walk out of the auditorium, but knowing that doing so would cause me to draw even more attention to myself. I know the feeling of having people avoid me due to the fact that I make them uncomfortable or they are just unsure how to act around me. I know what it feels like when someone is dying to ask me what is wrong with me but can’t seem to even say it because they are too afraid of bringing it up and hurting my feelings. Worst of all, I know what it feels like to have someone imitate the way I walk and then using the bullshit excuse of “I’ve been told to observe people for a class.” No, I’m not kidding. That happened.

You could say I have felt more than my share of social rejection. Sadly, the majority of the social rejection that I have felt stems from the simple fact that I have a visible physical disability, so I naturally become an easy target for teasing and social rejection. However, don’t think that I am saying that all the other kids who have experienced social rejection but don’t have CP are any less important. That’s not what I’m saying at all. However, I think it’s important to understand that due to my CP, I became an easier target for teasing and social rejection, so in my eyes, it hurt worse simply because I was being teased about something that I couldn’t change. Despite the fact that I have gotten stronger due to experiencing so much teasing and social rejection, it wasn’t easy. It still isn’t. Even now, if I get funny looks due to the way I walk, it hurts. It makes me want to cry or scream. It takes me right back to how I felt in middle school when I was chosen last for slaughterball because of the simple reason of having a physical disability. Being triggered to those moments of rejection in my childhood only takes a moment. I’ve always known that. However, the prompt in this morning’s Community Psych class made me remember just how easy it is for me to feel exactly how I did in middle school. It only takes a moment, a trigger, or even the two simple words of “social rejection”….until I’m back in the gym of my small town private school getting pelted with a red rubber ball because I wasn’t able to move quickly enough.

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10 Responses to “Social rejection through the eyes of a CP adult.”

  1. ariannasrandomthoughts October 3, 2012 at 11:26 pm #

    Wow Amelia! This brought tears to my eyes. It is so true how one small sentence can bring back such memories. Thanks for sharing your story. You are such a beautiful person inside and out. PS I heard this song today and thought you would love it as I think you are spreading love and acceptance. You are changing the world through sharing your story. Keep writing!

    • ameliaclaire92 October 4, 2012 at 9:59 am #

      Arianna, I absolutely love this song. Thank you for introducing me to it. It’s so beautiful. 🙂

      • Carrie Craig October 10, 2012 at 12:54 am #

        Great song for a lot of reasons. Amelia- you continue to inspire so many with your honest sharing. Thank you…

  2. Sandra Pipkin October 4, 2012 at 8:23 am #

    I could so relate…..beautiful, tender, well-written……..Thank you!

  3. gacochran October 4, 2012 at 8:52 am #

    Hi Amelia. I clicked “like” because I appreciate your post and your courage. If there was an “unlike” button to click for how we treat one another…how you were treated – I’d click that. Thank you for sharing your story. Greg

  4. Lisa W. Rosenberg October 4, 2012 at 11:04 pm #

    I read this yesterday on my phone so I couldn’t comment. It’s a gift to be able to express this the way you have. Though I too was chosen last (I was afraid of the ball and everyone knew), I haven’t experienced what you have. Still, when you write in this couragous, open way, it is so relatable, we’re there with you even if we weren’t. (Hope that makes sense) It’s so true that little triggers can send you back in time.

    • ameliaclaire92 October 8, 2012 at 8:57 pm #

      Thank you, Lisa. It is always such a great feeling when I can write something that so many people are able to relate to since it’s not always easy. However, if it’s easily relatable, then that means that I’m doing my job as a writer and blogger. Thank you, as always, for your encouragement.

  5. Laura October 7, 2012 at 6:36 pm #

    Oh that’s terrible that someone was mocking you like that. I had to comment because I know how the last for gym thing goes as well because I’ve always been “the fat kid”. The one time that it really bothered me was in middle school, when we were playing hockey (or… as close to hockey as you can get on a gym floor) and the team captain ACTUALLY picked me to be the goalie. Now, when I heard my name called for goalie my internal reaction was ‘YOU’VE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO I DON’T WANT TO BE GOALIE NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO!’ But, I got up and started toward the goal. As I was walking past though, I heard my gym teacher turn to the kid that was team captain and say, “Oh come on, you can pick someone better than that.” I just wanted to crawl into a hole in the floor and lay there until I died. On one hand I was really happy to not have to deal with being goalie because I’m sure I’d be terrible at it, but on the other hand my feelings were really hurt that the gym teacher said that. Ugh people can be so mean!!

    • ameliaclaire92 October 8, 2012 at 9:00 pm #

      Yes, the mocking was probably one of the worst forms of teasing that I’ve ever experienced. So so sorry to hear about your bad gym experience. I know the feeling of wanting to curl up into a hole and die because that is exactly how I felt when I was mocked. I agree that people can be incredibly mean. I only hope that one day the bullying in schools (emotional as well as physical) can be decreased. We can only hope, I guess.

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