Tag Archives: Advocate

Where lifeintheblueridges has been, and what’s next!

6 May

It’s been quite a while since I’ve written a blog post, and that’s mostly because I have been focusing solely on my final year of college. As of last Thursday, I completed my last final exam of my undergraduate career. I’ll be graduating in just 4 days with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. I truly can’t wait to have that diploma in my hand and have my family and friends around me to celebrate!

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.-Henry David Thoreau

What’s next in my life: Graduate school! Starting in August, I will attend UNC Charlotte’s MSW (Master’s of Social Work) program, and I truly can’t wait! One of my dreams of helping others is finally going to be coming true, and I am so ready for the journey ahead. Though it will be sad to close the UNC Asheville chapter of my life, I am anxious to start the next phase of my life in a new city which holds new opportunities and the chance to bring more wonderful people into my life. What could be more wonderful than that, you ask? Well…finally getting to focus solely on what I love and long to do for the rest of my life: helping others (hopefully the special needs population).

Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.-Howard Thurman

Where lifeintheblueridges has been: Since its creation in November 2011, this blog has been an incredible gift to me in so many ways. Within the first few months of starting my blog, I connected with many people like me, aspiring writers. More than that, though, I was welcomed with open arms into a community I never knew I needed. Because of constant support and encouragement from those who knew me not personally, but simply through my writing, I finally reached a point in which I was able to start something I never thought I’d be able to do: the sharing of my story of living with Cerebral Palsy. In January of 2012, I began receiving positive feedback from fellow bloggers and connecting with others who either have Cerebral Palsy or another disability or know someone who does. Because of all the positive feedback, in January of 2012, I started writing my memoir of living with Cerebral Palsy. If it hadn’t been for the encouragement from the blogging community and other friends, I don’t know if I would have ever had the courage to open up about my experiences of living with CP. Since opening up, however, I have connected with so many people who’ve told me to keep on sharing. More recently, I’ve also been giving talks to elementary and middle schools in Buncombe County regarding my experiences of living with CP, and more specifically, the bullying experiences I had as a child as a result of my Cerebral Palsy. I am incredibly grateful for the opportunities I’ve received to talk with so many kids about disabilities and bullying, especially because they have allowed the kids to learn more about what it’s like to live with a physical disability and it’s given them the opportunity to ask any questions they want about me and my disability (which I fully support since I know there are so many kids who are curious). Overall, through this blog, I have gained the courage to open up about my experiences and have developed the desire to share my story with others. However, I’ve also gained encouragers, supporters, fellow writers, beta readers fellow CPers, special needs parents…or more precisely, a community of people that is cheering me on currently and will continue to do so even after my memoir is eventually published (or that’s what I hope, anyway).

Where lifeintheblueridges is going: Beginning this July, I will no longer live in Asheville…no longer will I be nestled among these mountains I love. Therefore, the beloved lifeintheblueridges will be ending after this post. In the coming months, I’ll no longer be a college girl in Asheville. I’ll be even more than that…a graduate student in Charlotte! Therefore, though this blog has provided me with more than I ever thought possible…I’ll be creating a new blog, especially because I am about to close one door and open another. I am incredibly excited to begin a new blog journey, a blog that will solely focus on writing about my experiences of living with CP. Since this blog helped me to open up about my experiences, there’s NO WAY I’m going to stop sharing my story and writing my memoir. I hope to be sharing my story and the writing process of my memoir even more on my new blog!

*As of right now, I am not sure when my new blog will be up and running, but I will make one more post on here once the new blog is live so that everyone can continue following me and my story.*

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The search for understanding from a disability perspective.

5 Dec

Since I didn’t have someone who understood my pain during my years of intense surgeries and physical therapy for my Cerebral Palsy, I talk a lot now about wanting to be that person for others with CP (or other disabilities) who are going through similar situations. Though I do know that I want to be the understanding ear for those with physical and/or emotional difficulties associated with their disability, it’s only recently that I’ve begun to realize that there still isn’t someone to fill that role within my own life.

Though it is reassuring to know there are so many others who are in similar situations, most of the people I have connected with (mainly through my blog) are in the phases of difficulty I was in many years ago: the intense physical therapy, the surgeries, the nights of crying because all you want to understand is why you have to be different from everyone else. In order to be the CP advocate that I wish to be for others, I’m still looking for an understanding ear, but specifically someone who has already faced the difficulties I’m currently dealing with. However, I’m beginning to realize that finding someone who understands isn’t just hard when you’re a kid. It’s hard at every phase of life, no matter how much you may have progressed from where you were on day 1.

However, it’s also important to make a distinction between someone who wants to understand and someone who can understand. My support group of friends are all people within my life who love me and want to understand the pain and difficulties I have faced and continue to face on a daily basis. However, despite their good intentions regarding every aspect of who I am, none of them fit into the category of being someone who can understand. Though I do not blame them and am still very appreciative of all they do for me, I still want someone who can understand. I want someone who knows exactly what I mean when I’m talking about the pain of post-op physical therapy or how hard it is to simply summon the strength to get out of bed in the morning to continue the daily battle that is associated with living with a physical disability.

Though it may take me a very long time to find someone who can act as a disability role model within my own life, I know the wait will not stop me from being that person for so many others. The recent realization that sharing my own story can help to inspire so many others to keep on going is incredibly special to me. I have seen from my blog posts how much I have helped others who also have CP (and even people who don’t have any kind of disability) to simply keep on going. In so many ways, that is all we can do. Though there many not be too many people who can understand, I will continue to share my story in order to help those who want to understand. It is through those who want to understand that change will come. Since the central part of the search for understanding lies in the need for acceptance, helping those who want to understand is the first step towards achieving some form of acceptance within the current society in which we live.

When the stars align…with Easter Seals UCP.

1 Dec

Easter Seals UCP is a non-profit organization that supports families dealing with disabilities and mental health challenges. Over the past few months, I have been researching different Cerebral Palsy organizations to see if I could come across any information tailored towards adults with CP. Though I still haven’t found much useful information, I did find Easter Seals UCP. Upon looking at their website and the numerous blog posts by families dealing with disabilities, I was inspired. I was inspired not to focus on my own physical issues at the moment, but instead chose to focus on something that has just been coming to life since I started sharing my story of CP: my role as an advocate.

If you would have told me two years ago that my current primary focus would be using my own story and my personal experience with CP to advocate for kids with disabilities, I probably would not have believed you. I have never imagined that talking about my own struggles would be something I’d be able to do…much less want to do. However, since that is how things seem to have evolved, once I realized there were numerous Easter Seals offices across every state, I knew I had to get involved. The need to get involved led me to find out if there was an Easter Seals UCP office in Asheville, and I found it.

After connecting with some people in the Easter Seals UCP Asheville office through email and phone conversations and getting such a positive response regarding my desire to get involved within the Asheville community, I could not be more excited. At this point, I’m unsure how things will progress. However, after learning that the Asheville office works directly with families in the community, I asked if there had ever been any kind of program implemented that deals with the emotional barriers that a disability presents. Though there isn’t currently a program in place within the Asheville community that deals with the emotional side of disabilities, I told the Easter Seals Asheville office that I felt it would be incredibly beneficial for the community and that I’d be willing to help in any way I can. Long story short, I’ll be meeting with those at the Asheville office to discuss ways in which this kind of program could be implemented as well as general ways in which I can work with Easter Seals as a CP/disabilities advocate within the community.

Words cannot even express how excited I am about this possible opportunity. However, I know that without this blog and the incredibly supportive community of WordPress, I would not have been able to reach the point of talking so openly about my disability and what I’ve faced. For my entire life, I have struggled with the concept of belonging. However, I guess the part of my life that I was trying so hard to escape from was where I needed to be all along. Even though I didn’t have the opportunity to talk with someone who knew what I was going through during the years of my intense surgeries and physical therapy, I want to be that person for other kids with disabilities, and I want them to know they don’t have to go through it alone. Therefore, to all the families dealing with disabilities and the entire Easter Seals community, thank you. Thank you for helping me find another dream to strive towards.

Copyright: Easter Seals UCP.

Copyright: Easter Seals UCP.

World CP Day: Leaving My Mark.

5 Sep

I hate that I didn’t realize until late yesterday evening that yesterday was the very first “World Cerebral Palsy Day” in the United States. According to http://www.worldcpday.org, “World Cerebral Palsy Day is an innovative way for 17 million people with CP to tell the world how they want to make their life better. World Cerebral Palsy Day is also the way people with CP can make it a reality.” Upon reading the website’s explanation of World CP Day, I thought of one thing: I thought of the way I’m already working on telling the world how I’m making my life better. I’m writing my memoir of what it’s been like to live with Cerebral Palsy, and even though I’m doing it for me, I’m also doing it for the other 16,999,999 people who may be struggling to find someone who they can relate to, or simply someone who can say, “I know exactly how you feel.”

Through writing my memoir, I want to be that person for those other 16,999,999 people who may not have someone to listen. The funny thing is…I never thought I would be an advocate for Cerebral Palsy. My disability was something that I tried so hard to get away from. However, I should know that you can’t run from something that will be forever a part of you. For much of my childhood, having CP wasn’t something I was proud of. I wanted to get as far away from it as possible. I wanted to be treated as if I was just like any other kid that lived on my block. However, ever since starting to write my memoir, I’ve become someone I never thought I’d be: I’ve become the girl with Cerebral Palsy who wants to share her story of overcoming obstacles with the world. Before it dawned on me that I had the power to impact others with my words, the idea of writing my memoir hadn’t surfaced. But truthfully, my idea to start writing about my life came in a single moment one night in January. All I was doing was thinking about what I faced and how for my entire life I had been looking for someone who could understand me. However, on that cold night in January, even though I hadn’t found someone who could understand me, I realized how bad I wanted to be that person for other kids with Cerebral Palsy.

Writing my memoir of what I’ve been through has been an incredibly slow process. Since January, I’ve only written 14 pages. Even though that small number makes me cringe, I also know that writing my memoir is the only thing that will finally allow me to accept myself as well as help other kids who are currently faced with what I have been through, and continue to go through on a daily basis. So yes, it’s probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but when I think of the look of love and comfort I might receive from just one kid with CP, that’s worth so much more. It may even be worth everything.

Saving Max by Antoinette van Heugten: More Than Just A Book Review.

16 May

A few days ago I finished my fourth pleasure reading of the summer, Saving Max by Antoinette van Heugten. This book was an amazing read, and I simply couldn’t put it down. Here is the synopsis according to Amazon,com:

Max Parkman—autistic and whip-smart, emotionally fragile and aggressive—is perfect in his mother’s eyes. Until he’s accused of murder.

Attorney Danielle Parkman knows her teenage son Max’s behavior has been getting worse—using drugs and lashing out. But she can’t accept the diagnosis she receives at a top-notch adolescent psychiatric facility that her son is deeply disturbed. Dangerous.

Until she finds Max, unconscious and bloodied, beside a patient who has been brutally stabbed to death.

Trapped in a world of doubt and fear, barred from contacting Max, Danielle clings to the belief that her son is innocent. But has she, too, lost touch with reality? Is her son really a killer?

With the justice system bearing down on them, Danielle steels herself to discover the truth, no matter what it is. She’ll do whatever it takes to find the killer and to save her son from being destroyed by a system that’s all too eager to convict him.

I connected most with the character of Danielle, Max’s mother. Even though there were certain times when I didn’t approve of some of her choices, ultimately she did what any good mother of a special needs child would do, she fought for him. For me, reading this book reminded me of all the people who have fought for me as I was growing up and throughout my life due to my Cerebral Palsy. Whether it was making sure that I was placed in the same classes as other kids my age in middle school or making sure I could get a single dorm room in college or be able to register for college classes early so I could make sure the classroom buildings weren’t too far apart in between back-to-back classes, I’ve always had people fighting for me. When I was growing up, and even now, that person has been my mom. It took me a long time to realize that her tough love was her way of fighting like hell for me to get the same opportunities as all the other kids my age. Nowadays, one of my previous physical therapists, Meredith, has acted as my biggest advocate in terms of getting a single room for college, etc. However, the strong realization over the past year is that I’m reaching an age where I have to be my own advocate, or at least figure out who the person is that I need to talk to in order to get a certain thing done, has been a little scary. Though I understand that it is because I’m getting older and I have to “take the reins” in a sense, I’ve always had others fighting for me. Though I know that they won’t go away simply because I start being my own advocate, when I was growing up, I was my own fighter in a different way. I fought to get up in the morning and not instantly start crying because of the pain that came so suddenly. I fought to try to keep a smile on my face because I knew that if I didn’t I would just break down. I fought to ignore all the stares, even when I would have liked to just scream at those kids that would walk by with their mouth gaping open, and who would turn around and look at me more even after their mothers had walked them past me already. I fought, every single day, and I still do. And I’ll fight to be my own advocate. It’s just been interesting to realize that I have to switch gears, while also realizing that I’m just fighting for what I have always deserved: the same opportunities that other kids my age have been given.

That being said, read this book. It’s amazing.