Tag Archives: Difficulties

Changing the Face of Disabilities.

24 Feb

Last semester, I had a professor who I really connected with on a more personal level. Though we discussed my role as a student, we also discussed a role I didn’t think I could inhabit so fully: my role as an advocate, especially for those with disabilities. One evening following my night class with this specific professor, we discussed my life, my future, and all the many obstacles I’ve faced to get to where I am today. It was an incredible conversation, one in which I truly felt heard, and it’s something I will never forget.

Specifically, after much discussion regarding my Cerebral Palsy, my past of physical therapy, surgery, pain and hardship, my professor mentioned how she had been wanting to talk about my disability with me for quite some time but didn’t know how to broach the subject with ease. However, once I completed a project for her class in which I discussed the topic of disability discrimination, she knew I was comfortable and wouldn’t mind hearing any questions she had.

As we talked about my life and my future aspirations of writing my memoir and becoming a social worker, I slowly began to realize I had gained a mentor. I had gained someone who not only supported and believed in me, but someone who pushed me to look more closely at myself and my potential. Since I have only truly connected on a more personal basis with one or two other teachers throughout my life, this experience was incredible. It gave me a chance to open up, to share my life, in a way I wouldn’t have otherwise been able to do if I hadn’t had the courage to open up about my disability through a big research project which was presented to the whole class. Specifically, during our conversation, my professor said, “Amelia, you have the power to completely change the face of disabilities.”

I have striived to be an advocate for others with disabilities since as a kid, I wished I had had a kind of mentor who I could talk to about the difficulties of living with a physical disability. In my opinion, having the chance to talk to someone who had been there would have really helped me, so I long to be that person for others. Therefore, when my professor told me I have the power to completely change the face of disabilities, I was floored. I truly felt proud to receive praise of such a high honor. The simple fact that someone believed I had the potential to achieve something so lofty was amazing.

Recently, I thought about what my professor said last semester, and how great it made me feel. As I mentioned that conversation to a friend recently, she said, “Amelia, there’s something you don’t see: you already do change the face of disabilities.” I stared at my friend, confused, not understanding what she meant. She explained by saying, “You change the face of disabilities just by being yourself. You bring awareness to what Cerebral Palsy is. You provide special needs families with the hope that it’s possible to overcome incredibly difficult obstacles. But you know what the best part is? You overcome it all with a smile on your face the determination to keep going no matter what.” The wonderful thing is I didn’t see how I was changing the face of disabilities just by being myself. I imagined I wouldn’t be able to do that until I aimed to do something more tangible, something I could point to and say, “Yes, I brought about that change.”

It’s caused me to realize that maybe being an advocate and lifting others up has many parts. Maybe it doesn’t just involve the tangible changes we can point to with pride. Maybe it’s the little things too: the connections I strive to make with the families of children with special needs at my internship, the talks about CP and bullying I’ve given at elementary schools, and the connections I’ve strived to make with others with special needs through my blog.

Recognizing my abilities to change the face of disabilities definitely isn’t easy. Maybe it takes hearing it from others before I start to believe it. However, as I’ve been told, I’m already doing it just by being myself. As of now, there’s only one way to go in order to continue along this path: forward. I don’t know all the answers. I don’t know the secret to living life with a physical disability without letting it pull you into despair and self pity. But I do know one thing: All I have ever been is myself. Maybe that’s the only secret that matters.

Monday’s inspiration.

12 Nov

Life in general was cruel and offered only different types of voids and chaos. The only way to tolerate it, to have any hope of escaping it, I reasoned, was to know my own strength, to defy life by surviving it. -from Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy

Beyond The Waves by Elizabeth Marek: A Book Review.

6 Jun

During one of my many trips to my favorite used bookstore in Asheville, I came across Beyond The Waves by Elizabeth Marek when looking through the bargain books. After reading the synopsis on the back of the book, it seemed like a book I’d like, but more than that, it seemed like the type of read that I’d pay much more than one dollar for. I’ll take the deals where I can get them though!

Psychologist Abby Cohen is still reeling from the loss of her beloved daughter when another young girl arrives in her life-twelve-year-old Miranda, who appears at Abby’s hospital mute, terrified, and completely alone. In her struggle to connect with this deeply disturbed child and unravel the mystery of her past, Abby must grapple with her own frozen self.

Numbed by grief and on the verge of losing her relationship with both her husband and little boy, Abby finds herself tempted to leave behind what is left of the family she once cherished. But something about Miranda and the bond that has begun to form between them awakens Abby’s capacity to feel, and reminds her of the power-and the limits-of love.

The way the characters of Abby and Miranda came together in order to deal with the demons of their different pasts was moving to me. I was most drawn to the character of Miranda simply because my heart ached for her and the mysterious past that she seemed to be very troubled by. Through much of the book, Miranda was afraid and alone. Though that was heartbreaking for me, it was also a very huge reminder of why I want to be a counselor myself. Psychologist Abby Cohen tries throughout the book to connect to Miranda, despite the fact that Miranda seems very frightened and alone. However, that’s all the more reason that I strive to connect with others. Though my past wasn’t as extreme as it could have been, it wasn’t easy. I spent so many years afraid, in pain, and surrounded by doctors and parents, and yet feeling utterly alone. When I was going through my intense physical therapy and 3 intense surgeries, I wanted someone who understood or at least could be there to remind me that I wasn’t alone through all the pain. Studies show that every person benefits from a strong support system. Though I had support from my parents and other family members, that wasn’t the kind of support I was looking for. Even though at the time there wasn’t a friend who was aching to understand, what I didn’t know at the time was that the support was coming.

My support came during my junior year at Salem Academy when I met my best friend, Skidmore. Skidmore was the very first person I completely opened up to in regards to all the details of my past. Every memory of pain, fear, loneliness….Skidmore knows it. Realizing that I had someone to share everything with was big, but once I began to understand that Skidmore longed to know so that she could understand who I truly was, I practically never stopped talking. I mean, it came out slow (the details of my past), but it felt so good to tell someone. Telling someone about my pain, fear, and loneliness and having them not judge me or feel sorry for me, but just love me….scars and all…that’s what I had been looking for, and I found it. Though I know have other friends who are an equal amount of support, no one knows as much as Skidmore does. Once I said everything single memory in detail once, it seemed like enough. I mean, my other friends know me really well too, but I guess you could say that since Skidmore was the first person who seemed to want to understand me for exactly who I was, that’s what she got: the stories of pain and fear that I carried around for so long without telling anyone. The stories that, though they don’t define me, are the truest form of the difficulties I’ve faced that I can possibly show.

Monday’s Musings.

23 Apr

It’s Monday aka the beginning of finals week. I realized that I haven’t made a motivation list in a while, so here are the things that are helping me get through finals week.

  • Summer!–I’m done on Thursday, and then it’s me and pleasure reading for weeks on end. Ah, it sounds so amazing. I can’t wait!
  • Alison Krauss and Union Station concert with my mom on Saturday!–We both love Alison Krauss. Her voice is simply beautiful, and I can’t wait to hear her perform live.
  • Sleep!–Which is always something college kids look forward to since not much sleep occurs during finals. I can’t wait to just cuddle up in my comfy bed with a book, reading late into the night.
  • IRELAND!–Yes, this probably should have been first on the list, but I won’t be leaving for Ireland until around June 18th, so I’ve got a while to wait. However, it’ll be exciting to put together packing lists and figure out all the cool places my mom and I are going to see when we travel around for a week before my program in Galway begins. I’m really happy that we will be able to experience Ireland together!
  • Spending quality time working on my memoir!–I haven’t be able to dedicate long spans of time to working on my memoir in a while since I’ve been busy with finals and work, etc, but I’m glad that I will be able to spend more time with it this summer. I’ve been in somewhat of a writing rut recently, but I think that’s partly because I’ve reached the point where I finally have to confront some of the really delicate memories that I’ve put off dealing with. However, this summer will be a good time to do that since I won’t have much else to focus on that’s important.

That’s about it for what’s getting me through this week, but I can do it. One day at a time, right?

Life has no smooth road for any of us; and in the bracing atmosphere of a high aim the very roughness stimulates the climber to steadier steps, till the legend, over steep ways to the stars, fulfills itself. -W.C. Doane

What are some things helping you get through this week? What do you use as motivation when you know a busy week is coming up?

Do You Need A Beta Reader?

15 Mar

Over the last few days, I’ve been asked to be a Beta Reader for 2 of my fellow bloggers, Rmengena and Katrina. And wow, what an honor! From what I’ve heard, a Beta Reader is someone who reads another writer’s work before it is published and gives feedback like: Is it interesting? Does it pull you in and hold you? Does it make sense? Did the writer contradict the story line? All in all, it’s proofreading the story line and plot, rather than paying attention to spelling or grammar. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to be a Beta Reader for two great writers!

I’ve known what a “Beta Reader” is long before I knew the person was called a “Beta Reader.” Since beginning to write my current book (a memoir of what it’s been like growing up with Cerebral Palsy), I’ve had one Beta Reader, one of my best friends, Kayley. Though I technically just wanted her opinion on the first few pages that I had written, she gave me much more feedback considering she is a writer herself (which was very helpful). Also, she knows the basics of what I’ve been through, and so she was able to point out places that I needed to expound on something or try to be more clear. Also, she was able to point out all the really good parts of what I’ve written so far so that I know what types of things to add. Though she only read the first seven pages, her feedback was incredibly helpful. Also, it was a plus that she is a writer herself (even though she doesn’t do much writing these days), but it was nice to have a writer’s point of view.

I didn’t really understand the importance of a Beta Reader until I had Kayley read what I’ve written so far. She was able to bring to light some things that I hadn’t considered before, and she helped me think of the different directions I could go when mentioning certain memories. Over all, it was helpful to have fresh eyes, but it also was nice to have someone read the first few pages who wasn’t face to face with the information. See, that’s the tricky part about writing this memoir of sorts. I’ve been knee-deep in memories and emotions for the past few months. No matter how hard I try to look at it in a writer’s broader point of view, I just can’t at this point. I’m too close to the details, and so I’m unable to see the larger picture of my book as a whole. I have a feeling that the more I write, the less I’ll be glued to the words themselves and the strong pull of emotions that put me head first into my memories. Then again, maybe not. However, that’s why it’s really great to have a Beta Reader: someone to point out things that maybe you haven’t thought of or someone to suggest including certain things that you didn’t take into account. The beginning interpretation that I had of my own book is different from my interpretation after Kayley was my Beta Reader. Though it was emotionally hard for me to sit there and talk through memories with her, it got me out of the rut that I’ve been in for the last couple of weeks. Through her advice, I’m moving forward. I’m including certain experiences that I didn’t consider. I’m giving the world a deeper look into what it has been like for me to live with Cerebral Palsy. And I’m doing it all with words.

Strength.

8 Feb

It’s been a hard week so far, and it’s only Wednesday. Last Monday, I started writing my book on how I’ve overcome having CP and being different, and over the past few days, I’ve been writing a good bit. Though it feels good to get my emotions on paper, I feel like I’m just breaking all over again. Yes, I’ve faced a lot, and it’s made me stronger. But through the writing process of this book (and let’s face it….it’s in its super early stage), I’ve been forced to emotionally relive all the painful (both emotional and physical) things that I’ve faced in my life.

I like to say that I’ve pretty much accepted myself, but there are some experiences that never can really be accepted. There are always going to be some things that are going to hurt no matter what, and I understand that. It’s just hard that as I’ve been writing my book, I’ve cried through it….I’ve had moments where I feel like I can’t breathe…and there have been instances where I ask myself if facing all this pain again is truly worth it? But then I think of Grace, a 10-year-old girl with Cerebral Palsy that I love so much. She reminds me so much of myself as a kid that it hurts. I spent a day last year keeping her company during her physical therapy session (her physical therapist who was also my physical therapist is a good friend of mine). Anyway, as I watched Grace during her PT session, I was able to observe her more closely. I see the way she looks at life….with so much happiness and a smile that can brighten even the darkest of days. I see the flashes of pain in her eyes…but the way she tries so hard not to show it. Every once in a while, I see her strength waver ever so slightly….wondering if trying so hard is going to be worth it since “moving forward” is more of a back-and-forth action than just strictly forward. I see all the pain that she’s faced, and I can’t help but smile. She’s doing well. She’s pushing on through. But then I see the pain she has yet to face. I remember all the pain that I went through that she hasn’t experienced yet. And it breaks me. I cry sometimes, because I know that there’s nothing I can say that would convey how I feel. It hurts to watch her face all the things that I went through, but at the same time I just can’t help but look.

In a way, this book is going to be dedicated to Grace. I hope that one day she can get to a point in her life where she can look back and see all the challenges she’s overcome, while also realizing that facing those challenges has made her a much stronger person. “Stronger person” is a tricky phrase though. Throughout my life, people have called me strong. Strong for facing what I have. Strong for pushing through. Strong for coming out the other side as a better person. I understand why people would say things like that. So many people explain strength as when people are able to hold it together when everyone else is expecting them to fall apart. However, I’ve never been a fan of that explanation since it assumes that crying or giving in to your emotions is “weak,” and it’s not. See, the way I look at it, I don’t have strength because I faced the obstacles throughout my life. I faced all the shit in my life because I didn’t have a choice. I mean, what was I going to say: “Oh, I’d rather not learn to walk. Thanks though.” No. I doubt anyone would say that. I mean, pushing through it all was my only option. However, that’s not to say it was easy. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever experienced, and it still continues to be an emotional challenge. Though I’ve gotten past a good chunk of the physical pain, the emotional pain is still there. The feeling of not fitting in or belonging. Dealing with all the staring. Being judged. It’s all still there, and it always will be. But I’ve found yoga, wonderful friends, the amazing escape of books and music, writing, and ultimately, a home in the mountains. So…maybe strength is realizing that even when you’re faced with a ton of difficulty, it’s still possible to love your life.

The Feeling Of Being Needed.

16 Jan

Over the past few days, I’ve realized how amazing it is to be needed. I’ve always loved the feeling, but over the past few days, I’ve realized how special it is. To know that someone needs you, but also knowing that simply “being there” is enough. I’ve been needed by a friend recently, and I love it. I love knowing that me just being present is a huge help.

We all face difficulties throughout our lives, and through it all, it helps to have a friend by your side. Someone to help you through it and keep you busy so you don’t have time to dwell on the hard parts. Personally, I know that without my friends, certain days would just be unbearable. They make me laugh when I feel like crying, all the while helping me see all the good things that are in my life. I’ve been described as an “all-or-nothing” type, and I guess I am. The type who can dwell on certain things for a while and has to be reminded to focus on the good. I think over the past few months, I’ve attempted to redirect that focus. This past Friday when I was at my weekly restorative yoga class, I began to realize where my mind drifted when I was striving to “be present.” It wandered to homework and classes and grocery lists and my schedule of things for the week. I realized that my mind didn’t seem to wander to the happy things. Out of habit, it focused on the “to-do” lists and the mundane things that needed to be done. Though this was aggravating, it was something that helped me.

In connection with the feeling of being needed, it’s been nice to take the focus away from myself. Though I don’t feel like I constantly focus on myself, I know that my continued worry and anxiety may make it seem like that. Therefore, over the past few days, it’s been nice to be able to focus all of my attention on the happiness and well-being of someone else. Ultimately, I feel like this is an important concept to learn to master since I’m planning to go into a career of counseling. Just learning the concept of focusing my energy and attention on the person in front of me rather than focusing on myself. However, in terms of being a counselor, it’s important to feel completely confident in one’s past, flaws, and all sorts of different things that make us unique. Because first and foremost, we’ve got to want to help ourselves if we want to feel confident in helping others, right?