Tag Archives: Learning To Walk

The Disability Fight: It Never Ends, Does It?

23 Jan

I am still incredibly self-conscious in regards to the physical aspects of my disability. Though I may have reached a point where I am able to talk about my disability with more ease than ever before, I still haven’t developed a sense of confidence when it comes to the physical differences related to my Cerebral Palsy. I shrink away from the differences, silently wishing they were a part of someone else and not me.

When I see the severe curvature of my lower back in a mirror, I cringe. In the summer, when I give in and put on a bathing suit because of the heat, I hate to look down and see the scars on my legs from my intense surgeries. In just one moment, I am transported back to my intense surgeries, all the physical therapy I endured following those surgeries and the nights I’d wake up screaming and in tears because of the pain that seemed to come from everywhere all at ounce. When I am about to walk inside of a building and I see the reflection of myself in a door, I look away. I don’t have to look at my own reflection to know the way I’m swaying side to side as I walk with a visible stiffness in my legs. I don’t have to look at my reflection to know the way my knees still knock inward and the way I’m up on my tiptoes despite the operations I had to straighten my femurs and try to decrease the spasticity in my legs. I can formulate a picture in my head of myself walking that’s so accurate I want to scream. I’d give anything to not know every single detail of how the way I walk is different from how the average person walks. A part of me hates myself for my self-consciousness in regards to my walking. I spent my entire childhood going through intense surgeries and 15 years of physical therapy to reach a point where I could walk on my own without assistance and be as independent as possible. It’s not that I am not proud I can walk. I am. I know I should be jumping up and down on a daily basis because I am able to walk. But I don’t. I just can’t make myself do it.

If you were to ask me whether I’d choose to have CP over not having it, I’d say I’d rather have it because it’s made me into a much stronger person. But if you were to ask me if there’s anything I’d change about myself, I’d tell you that all I want is to look like everyone else. I don’t want to always be the target of stares from toddlers, and even adults, in grocery stores. I want to be able to stop having to cringe at the severe curvature of my lower back or look away from my scars and the pain I remember and still feel. I want to stop having to look away from my reflection because my knees are knocking together and I’m up on my tiptoes. In a way, that’s what all of the physical therapy and surgeries were for. It was to get me as independent as possible, or as close to being like everyone else as I could get. But even with all that work, I’m so far from being where I wish I could be. My balance sucks. I can’t go up or down stairs without a railing. I can’t put on a pair of pants without needing to be in a seated position. And on the days when I think of the things I can’t do and I’ve fallen more than what is normally expected of me during the course of a day, I cry. I cry because it is so, so hard to keep fighting this. No, I am not faced with a life-threatening health problem, so I’m not fighting for my life necessarily. But I’m still fighting just as hard. And it takes every ounce of strength in my body to wake up every morning and make the choice to face it all…again and again, even though all I really want to do sometimes is pull the covers over my head and hide.

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Being taught to fall.

19 Sep

In my early years of physical therapy, before all of my intense surgeries, I was taught how to fall. Though that may seem strange, it makes perfect sense when you realize that I was a kid who had a physical disability, which included having issues with balance on a daily basis. Because my physical therapist and my parents knew that I would be falling a lot, I had to learn how to fall so that I wouldn’t break or sprain my wrists every time my face met the concrete. I was taught to splay my hands out relatively wide when I felt like I was about to fall. However, the number one rule was to make sure my hands were out in front of me and that my palms were flat so that I wouldn’t injure any of my fingers. It seems like a relatively easy concept (one that would seem like common sense to an able-bodied person). However, things got a bit more difficult when I first began walking with four-prong canes. Since by that time I already knew I had to catch myself if I fell, I began to understand that I’d have to let go of the handles on my canes really quickly if I was going to catch myself in time. It wasn’t necessarily easy (since the canes ended up getting in my way), but I still did it.

Throughout middle school, my friends often told me I fell in slow motion. However, after seeing me fall countless times, my mom has told me that this isn’t the case. Although, it did cause me to wonder why my friends even thought to think that I was falling in slow motion if I clearly wasn’t. One of my first explanations is maybe since I “learned” to fall, my falls looked more controlled and slower, as opposed to just tripping randomly and landing flat on my face. Who knows though. As well as being told that I fall in slow motion, many of my falls go unnoticed. I remember one specific time when I was at the mall with my mom. My mom and I were shopping, and I don’t know if I was walking too fast or something, but either way, one minute I was walking and the next I was on the ground. However, when I looked up, my mom was walking away from me. I had to call to her, and only once she turned around did she realize that I had fallen down. Though it may seem sad that my own mother didn’t realize that her daughter had fallen down, I should point out that my falls were never really a big deal. I never made them a big deal unless I actually did hurt myself. They became such a regular part of my life that I didn’t make a scene when they happened. I just got back up and kept going.

However, on a day like today, falling isn’t such an easy thing to brush off. I fell a total of eight times today, and I have reached a point where I don’t fall too much anymore. Therefore, eight falls in one day sucks either way you look at it. Though it sucked that I was falling so much, when I realized that today was the first day that it actually got cold, the falls made more sense. When the weather starts getting cooler, my leg muscles get tighter, and tighter leg muscles lead to more falling. Add stress on top of that from recent exams this week and you’ve got an even higher probability of falling more. Unfortunately, even though I did learn how to fall in my early days of physical therapy, the falls can’t be prevented, no matter how much I wish they could. That’s life though, I guess.