Tag Archives: Mentor

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.

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.

I’ve been published again…sort of.

27 Jul

Okay, let me clarify. I haven’t published anything new myself. However, I’m once again published in that my name is in the paper again. As I said a few days ago, my writing mentor and friend, Mike, wrote an article about me that was to appear in the Columbia Star, the newspaper where I interned back in 2009. I’m happy to announce that as of yesterday evening, that article is now in print as well as up on the Columbia Star website, so I thought I’d share it with all of you. 🙂

Meeting Amelia By Mike Cox

What Are Your Writing Triggers?

7 Apr

As I’ve said in previous writing posts, I’m a firm believer in “writing triggers,” or certain objects/locations/pictures/people who remind me of certain memories. Throughout writing my book, I’ve had to look for things to trigger certain memories of my childhood….or more specifically, the memories associated with physical therapy, Shriner’s, my CP, and just the different obstacles I’ve had to overcome.

Most people would naturally assume that my childhood home would be a pretty big trigger, but it’s not. Except for maybe the fearful times of attempted to get into the bathtub after my first surgery in 2003 and being terrified of my legs bending. See, I had just gotten out of wearing long-legs casts for eight weeks, and when your legs have been straight for that long, even minor movements could be painful. Anyway, my childhood home isn’t much of a writing trigger. I feel like most of my writing triggers have come from unlikely places…like seeing my knee immobilizers for the first time in years…driving past the places I’ve had physical therapy over the years…simply saying the word botox…or seeing Grace, an 11-year-old girl I know with CP, during her physical therapy sessions.

Over the past month, I have gone back and forth as to whether I want to go visit Shriner’s again, where I had all of my surgeries and intense physical therapy, and where I spent some solid chunks of my childhood. I haven’t been back in a number of years, and I remember how when we used to drive up to Shriner’s I used to get really nervous when we would take the White Horse Road exit, and then I’d get even more nervous when we were about 20 minutes away from the hospital. Knots would form in my stomach, and I’d look out the window and notice as much as I could….knowing that for the next few months my views would be confined to the walls of the hospital, despite the large amount of windows that didn’t give much of an “earthy view.”

Even though I think walking into the main lobby of Shriner’s wouldn’t have too much of an impact on me, I know that things would change when I’d go up to the second floor, and especially more so when I’d sit outside of the therapy room….realizing just how much pain a single room could hold. Part of me is thinking of waiting to visit Shriner’s until I’ve written the majority of my book because then I won’t have as much emotion aching to be released. I will have already released all of the really intense emotions. However, I am thinking of visiting once I finish my book to see if I could maybe give some type of talk to the kids there or try to sell my book to some of the families there.

I guess part of this writing process for me is channeling my pain and fear into something that can help others. I wish I would’ve had someone like me now to guide me as I was growing up…to show me that I was not alone…that what I was facing was painful and scary, but being reminded of the little things. Like how good it felt the first time I walked on my own, or what it felt like when I found my passion through writing, or the day that I realized I didn’t have to be defined solely by my Cerebral Palsy.