Tag Archives: Sharing My Story

Try like hell.

27 Sep

Sometimes I wonder what my life would have been like if I hadn’t been born with Cerebral Palsy. I wonder if I would have decided to be a dancer or maybe an athlete rather than an aspiring psychotherapist and a writer. I wonder if I would have spent my childhood climbing up into trees to read books rather than becoming all too familiar with hospitals, surgeries, and physical therapy. I wonder if I would have had a big group of friends throughout middle school and part of high school rather than coming home every day crying because I had no friends due to my differences. I wonder if I would have spent my time hiking beautiful mountains rather than having to wonder if I’d have the stamina to make it up the next hill.

Earlier this week, my dad said, “Sometimes I wonder what it would have been like if you hadn’t been born with Cerebral Palsy. You could have had a wonderful life. You wouldn’t have had to struggle so much.” Though in the moment I wanted to interject and say I have had a wonderful life, I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t say the words. As soon as I wanted to say something, the memories all came back. I saw myself sitting in a hospital bed screaming out in pain because of the spasms that wouldn’t stop. I saw myself in kindergarten getting my hair pulled every day because I was the one child on the playground who was unable to run away. I saw myself shaking as my classmates pelted me with doge balls during middle school gym class because I couldn’t move away quickly enough. I saw myself crying as a girl I didn’t know imitated the way I was walking and then said she did it because it was a “class assignment.” I see myself at 21, struggling with depression and still not being able to truly accept and be comfortable with having a physical disability.

You would think after 21 years I would be used to the cards I’ve been dealt in this life. The truth is, I’m not. Every day of my life is a challenge. On top of having to convince myself to go to class when my back and my muscles hurt, I have to try to convince myself to get out of bed and face the day even though I’d rather sleep to escape the overwhelming sadness and hopelessness that hovers over me like a dark cloud.

I’m trying to learn to hold on to the good moments, though they are few and far between. The color of the changing leaves during autumn, the few (but true) friends who have been by my side through all of this darkness, a dad who has never given up on me, a smile from a child fighting cancer after completing an art project I taught her. In the darkness of depression, it is very hard to remember those good moments, especially when the bad days outnumber the good. However, I’m trying. It’s all any of us can really do. We try like hell, and hope against all odds that we can kick this life just as hard, if not harder, as it kicks us every single day.

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Janine Shepherd TED Talk: A broken body isn’t a broken person.

6 Dec

Janine Shepherd TED Talk: A broken body isn’t a broken person

Despite this TED Talk by Janine Shepherd being her story of recovery after getting hit by a truck during a training bike ride for the Olympics, it is also an incredibly inspirational story about the power of the human spirit.

Even though my Cerebral Palsy wasn’t something that “happened” to me and rather something I was born with, I can relate to so many of Janine’s feelings that she expresses during her journey of recovery. Despite Janine’s accident, she eventually finds something that allows her to find a new, if not better, dream. In many ways, I can relate to the idea of having a situation allow you to discover something you never thought possible before. No, my Cerebral Palsy is not an “accident,” but through the slow process of learning to accept it (as well as all the emotions that go along with it), I have discovered that I want to help others realize that they too can have dreams despite their disabilities.

Writing is and has always been my dream. Though there was a period of time that I took a step away from it, I came back…as all true writers do. I took a break from it because I realized I was beginning to feel as if I was writing for others instead of myself, which was taking the joy and love out of what I was doing. However, I’ve come back to it…in a much different way, but with so much more gusto. During the years of my surgeries and intense physical therapy, I did write about what I was facing. I came across the original copies of those stories last year when my parents were getting ready to move from my childhood home. As I sat on the bedroom floor of my childhood home, I was transported back into the mind of an 11-year-old girl who was feeling so many different versions of pain, and yet was still able to describe what she was feeling and seeing with uncanny accuracy.

Even though the early stories that I wrote regarding my surgeries lacked the level of understanding that I have uncovered over the last year, they have provided me with a way to remember the details. I often forgot how much we are able to take in during our younger years, and through reading my own life experiences through the eyes of my 11-year-old self, certain details came back to me: details that will do nothing but increase the level of authenticity within my memoir. Yes, the raw truth with which I wrote when I was going through my intense surgeries was hard to take in all in one sitting. However, it was necessary. Reliving it all is honestly what the process of writing my memoir and sharing my story is all about.

Maybe I will share one of those stories with all of you one day. But for now, they are for me. They have provided me with the perspective of my younger self, and there’s something truly special about having that ability. Incorporating the perspective of my younger self with the understanding I have now is just going to make the journey of sharing my story with the world even more powerful.

Diving below the surface.

6 Oct

I want people who write to crash or dive below the surface, where life is so cold and confusing and hard to see. I want writers to plunge through the holes—the holes we try to fill up with all the props. In those holes and in the spaces around them exist all sorts of possibility, including the chance to see who we are and to glimpse the mystery.-Anne Lamott

Today, I finished reading Anne Lamott’s book, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. This quote from the book really stuck with me. Over the past few months, I’ve been drawn more and more to books about writing and what it takes to be a writer. Though I don’t read the books in order to remind myself why I write, I do read them in order to remember that many of the emotions that I feel as a writer don’t enclose me. Rather, they allow me entry into one of the most special worlds I’ve ever known: the world of writers.

I first began to write because I felt like no one understood what I was feeling. Writing was the way that I could be completely myself without having to explain why I felt or didn’t feel certain emotions. As I sat in my childhood bedroom at the age of 8 with a journal and pencil in hand, I realized that I didn’t have to hide. I could pour my entire self into my words, and the only person who had to read those words was me. However, more recently through this blog, I have started to understand the strong sense of community and belonging that I’ve been looking for for so long. It’s been right here, waiting for me to discover it. The world of writers is one that is very hard to explain to those who aren’t writers. However, for those of us who are writers, we know what our world is like. We wake up in it every morning. We plunge into it on a daily basis when we sit down at our computers to write out what is itching to be released. We know what it’s like on the bad days when the words won’t come, when it’s too pretty outside to sit in front of a computer that holds the daunting blank Word document. However, we also know the joy of the little victories: completing a chapter, getting an article published, the sense of relief that comes when another writing project is finished. Even though those little victories can keep us afloat for longer than we imagined, it’s the recognition we want. I don’t mean being the next New York Times Bestselling author or making millions of dollars. I mean being told by one single person that our words have touched them or helped them in some way. That’s the prize, “the big kahuna.” It’s what keeps me coming back to my desk, day after day, to share my story.

I haven’t opened the Word document that houses my memoir in a matter of months. Even though I could use the excuses of college classes, friends, work and other random responsibilities that pop up for juniors in college, I’d just be fooling myself. I’m naturally an introspective person. However, the kind of introspection that my memoir has involved has brought me face to face with memories that I never thought I’d have to experience again. However, for many writers, that’s what writing is. It’s facing our demons and learning to accept them so that we can move on to a better and more fulfilling life. I know from experience that it’s incredibly hard. It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I keep trudging along though. I keep on “diving below the surface” of my life for the chance of impacting just one person, for the chance to be part of the reason that they feel even just a little less alone.

When in Ireland, sit in comfortable silence.

19 Jul

“Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.” -Anais Nin

Friendship is completely wonderful, but in the beginning, it can be a bit scary. How do you decide which people to allow entrance into your world? How do you pick the ones who you not only speak to about the petty things…but the deeper things…the things you know aren’t necessary to share? How do you choose one person from another? What makes one person more worthy to hear your story…to enter your world?

I’ve always been really good at making friends, and after a good chunk of years spent in counseling, I’ve become very open regarding who I am. Even now though, I know that I still have to be careful when choosing who I can open up to. It’s a hard decision though. So many times I just don’t even want to go into the deep things because I know that I already have a friend who has heard all that crap. However, another part of me aches to open up to people because even though I know that my past doesn’t define me, it is what has made me who I am today. Without it, I wouldn’t be the person sitting here writing this blog. I’d be someone different.

I don’t doubt that many people have moments in their life where they wonder what it would be like to live a different life. Maybe that’s what friendship creates for us. The opportunity to enter another person’s world almost in a way in which we can place ourself in that world any time we are with that particular friend. However, at the same time, even when friendship gives us the opportunity to get a glimpse into another possible life we could be given, it also allows us to see that if we are unhappy with an aspect of our life, we can try to change it. It may not be easy. It may be really hard, and it may hurt more than you ever imagined…but if a different life is what you long for, then the pain would be worth it in the end.

I’m grateful for the friendships that Ireland has allowed me to find, the most important one being the friendship with Alex, my roommate and friend. Since I’ve had some negative roommate experiences in the past, I was worried about having a roommate again. However, it’s turned out to be the best decision. First off, Alex and I get along really well, so sharing an apartment for the past few weeks has been fun. It’s going to feel so weird to go back home and realize that I won’t be having breakfast with Alex every morning. Alex has also been a great support for me and has stuck by me throughout this experience. Often times, even when I become friends with someone, I can tell that some people have a hard time hanging back and realizing that I can’t move at the same pace as everyone else. It’s really nice that my slower pace doesn’t bother Alex. However, I do make the point to remind her that she is welcome to have time to herself to go and explore things at her own pace. Thankfully, though we enjoy spending time with each other, we both also like time to ourselves, so it’s been a nice balance for the both of us.

I came to Ireland worried. Though I don’t have trouble meeting people and making friends…trying to make friends in an unknown place where you don’t know anyone is a completely different ball game. However, I haven’t had too much trouble making friends since being here. Maybe it’s because I’m in Ireland and it’s amazing. Or maybe because I’ve finally realized that not everyone needs to know every detail of my story. Since speaking about my past gives me a sense of relief, it would make sense to speak about it as often as I can. However, it’s not a necessity. In all actuality, not everyone is going to genuinely care that much. It’s not as if my soul will break if I don’t open up to most of them. Truthfully, maybe it shows more courage to not always bring it up. Because maybe true friendship is realizing when to open up and when to sit in comfortable silence, allowing nature to be the central focus of your “conversation.”

Are You In Need Of A Writing Push?

13 Jun

“The great thing about dreams is no one else controls them.”

The above quote was told to me by one of my writing mentors 3 years ago, and I haven’t been able to get it out of my head recently. Yesterday I got some great support from the same writing mentor who told me the above quote.

Even though I haven’t touched my memoir in quite a while, the simple realization that there are people out there aching for me to share my story as much as I’m aching to get it out is enough of a push to help me to understand that I can’t stop writing. I can’t stop writing, even on the days when it hurts so much to emotionally revisit my painful past. I owe it to myself as well as those who love me to share my story of what it’s been like to live with, and ultimately overcome, Cerebral Palsy.

So here is my mantra as of today: Write On.

Have any of you recently needed a push to keep on writing? What has been your fallback when looking for something (an object or something abstract) to push you to keep digging for the words that you long to share with the world?