Tag Archives: Writer

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.

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.

A yearly dose of The Bell Jar.

22 Dec

For the past 4 years, ever since I was 16, I have read Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar around this time of year. Though I never planned to re-read it every year around the holidays, that’s just how it turned out. In all honesty, The Bell Jar is probably one of the most depressing books I have ever read, but it is also one of the most accurate portrayals of madness, or descending into madness, from a literature standpoint that I have discovered as well. I guess you could say I love it because of its psychological aspects. However, despite how depressing the novel is, there is a reason Sylvia Plath is viewed as an acclaimed poet and writer. Her words, when put together, form sentences that allow you to feel something. Granted, the feelings her words bring to light aren’t necessarily happy ones, but in all honesty, Sylvia Plath wrote about life, her life. She didn’t sugarcoat it. She didn’t pretend she was happy when she wasn’t. She threw her readers right into the darkness and the loneliness of her life and her mind, and in a strange way, it’s beautiful.

Here are some quotes from The Bell Jar I thought I’d share:

  1. “Let me live, love and say it well in good sentences.”
  2. “I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery—air, mountains, trees, people. I thought, “This is what it is to be happy.”
  3. “I wanted change and excitement and to shoot off in all directions myself, like the colored arrows from a Fourth of July rocket.”
  4. “At this rate, I’d be lucky if I wrote a page a day. Then I knew what the problem was. I needed experience. How could I write about life when I’d never had a love affair or a baby or even seen anybody die? A girl I knew had just won a prize for a short story about her adventures among the pygmies in Africa. How could I compete with that sort of thing?”
  5. “I am sure there are things that can’t be cured by a good bath but I can’t think of one.”
  6. “Piece by piece, I fed my wardrobe to the night wind, and flutteringly, like a loved one’s ashes, the gray scraps were ferried off, to settle here, there, exactly where I would never know, in the dark heart of New York.”
  7. “It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they executed the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York.”
  8. “I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant loosing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.”
  9. “Secretly, in studies and attics and schoolrooms all over America, people must be writing.”
  10. “I had hoped, at my departure, I would feel sure and knowledgeable about everything that lay ahead — after all, I had been “analyzed.” Instead, all I could see were question marks.”
  11. “The sun, emerged from its gray shrouds of cloud, shone with a summer brilliance on the untouched slopes. Pausing in my work to overlook that pristine expanse, I felt the same profound thrill it gives me to see the trees and grassland waist-high under flood water—as if the usual order of the world had shifted slightly, and entered a new phase.”

Is there a specific book you make a point to read every year?

The capacity of the human heart.

10 Sep

The capacity of the human heart never ceases to amaze me….or more precisely, the ability of human emotions to keep us afloat. This time yesterday, my heart was full of sadness for a pet that passed away. However, right now, in this exact moment, I am incredibly happy.

Nothing particularly amazing happened today that lead to this happiness, which is why it feels a bit strange right now. I went to class, spent some time with friends (which included having my first pumpkin spice latte of the fall season, despite it not feeling like fall), and did some errands and schoolwork. See, just an average, run-of-the-mill Monday. Even though I have had moments in my life where a really shitty day is followed by a really amazing day, it doesn’t happen often.

The more I think about how I’ve felt today, the more I am reminded of a particular Elizabeth Gilbert quote about happiness:

Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings. And once you have achieved a state of happiness, you must never become lax about maintaining it. You must make a mighty effort to keep swimming upward into that happiness forever, to stay afloat on top of it.

Even though I feel that this quote definitely rings true for today, I also know that part of my happiness is stemming from the little things: being grateful that I got so much schoolwork done yesterday, realizing how lucky I am to have so much love and support from my friends, and the fact that every single day, I get to do what I love. Yes, I’m still in college. My immediate concern is my education, which is how it should be (thankfully, I love school, so it’s a fun adventure rather than a daily drag). However, at the center of my world and the center focus of my heart is my writing. I get to write every single day, and I love that I have that ability. Yes, it is a very simple act. However, it makes me feel completely and utterly alive. Even though that may sound a bit cliché, it’s the truth, and it’s the only way I’m able to express the amazing role that writing plays in my life.

It is because of writing that I am able to share my story with the world. Though that may not seem like a big deal to you, it means everything to me. In short, I grew up with a disability. I grew up going to physical therapy, having intense surgeries, and asking myself on a daily basis why I had to be different from every other kid my age. Even though I have come no closer to answering that question since I have begun writing my memoir, I do know this much. I know that I feel happier after I share a memory or a struggle with all of you. Knowing that there are people out there who are reading my words and who are encouraging me to keep on sharing my story is one of the main reasons why I keep on trudging through my incredibly painful past. However, the other main reason is because it makes my heart happy. Even though that may seem like a funny thought, it’s true.

Therefore, even though yesterday was incredibly hard in an emotional sense, I am grateful to the capacity of my heart to realize who and what make this life worth living.

Dedicated to Dawn.

7 Sep

I have so many memories of you, and through the years, I’ve tried with all my might to not let them fade. However, the fact that I haven’t seen you since I was in 8th grade of high school and the fact that you left to move to Virginia with your now husband are two solid reasons why I sometimes find those memories coming up short. You were my next to last physical therapist before I stopped going to physical therapy at the age of 15 because there wasn’t much more that could be done. At the age of 15, I was as independent as I was going to get (physically, at least). Even though you weren’t my last therapist before stopping therapy, you had the most impact on me. Well, you and Meredith, one of my other physical therapist’s who I’m still friends with today, did.

You taught me more than I think you ever realized. Then again, maybe that was because I looked up to you so much. Even though you were my physical therapist and you had to put me through a lot of pain if I was going to continue to be independent, you also never treated me as if I was a child. I remember the therapy sessions where we would talk about books, and movies and theatre productions. As well as being my physical therapist, you were my friend, and that’s what I needed. I remember the night that you came to see me in the beauty pageant that I was in at my school. I was so excited for you to come see me in the pageant, and I was especially glad that I walked all over that stage in my slip-on shoes without tripping or falling! I remember how proud of me you were. As well as pushing me to my true potential, you also praised me in certain situations too, and I believe that balance is why I looked up to you so much.

Your blonde hair and incredibly bright smile is forever etched into my memory. Also, you gave some of the best hugs I’ve ever received. I only wish that I could have one of those hugs now. However, I have no doubt that you are in Virginia enjoying life and making a difference in some other girl’s life without even knowing it. I remember how you always used to give me a mini Snickers bar after our therapy sessions. Best of all, on the days that you ran out of Snickers, we’d make walking over to the nearby Bi-Lo part of our “therapy.” I smile as I remember how you introduced me to the wonderful world of Self Check-Out. Even now, as I use the Self Check-Out on a regular basis when getting groceries for my apartment, every once in a while I think of that time in Bi-Lo when we bought Snickers together.

Even though I hate to admit it, I used to try to find you. Even though I did get one letter from you after you first moved, the follow-up letter was sent back to me. I never have been able to find your current address. However, sometimes I sit and hope that one day you’ll come back in to my life. Before you moved away, you gave me a purple journal, and inside it you wrote, “I can’t wait to go into a bookstore one day and see a book by Amelia Coonrod on the shelves.” Even at the age of 13, I knew that I would try with all my might to not let you down in that regard. As well as being my physical therapist, you were my friend, you laughed with me, and you believed in my writing. Though I silently hope that one day I may be able to truly tell you how you touched my life, I also know that this post may have to be exactly that. After all, in my mind, you are still the person I’ve always wanted to be when I grow up. Not in the sense of being a physical therapist. However, if I can touch some girl’s life the way you have forever touched mine, I will know what it is to truly live.

I learned that from you.

3 Sep

“Do not seek the because – in love there is no because, no reason, no explanation, no solutions.”-Anais Nin

“You don’t find love, it finds you. It’s got a little bit to do with destiny, fate, and what’s written in the stars.”-Anais Nin

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