why are you like that?
why do you walk so weird?
what happened to you?
These are common questions I get, mostly when I've been out in public, and from little kids. Usually I've never known how to answer them, even though I'm rarely approached about it now a days. How do you really explain to a five year-old (or however young they may be) that it's because your mildly handicapped? But then it dawned on me that it wasn't specifically because of that.
I was born prematurely, at three months before my origonal due date (Mom was only twenty-seven weeks pregnant with me at the time.) During my birth, the part of my brain that tells my legs how to walk correctly was lacking oxygen. I stayed in the NICU for about four months after and was diagnosed with cerebral palsy a year later.
Fast forward about seventeen years
I feel like I've come a long way in my life. For the first time in a long time, maybe if ever, I feel at peace; I'm at peace with my body, peace with the fact that I'm not exactly like everyone else (yet in the grand scheme of things, aren't we all different in one way or the other?) I see my circumstances and experiences as more of a blessing than anything else, and I'm grateful for all that I've gotten out of it.
Of course, I've also had my share of struggles. There was a time when I was angry and insecure about my situation; I felt like I didn't really fit in with my peers and began having self-asteem issues. When the gossip started flying, I never knew how to stick up for myself or not let it get to me. At the time, nothing was more painful than being told that my legs needed to be "fixed." I eventually stopped trying to talk about it and became depressed.
It took from the time I was in the eighth grade till about the end of my junior year of high school to finally get over it. I came to have a relationship with God and talked about my experiences openly, but I still dwelled on certain events, constantly going through the "what ifs." I chose to go to a private catholic high school instead of public, but closed myself off from the students there for a fear of having to go through the same thing again. Little did I know that I need a big attitude adjustment: I wasn't in control of my circumstances, but I was definately in control of how I dealt with them.
I do believe that I have changed (in a good way) because of that simple lesson. By putting myself out there, being confident, and finding little bits of joy every day, I've been able to live a better life. Granted, you can't just say once that you're going to change and expect things to be perfect from that point on; it something that needs to be worked on every day, little by little. Eventually it might just become second nature :)
I hate pity, and I definately don't want to be pitied by anyone. While life has been hard at some points, that doesn't mean that nothing good has ever come out of it. I don't want people to say "I'm sorry that you're like that" because I've honestly found alot of benefits and blessings. Like writing and appreciating nature, for example.
I don't vocalize my handicap as much as I used to now a days because I don't want it to dictate the way I live my life. I have dreams, goals, and ambitions and I'll be damned if I let cerebal palsy get in the way of it. I'm not sure what exactly the future holds, but I know who holds the future. And that kind of strength, that quiet strength, is what keeps me going.