Living without the Label

Dec 29, 2010
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I am 34 years old. I work and own my own home. I earned more than one college degree.  Does it sound like I am reciting a resume? Sometimes I feel that way in my interactions with the world. I have been called “inspirational” and “courageous”. I am not these things. I am just a woman who tries to live the best life I can.

I often raise the question:  What is “it” that makes me inspirational or courageous?  I walk differently. My movements are stiff.  My hips swivel.  My feet drag. Premature birth caused me to walk the way I do. Spastic Cerebral Palsy (CP) is the diagnostic label and the cited reason for the way I walk. Cerebral Palsy is also the force that shaped my attitude, drive, and approach for living my best life.

CP is just a fact of my life. I had to learn to adapt. Walking from one place to another, I am slower.  I exert more energy.  Because I use support devices, crutches, my hands are not free to carry groceries, an umbrella, or even a purse. There are alternatives for all of these dilemmas.  I hire someone to assist me with groceries.  I use a shoulder strap for carrying a purse. There is no easy answer for the umbrella other than I get wet because I am too stubborn to wear a hat.

People with any type of disability have to become proficient at adapting. Most are excellent planners and are masters of their time. We give up time to move and function in the world. What I describe here is not courage. It is adapting to a circumstance that I do not control.

I have had to become a master at communicating- to relate, advocate, and educate the world. The primary message is always: I am just me.  CP does not define the core of who I am.  I may walk differently but there is nothing wrong with my brain. The label of CP does not make me spectacular or comparable to an Olympic athlete. Adapting is not done by choice. The choices I make are around what kind of life do I wish to have?

I choose to embrace a life of possibility over limitation.

Author: Kerry