I´m not one to sweat the small stuff. I´ve always tried to not care about the small things and to not let them get me down. Yet, when I look back at things that hurt me the most in regards to the CP, it was always the small things, that perhaps people didn’t think mattered as much.
It was very easy to see that I was not as fast as everyone else, or that my legs scissor inwards when I walked. Therefore the fact that I struggled to tie my shoelaces or write by hand was not payed as much attention to, after all they were small insignificant things, right?
I guess, in this case the saying “Many small brooks make a river” applies well, all those small things continued to chip away at my self-esteem and self-confidence. And because they were largely downplayed by everyone around me, made it worse, Maybe it wasn´t the CP, maybe I was just bad at all this things naturally. Maybe I was just born stupid?
Below I’ve created a list of 5 things that appeared small but really troubled me growing up, and some of them still do today.
1. Going to Physiotherapy/Doctors/Hospital.
Going to my weekly physiotherapy really got to me, not because it was extremely painful (it was painful at times thought) but mostly because of what it made me feel. I tried my best each day to see myself as a normal kid, who would try to participate in as many things as I could with my friends, to not feel different. Therefore it was extremely frustrating and depressing going to see the physio, or going on my check ups with the doctors or neurologist. Every time I was there, I was told what was wrong with me. Naturally, their job is to work with you to improve those things, so they talk about them a lot. But I don’t think they realized how much that affected me. To hear them saying things to each other like “Yes, his knees are scissoring inwards” “He is at x % of a normal rotation of the hips”. “The knee does not completely straightened out” “Both feet are spastic, the right one is worse”.
This may seem silly now, but at the time I remember both thinking and at times verbally defending myself, and especially the things they pointed out, saying things like “But, my right foot is great for passing the football! or “But I am able to stand on one leg a lot longer on my left! This was a normal self defense mechanism, because it didn’t only feel like they attacked the CP, they attacked me as a person, pointing out all the things that was wrong with me, all the things that didn’t work like it should. I don’t even think they realized how much this hurt. In fact, just writing this now makes my eyes water, even though I feel well passed this problem at this point in my life, it never quite goes away.
2. I struggled with a lot of small tasks because of my reduced fine motor skills.
I always wanted to feel as normal as possible. It may seem strange, but it was a lot easier for me to accept that I couldn’t win the 100m relay races, or be as good at skiing as my friends. Those were difficult tasks to begin with, that had an obvious link to my CP. It was a lot harder however to constantly run into things that were perceived as simple and elementary for even small children to accomplish, and not be able to do them. These things would include opening my lunch box, buttoning my jacket or pants, tying my shoelaces, managing to hold my cards correctly when playing a card game, as they would continuously fall out of my hand or I would end up inadvertently showing the others my cards. These are small things that everyone takes for granted, when I saw I couldn’t do them well, I felt incredibly stupid.
3. My Digestion System and Going to the Bathroom.
This was one of the hardest one to handle. There is something extra humiliating about not being completely in control of going to the bathroom when you need to, as you get older. My body would always signal me very late when I needed to go, because of that, sometimes I never made it there in time. It made me feel humiliated, small and stupid. In addition to that I was often very constipated, which I learned is common among those with CP, although I was never told that at the time. This would lead to me going weeks without going to the bathroom, if you couple this with my already strained relationship with these basic human needs, you can start to imagine, that this really impacted me mentally. I would actually get anxiety attacks or feel nervous every time I was at someone else place on my own, because of the bathroom situation.
4. I didn’t understand a single thing when it came to Math.
A lot of people have problems with math’s, that is not something exclusive that people with Cerebral Palsy struggle with, but I feel pretty confident that my extremely poor math skills is at least somewhat influenced by the CP, something which my doctors and neuropsychologists have agreed to. It was not that I didn’t get algebra, or that I didn’t get addition the first time around, I would struggle with the most basic of concepts. And even if I managed to learn it during class, the knowledge would be completely gone the next day, as if it never existed. And it was not for lack of trying, I spent hours upon hours each single day at home, to the point were I was in tears, just trying to do some of my math homework. That lead to me feeling incredibly stupid and hating everything that had to do with math for my entire schooling. That is until I started the last year of High school, were I got my own private math teacher, who specialized in teaching kids with different learning disabilities. He taught math in a completely different way, and without him, I would have never passed High School. So thank you Yngve 🙂
5. I would be extremely slow when I had to write by hand.
For the first years of my education, up until the end of elementary school, I had to do my assignments just like everyone else, by hand. Not only did my motor skills challenge me once again, and force me get cramps from writing, but I would spend much, much longer than everyone else in the class accomplishing everything, even though I knew the correct answers. Akin to math, I also spent hours and hours doing this at home, so it was safe to say, homework time was a frustrating and dreaded time for me. I know if you ask my mother, she will indeed tell you that it was a struggle, and that she would have to endure the occasional outbursts of rage and frustration, and me throwing away my books screaming. The reason for this was not because I was bored, for the most part I loved learning, and I did well in many subjects, but practical tasks such as these frustrated me to end, because I struggled a lot with them, it chipped away at me, and decreased by self esteem by a lot each time. Thank God for the computer!
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