I remember thinking life was really unfair. Why should I have to suffer through this life with CP, when the great majority of people could live a normal life? Why did I have get hours of pain after having played soccer with my friends, and why did I have to suck at every physical activity, and not able to get as good as my friends?
These were thoughts that were present in my mind from time to time, with varying frequency and intensity. You might say they were understandable, and in a sense they were, but they were just as dangerous as they are today. Its natural for everyone to get frustrated at their life and situation from time to time, especially if they view the cause of this frustration to be something unfair, that is not their fault.
What I didn’t understand at the time of course was that the CP/spastic diplegia was not the cause of my woes. My own mind was.
The thing with the mind is that it LOVES to reinforce our thought patterns and beliefs. So if you go around believing that the CP is a big problem and hindrance, it most likely will be. At the time I looked for reasons (without knowing it) to get frustrated and angry with the CP, and by that, also myself. And this constant repetition of negativity within in me also led to other even darker thoughts, surrounding my self-confidence, my own self-image and identity.
Ironically, in my attempt to distance myself from my CP, it had defined me even more. By constantly having it there at the back of my mind, feeding on my own negativity it took over my thoughts more and more.
If I failed at a task, it would be there, only to remind me how much I sucked, and why I did so, but also to remind me of how unfair it all was. Even if I accomplished something, it led me to question myself whether that was just luck or assuring myself that I would still find a way to fail at it, even after having initially succeeded.
It permeated every facet of my life, for example it completely took away my confidence and belief in myself when it came to girls. Who would after all, go out with someone like me, when they could find lots of guys out there without the physical handicap. That isn’t to say I didn’t hold any hope to find someone, I did, perhaps also out of necessity since all of this made me feel extremely lonely, and in need of understanding and companionship. The reason of course, unbeknownst to me at the time, was not primarily the CP; it was again, my own mind.
Who would want to be with someone, who didn’t even believe they could be a viable partner, or even worse not even have the courage to talk to someone because of shame? Nobody wants to be the shrink of their partner either, they want someone they can share experiences with, and most of all, depended on in a time of need for support and love.
Neither girls nor guys are stupid, and pick up on these things very quickly. I guess the old cliché to “love yourself first” applies pretty well in this case. (No, this is not an excuse to be a conceited douche 😉 )
Turning Point: Changing Perspectives
The turning point came when I realized what was going on and that I was creating a repeating pattern of my negativity in my mind and my life. As I’ve discussed in this article on the site and a few others, I used meditation as a tool to understand myself better. It helped me see my thoughts, in a more objective way, allowing me to see which were normal daily thoughts, and which ones that was clearly dominating my mind.
Then I started noting which thoughts the dominating ones were, and I started to look at them closer and analyze their validity I realized gradually that most of these were products of my own self doubt. One “proof” I have to show for this, is that my CP is not any better today than it was when I was depressed in my early to mid 20´s. If anything, its worse, if you count the late effects, but I am an infinitely happier person today.
Having the right perspective really makes all the difference.
One of the things that helped me was to turn to things that I was very comfortable with or already good at, things that were at least somewhat beyond the reach of negative thoughts; one such hobby for me was computers.
Since I struggled with feeling worthless and struggled with feeling like I could not contribute anything, another thing that helped me was to get a job. Even better I managed to combine both my need for a job and my confidence and strength when it came to computers when I got a job as an IT technician.
This helped greatly to counter my own negative thought patters, as it got harder and harder for my mind to convince it self I was worthless when I mastered tasks at work and people told me I was doing a good job.
During my meditations I also used this when I was reinforcing good thought patterns and trying to get my mind to stop attaching to negative thoughts as it was used to, and slowly but surely my perspective on life and myself changed. Sometimes you can’t change life, but you change how you relate to life.
Be Mindful and Take Control of Your Mind
One of the hardest things to do when you find yourself in a dark place mentally and you’re focused on negativity is to start thinking positively. Because you are in some senses going against what has become “normal” for your mind. It´s very easy to feel powerless and at the mercy of your own thoughts, but it is very important to remember that you are the one in charge of your own thought process. That is why it is so important to take control of your own thoughts and not be a slave so to speak to the whims of your mind. Below I listed a few of the things I learned from digging myself out of a dark place mentally, and I hope some of you find it helpful.
- One of the most important things to keep in mind is that this is an ongoing battle, and not something that can magically be changed in one day; the important thing is to take charge, and start making the change within you.
- If you are in opposition to your CP for example, this can lead to some bad mental states and struggles. I found it a lot more helpful to work on a adopting a more accepting attitude towards my CP, and view it as a part of me that gave me unique insights and experience, which I could use in my life. I also wrote a post just on this subject, called “Live in Harmony With Your CP”.
- Be mindful. The concept of mindfulness is getting very popular all around these days, and there is a good reason why. What it means is just to try to be aware of your own mind, your emotions and thoughts, and also life around you. It’s so easy to overlook and to take things for granted. If you notice the same thoughts reappearing a lot in your mind, it might be a good idea to write them down, and try to analyze them to see why they might be popping up. On the same note, if you notice the small victories in your every day life, you will slowly build your self-confidence and positivity.
- Find things in your life that gives you meaning and purpose. All of us need something to make us feel relevant, needed and appreciated, so it´s very good for your self confidence if you can partake in some activities where you can use the skills that you have, it might be a job, or it might just be an activity, no matter what, find things you master, and do them often!
I hope you guys found this post useful, and as usual I would appreciate it if you shared it on Facebook and Twitter if you did, as it helps the site grow. Also, if you feel like it, please do share your experiences and thoughts about how to change your perspective and work towards a happier life. 🙂
Cover photo by MrRSMan