When you have something in your life, which you cannot change or fix, you are faced with two choices: fight it, or accept it, and try to live in harmony with it. For years I was in opposition with my CP, I fought it, I cursed it, I felt sad about it. I saw it as something external, something that was not part of me, not part of my identity, and quite frankly this attitude caused me a lot of pain and suffering in my teens and early 20’s. At one point it led me into a deep depression that took all my strength to get out of.
For me one of the main reasons I was fighting the CP at every turn was because I believed that if I “gave in” and accepted the CP, I would have somehow let it defeat me and control my life. And I most certainly did not want that, I didn´t feel like the CP defined me. Not only was I wrong that acceptance of the CP would cause it to define me, but what I also did not realize at the time was that a large part of my suffering came from my refusal of accepting it, much more so than from the CP itself.
Change Your Outlook, Change Your Life
The big change for me came when I shifted the general outlook and view I had on life. Up until this point I viewed my life in comparison with everyone and everything else around me. Why did I struggle living with CP, and none of my friends did? Why did I get tired after 30 minutes of playing soccer with my friends, and they didn´t? It didn’t seem fair.
The first lesson I learned to accept was that you should really not view life or elements of your life as fair or unfair. Fairness is always going to be subjective, and based on arbitrary things in your life or in the life of others. What I eventually understood through hours of soul searching is this:
Life is experience, and only experience. It is lived from moment to moment, every moment experiences arise and cease, a lot of the time without us being aware of it. If we learned to see every experience simply for what it is, and not judge it or have such partiality towards it, we would be much happier off in general. It is much better when you feel tired and your legs hurt, to simply acknowledge that now my legs hurt and I feel tired. Rather than comparing or wishing it to be different and saying to yourself “I really wish my legs wouldn´t hurt” or, “I wish my legs were like they were when I was younger”. But understanding that life is experience and should be viewed as such helps a lot to alleviate this constant need of comparing as well.
Everyone is Different
If you put aside all those feelings of struggles and unfairness, and the dark thoughts about being different for a moment and boil it down to its simplest form, it’s easier to see this reality.
We are all as humans born into this life with different conditions in our environments, family, friends, genetics, and some with physical or mental differences (that is all an handicap is really, it does not help anyone to define it, by viewing it as something “worse” than some perfect human ideal”).
Some of us are born blind, some are born with a learning disability, some are born with a physical condition, some are born with mental challenges, and even for those not born with any of these things, they are born into different social and material environments, and as such we ALL have a different set of things that make us experience life differently than another person. And just because we all have a different basis for experiencing life, we will naturally all interpret the experiences we encounter in our life differently. There are some things in your life you can control, like your general outlook to life, how you treat others and yourself, your actions etc. But then there is a part of your existence and life you cannot control, the CP is one of them, for another person it is something else, and that is neither good nor bad, it simply is what it is.
So if we all have different a different basis for experiencing life, why do we have a strong need to live up to some ideal of perfection, that most of us feel is unattainable? I think society is somewhat to blame for it, but also just human nature, we are social creatures, and are somewhat hardwired to compare ourselves with others in the “flock” so to speak. But do not underestimate what a shift in thinking; a paradigm shift if you will, can do to your life and your happiness.
Living With Your CP And Be Happy About It
I notice that in the CP community that there is often this trend to look at what we can do to make the CP less noticeable, or to try to “fix” parts of it, cure it if you wish. You will often times also encounter this focus because everytime you see a medical specialist about the CP, they will focus on what is “wrong” with you, and what is different. That is natural, its their job, but do not reduce the CP down to only things that are wrong with you. Accompanying this approach is often also a call to distance ourselves or our kids from the CP, saying that we do not want it to define our kids or ourselves. To that I say, why not? Why are we so afraid of the CP? It is part of us, it is part of who we are, and sure sometimes it can suck, and it can bring us challenges and frustration. But it is not going away, and whilst surgery and physical therapy can certainly help, and should be done if it can increase our quality of life, it should not be the primary focus.
My wish is that the primary focus of people with CP and the people around them is on how to enable people living with CP, to do so in harmony, and not see it as an enemy. I have had CP my entire life, and to me this is completely normal, I have no idea how it is like to not have it, and the CP is not going anywhere, so why should I waste energy focusing on something I can never have?
Being Different is Good
Some people look at me with a strange expression when I say to them I am thankful for the CP, but I truly am. It has defined me as a person, it really has, it has influenced how I view the world, how I look upon things in daily life, and challenges in general. I think in general it made me better at handling adversity in my life, because I was used to tackling it at an early age. It gave me a perspective on life, that is different from others, and that I can use to my benefit and good throughout my life, just as a different life experience for someone without CP would impact them and their view on life.
As my final point I want to emphasize that I think we should learn to be happy with who we are, and that also includes living with CP, just look at all the things in life you have, and what you can do, and be thankful for them, take what the CP has taught you, and apply it to your life, for your good, and those around you. I think you will see, that once you stop viewing the CP as an enemy or as something that must be fought, you will have a much easier time of it the next time it decides to give you a bit of trouble.
To conclude this post I would like to give a shout out and post a video from Charisse Hogan on youtube, called Beautifully Different, Charisse, in addition to having this rather popular YouTube channel also has a Facebook page found here. Her page is inspiring to follow as are her videos to watch! 🙂 Enjoy the video below:
As always, I would greatly appreciate if you shared your experiences in the comment field below, and if you found this article helpful, consider sharing it with your friends on Facebook and Twitter, etc. It really means a lot to me! 🙂 Thank you!
Cover image courtesy of DimaBerkut @ iStockPhoto.com