Yesterday marked the beginning of Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month. Instead of writing more about what it means to me to live with this condition, I thought I’d talk a bit about the importance of self-love.
Of course it’s easy for me to rave about the friends in my life who have cerebral palsy and how amazing they are. It’s easy to do because it’s so true; they are amazing. Although, obviously it may be easier to give everyone else the love and praise you deserve to give yourself. I think we’re just super critical of ourselves all the time, and I’m no different. I’m super hard on myself in almost all aspects of my life, including when it relates to my disability. I’m not necessarily referring to the struggles I face physically. I’m referring to the struggles I face emotionally.
I honestly battled with self-love for a long time. My disability completely skewed how I viewed my body image, and I felt truly uncomfortable in my own skin and my own body. I wanted to escape, but everywhere I went the CP followed me. There were subtle and obvious reminders all over the place that manifested physically: my high tone levels; the spasticity; the sway in my gait as I literally tried to get from any point A to any point B. I didn’t treat my body that well when I hit my teenage years. I resisted going to physical therapy and didn’t do my stretches at home. I didn’t exercise very often, which is so, so important.
In retrospect I think the hardest parts of loving myself arose because deep down I felt like I didn’t deserve any of it. That realization became all the more apparent when I turned 19 and got involved in my first romantic relationship. Perhaps the saying “we accept the love we think we deserve” is true. Perhaps it’s not. I do think we really have to love ourselves before we can give that love to someone else, otherwise what’s the point?
It took a lot of work, but eventually, I reached a new state of mind. I realized that my disability does not take away from who I am as a person. It doesn’t make me undesirable in relationships, and doesn’t make me less whole. After plenty of reflection and honestly, therapy, I realized that I was born with cerebral palsy for a reason. That even though I’m disabled and definitely face challenges, these were challenges I was born to tackle. Truthfully, we’re all going to stumble and fall, because that’s life, but today I remind myself of the times where I triumph, or of the times where I feel proud of myself and what I’ve done so far.
I realized that the CP doesn’t take away from me and my worth. It adds to it. Having cerebral palsy means something. All that I’ve gone through to get here has got to mean something, right? I must know the value of my own journey by now…where I’ve been, and where I’m going. No matter what successes or failures lay ahead, there is absolutely no shame in being kind to yourself.