As it is now March and officially Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month, I thought I’d write another post discussing it and how my feelings have changed from last year’s CP Awareness Month post. There, I discussed feelings of self-love and that message is more or less the same. I am still in a place where I accept myself and am more or less gentle with myself when I make mistakes.
I’ve been thinking a lot about if my relationship with my disability has changed or is changing since my most recent surgery on Valentine’s Day. Let me be clear: this surgery didn’t erase my disability. The cerebral palsy is still there, but most if not all my spasticity is not. That reality alone has opened so many possibilities for me and my body, possibilities of which I am capable of now physically, as long as I keep up with my intensive rehab program.
Let me also say that this surgery is not a silver bullet. It has helped me improve a lot in a short time, yes, but I don’t want others thinking it was a quick fix. With improvement comes a ton of work physically: strenuous, exhausting work, where I relentlessly and unapologetically push my body to its limits in order to reach my full potential. I have progressed, but I still have a very long way to go.
The question remains, do I view my disability differently since surgery? Well, like I said, the disability itself didn’t change; it’s still CP. However, my reality definitely changed. I’ll go a little into how. Spasticity can be defined as a velocity-dependent reflex: it increases as the speed of a movement increases. The absence of that in my body due to the surgery has uncovered a great deal of muscle weakness in my legs and hips. So even though it’s going to eventually be easier to walk and move around, I have to partake in a consistent and strict regimen of muscle strengthening, along with stretching every single day. I also have to, in a way, teach myself how to walk again with what I call my “new legs.”
It might all sound daunting, but it actually excites me instead of frightening or intimidating me. Before surgery I could exercise, but I couldn’t really exercise because the spasticity always “got in the way,” so to speak. Now that it’s gone, I can build real and genuine muscle strength for the first time ever. Now I really look forward to physical therapy and exercising, which in turn boosts my mood, so there are obvious benefits all around.
My relationship with my disability has changed, if anything. I see improvement in my future now; progress, instead of a steady decline. My legs feel lighter, looser, and more relaxed than they’ve ever been. I no longer feel stuck or trapped or at times angry with my own body for something in which it really carried no fault. It wasn’t my body’s fault that I couldn’t move the way I wanted to. In fact it was nobody’s fault. Also, it wasn’t like I always placed the blame for my disability. It’s just when I was a teenager, moody and depressed and in a bad place, I did place the blame sometimes; I will fully admit to that now.
For a long time I used to say that as the years passed me by and everyone around me seemed to progress, I remained in the same spot. I really don’t think that’s true anymore. I see possibility, movement, and freedom. I have hope. These gifts from this surgery are priceless and ones I vow to never take for granted as I continue on this long journey of recuperation. Sure, it’s going to be difficult. I will get frustrated; to be honest I already have, but I have never once regretted my decision to pursue the surgery. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but I had a feeling it was going to be worth it. As a mentor of mine once said to me, “everything worth it is hard.” Ain’t that the truth.
So, as I reflect during this year’s CP Awareness Month, I am grateful; I am thrilled. Perhaps most importantly, my heart and soul is truly at peace.