Sometimes I describe cerebral palsy as being a bad Christmas or birthday wrapping job. The one left in the corner because the wrapping job isn’t as pretty as the rest of the gifts. The thing is that you will never know what is under the wrapping if you don’t open it. Even if you open it last, the saying goes, “the best things come last.” That is how it can feel when you have cerebral palsy. Upon entering a room, you are coming in with much more than an able-body person. A person with cerebral palsy enters a room with a limp or sway to a wheelchair or a person to assist them, etc. It doesn’t mean that what you are seeing is what you are getting, and if you think that what you see is what you get, you’re missing out. Having cerebral palsy, I have been on both ends of the coin. I never want people to see me doing a bad wrapping job; I want people to see what is under the wrapping. Then there was a time in my life that I was not proud of; there was a time when I met others with cerebral palsy; all I saw was the wrapping.
I always thought if people only saw the wrapping, they were ignorant people. People that didn’t want to learn about what was under the wrapping make people with cerebral palsy feel that bad wrapping must be authentic. When they find you have something that makes you different from them. They want to be your saver, to be your voice. When people do this, it makes you feel worse about yourself.
When people are close-minded to others with cerebral palsy, they are not just closing their minds on us, but they’re showing how ignorant they can be about life all around. While those people are only looking at our wrapping, we think how negative this person is; while the person’s cerebral palsy is over, they feel it worth it for me to change their mind, or do I just go with the flow and prove they are right.
I have learned that you try and hope to change people’s opinions about cerebral palsy. It isn’t always worth trying and changing everyone’s views. There are just some people out there who won’t change their views no matter how hard you try. I spent most of my younger education trying to change people’s thoughts about cerebral palsy. I know I made a difference in people’s lives in my 43 years, and most of the time, it was worth it because of the generation I grew up during; I was able to set up for the next generation to have what I had to fight for so it would easies for them.
There are many types of cerebral palsy. One person meets someone with a particular type of cerebral palsy the next time they meet someone with cerebral palsy. The person assumes that the person is going to be just like the person they met before. Cerebral palsy is such a unique disability; it doesn’t always follow the same pattern. You can have two people of the same type of cerebral palsy, but they will uniqueness to their cerebral palsy.
The hardest thing about knowing that people might only see you as that wrapping is that you start to question yourself, are they right. To help me understand that feeling, I will stand in front of a mirror and honestly look at myself. If people try this, it’s not just about looking at your physical appearance because that’s what people are having a hard time seeing past. You want to look at what is under that physical appearance. The inside of the wrapping is what makes you who you are, and it’s what you want people to see. The most crucial outcome of this lesson is that if you can’t see anything else but your wrapping, how do you expect others?
When I started to look at myself, the mirror, it was very emotional for me. The first few times I did this, I would cry and punch stuff. In contrast, I didn’t think the reaction was normal after doing this many times. Once I broke the wall down within me from the beginning to the end. I realized what I saw and felt looking in the mirror was just everything I should have felt; it was me cutting away the wrong spots, just like you would cut out the bad marks of a banana. For me, looking in a mirror felt a little vain because I’m not the kind of person who thinks she all that and a bag of chips so, that was another awkward part of me looking in the mirror. There is no time limit of how many times or how long you stand in front of the mirror; it is all about making you feel comfortable with yourself.
There are many points to this activity, but the most important one is to get comfortable seeing what people see in you. Finally, ask yourself why my loved ones and the people who genuinely love and care about me see my awesomeness, but I couldn’t see it.