This is a project I have wanted to do for quite some time now, but I was waiting on the right time to do it. I feel like today is the day, and I think it will be a great cathartic activity for me.
So, here it is. An open letter to my cerebral palsy.
Dear Cerebral Palsy,
Although you are and have always been a part of me, I’ve worked hard to make certain I don’t allow you to consume my life. If I am honest, it has been a rather difficult process.
Let’s start from the beginning though. In the beginning, I was not sure what to think of you. I did not know where this journey with a disability would take me. I would not describe this feeling as a feeling of distaste, but more of one of an uncertain path. I did not come to expect what I would learn about this world, even in my very first years. That is, that people are cruel. I do not know the reasoning for this. Maybe people just do not understand what they cannot imagine dealing with.
Whatever the reason, I can say that my first taste of discrimination I received at the age of seven would leave me crippled with fear and with an unfortunate understanding that this would not be an easy journey. I was first introduced to the pain this would inflict when my teacher would refer to me as “an old lady” and constantly poke fun at the fact that I had to use a wheelchair in front of the entire class. I would leave school embarrassed and crying because I was absolutely and utterly humiliated!
My parents attended conference after conference with this woman to absolve my hurt. Unfortunately, nothing was done even though my parents were extremely persistent. I am not going to say their efforts failed, but rather, it was an act of carelessness on part of the school. If anything positive at all came from these instances, it would be that it prepared for me what was to come in terms of bullying and feeling like a burden to others.
It was far from over once I left elementary school. The bullying and teasing would continue into my high school years. The differences you presented me with were a big deal. To be completely honest, I can only chalk these feelings up to a lack of diversity training in and outside of the home.
You have caused me to feel emptiness and enter the darkest nooks of depression. I am sure God knew what He was doing when He made me this way. I just didn’t understand and often asked myself why I specifically was chosen to lead the rather challenging life of a disabled person. This left me feeling soulless and almost as if I was at the end of my rope. Never the less, the angel on my shoulder thankfully kept me head strong and grounded. It was my wonderful friends and family who taught me that I was valued.
It was through their never-ending encouragement that I had come to terms with you. I had decided that I was going to live with you, and I was going to present myself with confidence and zeal. I was not going to let your involuntary movements and difficult challenges take over my life no matter how hard you may try. I was going to no longer let the negative aspects of you consume my illuminated spirit!
I am happy to say that you have allowed me to carry this outgoing and positive attitude for many years. In fact, I am often commended for always smiling no matter what you are putting me through. I sometimes fake a smile because you can really push my buttons, but for the most part, I am an extremely happy and outgoing person. Sometimes, though, I cannot help but notice that our relationship has become rather “rocky” as of late. You are pushing me to my limits with the chronic aches and pains you have afflicted upon me. You make me scream and cry out of frustration. You wear me down with the spastic activity. I know when you are angry with me because you sure do know how to put pressure on every muscle in my body! I want to fall out from exhaustion during the day because you push me until I cannot take it anymore. You have caused me to rely on medicine to feel better as well. We visit the doctor’s office a lot more than we used to. However, also thanks to you, I no longer fear my general practitioner. In fact, I now love him because he gives me medicines to cope with your pain, so thank you for that.
Despite all of this, I love you. I love you because you make me who I am. I love you because you give me an individualistic and introspective view on life that I would not have otherwise. I love you because you give me an opportunity to teach people how to live with a challenge, but to do so confidently.
You are a small gift in a huge and opportunistic world.
Karla Culbertson is a Baton Rouge, Louisiana, native who has self-published two poetry books under Blurb Books and is currently working on a third. She is a contributing writer for The Mighty, Thought Catalog, Project Wednesday, and Her Story blogs. She love to write pieces aimed towards honesty and bettering people’s lives.
Image courtesy of Kim Stiver.