I have cerebral palsy. My occasionally occurring, often repressed soft Southern accent makes me drawl “cele-bral pal-sy” when I say this out loud.
My mother found out during her pregnancy that not only I, but also my brother, would have cerebral palsy. I was born prematurely and incredibly small, so small that I nearly died to a complication – a lung collapsing. (I have the miniature scars next to my breasts to remind me.)
Funny, for most of my childhood I would claim that my differences were due to “being a premie” – something I proudly toted, considering the best and brightest in most of my classes were born prematurely. Most of my childhood I couldn’t really understand what was different about me. Sure, I had to attend intense weekly therapy sessions, but I viewed it as an extracurricular activity – like gym class.
As a child, I barely knew the name of my disability – often I had to double check. My parents never used the word “disabled”, and they sure as shit never used the word “cripple”. (My grandfather did once, and it’s a memory that still dredges up anguish and shame.)
It is safe to say that adolescence was a nightmare where everything hit the fan. Not only did I fight the good fight of typical teenage drama, but I had two additional loaves on my plate: being a queer (in a rural town where the word “queer” was in fact the highest insult) and being disabled.
As far as being a queer in the rural South goes, that’s a whole other story for whole other time. But to sum it up, I became one of the few open queers in the entire county.
Unfortunately things did not fare so well (ha! that makes it sound like being queer was easy, doesn’t it?) in regards to my disability. I shut it up, shut it down. I never talked about it. Ever. To anyone. It was my deep, dark secret and if anyone inquired too closely about it, I brushed them off. Quietly, I blamed my CP for never fitting in.
It seems strange to me now that my mind is changing that I ever attempted to deny such a vital part of myself. When I am being completely honest, I cannot imagine myself without CP. It is part of who I am.
I am slowly reaching out.
I want to find other people like me.