I recently saw a video on Facebook of a fellow cerebral palsy sufferer (minus the wheelchair, unlike me), working out in a gym. I watched this chap lifting weights, rowing on a machine and using a treadmill – but none of these things caught my eye. Indeed, it wasn’t anything to be found in the video but rather the caption it had been posted with, which made reference to the man “battling” against his condition to use the gym equipment. It was that single word that I took issue with, since it evidently hadn’t been chosen by the man himself. It seemed more likely that it had been written by someone able-bodied, with no personal experience of cerebral palsy and therefore no idea that – in my mind at least – dealing with it is anything but a battle.
Generally speaking, anyone who has cerebral palsy has it from birth, regardless of how long it takes for them to receive a diagnosis. Being a lifelong condition, it is hardly insignificant, but in my case there is little to do except learn to live with it and become as independent as I possibly can. Some people have suggested to me that it is a hardship, and Will has even described it as such in one of his posts here, but at no point in my life have I ever been able-bodied – and that means nothing ever causes me to feel bitter or think about what might have been. In actual fact, I feel very lucky to have the physical independence and mental capacity that many others with more severe forms of cerebral palsy sadly do not, and it is this that drives me to oppose the idea that my life is a “battle”.
It’s just normality for me, and it is beyond my control, but I’d rather face it with a smile on the outside and happiness on the inside than feeling like a victim who is constantly fighting an oppressor. I’d be willing to bet that everyone else with a type of cerebral palsy similar to mine would say much the same thing – if it was a battle, everything would be so much more disheartening, and maybe we’d never get anything done! I’d just like to think that in the midst of his exercise regime, the man in the video never once saw himself as fighting a battle, but merely as someone who was determined to reach his fitness target for the day, and then to get into the shower as soon as possible.