Cerebral palsy is a neuromuscular deficit, which means it centers around difficulty with activities of my central nervous system. Because the nerves throughout my body don’t work correctly I deal with a lot of pain. The pain I go through can be both physical and emotional. Many times it can become a combination of the two. Physical pain can lead to feeling of emotional pain, like frustration and a lack of self-esteem. While emotional stress may cause an intensity of physical fatigue leading to pain. My journey with cerebral palsy often feels like a double edged sword. The disability is supposed to be purely physical, but the physical impairment has emotional and psychological effects. Throughout this battle I wage with CP, I’ve learned our bodies are incredibly interconnected.
If I left my body in a constant state of rest, pain would end up taking over. The other day I heard a story from an electrician who looked to be a man of middle age. After finding out about my cerebral palsy he told a story about his childhood friend. He went to high school with a buddy who has cerebral palsy. While in high school his buddy could move around independently. After 35 years he ran into his childhood friend who struggles with cerebral palsy. However, at this point his friend wasn’t moving around independently, but instead he was relying on a walker for mobility. Even though the disability I share with the electrician’s childhood friend isn’t progressive, it can get more severe with age. The tension on the muscles may cause too much pain over time. The pain making it more difficult for someone like this man’s childhood buddy to move his legs with age. It’s scary to think about how age will affect my battle with cerebral palsy.
All of us lose some physical ability as we age. Cerebral palsy has the ability to speed up the process when left to its own devices. I’m not a doctor, so it’s difficult to say how much the process would be sped up for my body. I already feel the aches and pains of aging with a couple weeks of no exercise and those aches and pains seem to take a toll on my own self-image. Self-esteem can come from many places. It depends on how each of us determines our self-worth. However, it seems when anyone has an injury in addition to the physical impact on the body, it can also have a psychological impact. The term “I just don’t feel right” often coincides with some kind of injury or pain. Imagine being in that state most of the time. Cerebral palsy causes my body to rarely feel right. The journey with CP often revolves around a pain threshold continuum. I’m always in a certain amount of pain, whether it be typical soreness from working out, or a cramping sensation throughout my body from inactivity. Those are on opposite ends of the continuum. For me, the cramping sensation of inactivity is the more difficult type of pain.
Getting to the point where I would need a walker is a scary thought. It would strip me of among other things, the ability to play golf. The main reason I work so hard at keeping my body moving is to enjoy the game without pain. Physical pain from cerebral palsy can strip away much more than a golf game though. It can slowly take away independence. Over time the strain cerebral palsy has on the muscles can begin taking its toll. The body could become more difficult to move and help would be needed to complete more and more physical tasks. My body can experience a frozen state after just a few weeks of lacking physical activity. It becomes difficult to stand up from a chair or move up and down a flight of stairs. The pain associated with loosing these movements is an emotional struggle. When I lose the ability to move freely, anxiety and fear become strong emotions. The situation tugs at my ability to feel confident as all my energy is consumed with the purpose of moving. In these situations, I’m battling the fear of uncertainty. My only guess is these circumstances of pain induced fear may become more frequent with age.
Hope isn’t lost as I age. There may be a solution to the fear of aging with cerebral palsy. I’ve written about it a few times throughout my blog. Working out and other forms of exercise turn the harmful pain of CP into something positive. Beyond the shape and ease of movement exercise provides, it also provides me self-worth. One of the most positive effects of working out is improved self-esteem and overall mood. It takes place is most all people who take up exercise. Working out seems to carry even more importance for my challenge of cerebral palsy. People who battle the challenge of CP have been shown to have more propensity to struggles with anxiety and depression. Not only is the exercise I partake in, helping reduce the painful toll the disability takes on my muscles, it also goes a long way in assisting in keeping my emotions away from anxiety, sadness, and fear.
Having cerebral palsy is a challenging part of my life journey. My disability does create emotional challenges along with physical ones. I’m thankful working out provides help in dealing with these two aspects. The painful cramping sensation is kept at bay replaced by some exercise soreness. The feeling of muscle soreness becomes a welcome sensation, which signifies the effort put into improving my overall health. Discipline becomes an important factor keeping me going to the gym. The thought of losing my ability to play golf or ability to climb a flight of stairs keeps me fighting. The cramping pain that can envelope my body with the emotional sadness and discouragement that would follow, seem to be all the motivation I need to stay in the gym.