Balance is something we all strive toward. It’s designed to remove the extremes from our lives. Some of us have trouble finding the middle of situations. Living our lives in the gray area. Cerebral palsy can make it challenging to find the middle ground. In situations, my disability can also force me to view things differently. It would be simple to cloak myself in a victim mentality and lean on self-pity, with many people willing to help upon request. While we live in a society requesting support when it may not truly be needed. Still, there can be an inherit reaction to assist those who are less fortunate, whether physically or intellectually, often affected through no fault of their own. What strikes me is the question of how often does the help get taken too far? There are times where I’m granted assistance that may not be necessary. The idea is to improve the symptoms of cerebral palsy, while accepting help that is required. It seems difficult to find purpose and contentment if we allow for needless assistance. The balance of determining when requesting help is helpful and when it becomes detracting has been another CP challenge.
Continued physical action seems important with cerebral palsy. A philosophy of doing everything within my physical capabilities would be beneficial. At the same time, it’s important to continue the attempts of things beyond my reach. The only way to continue improving the symptoms of cerebral palsy is by pushing beyond perceived limitations. Even if the attempt of a new physical skill brings about failure, there may still be something to learn. The effort may have brought me closer to success even if I couldn’t succeed with that particular try. It could help with understanding movements I can try in order to improve my chances for achieving the physical task next time. The physical goal could be within reach without help, but the process of reaching the goal could look different. Setting physical goals only helps keep me physically active. With cerebral palsy, it seems slightly more important to use my physical capabilities rather than risk losing them.
We’ve heard the statement, “use it or lose it,” when taking about physical capabilities. The quote applies most specifically to exercise. For an able-bodied person, if you don’t exercise on a regular basis, the body starts breaking down and losing the ability to make athletic movements or sustain endurance. When talking about cerebral palsy the break down can happen more quickly and affect our bodies more widely. It’s easy for basic movements to escape me if I stop practicing them. Which becomes the reason understanding assistance from others is crucial? Those physical activities I am able to perform are important to continue. The process of accepting the help when needed seems to be an important part of accepting my cerebral palsy. A friend brought an item to my attention, they believed would help with a physical task. The item would help, but my thought was, would there be a risk?
While browsing the internet one day a friend came across an interesting way to tie shoes. Since the tying of shoes can be challenging for me, they thought to pass on the information. The basic idea was a pair of shoes that laced up like normal, but instead of tying the shoe laces at the top one lace simply hooked onto a small knob. That knob appeared to keep the laces tight on the shoe and avoid the challenge of tying the laces. When I received the information, the innovation was striking. It struck me as a simple solution alleviating what can become a frustrating endeavor. Tying my shoes takes slightly longer than an able-bodied person, leading to frustration at times. Another great thought about clipping the shoe lace is its replacement of requiring Velcro shoes. My thought would be, most of us would rather wear a shoe with laces instead of requiring a Velcro closure. This form of lacing a shoe, allows those of us who simply cannot tie a shoe, or are challenged by the process, to wear shoes that have laces. It’s an impressive feat, but I’m still left wondering.
My curiosity has me wondering if the ability to tie shoe laces could disappear. I can still recall achieving the feat of tying a shoe. Like most physical tasks during life, it came to me after many of my peers had learned. It was difficult to master the manipulation of the laces. However, I recall when the skill came together, it left me excited. Tying my own shoes was the first physically challenging task I remember working hard to accomplish and succeeding. Though tying my shoes remains a challenge at times, it would be disheartening to lose the ability. Using laces that remove the extra time of tying would make life easier. It would take away the anxiety of experiencing my shoes becoming untied during the day. Leaving me with the uncomfortable feeling of bending down to re-tie them, hoping it doesn’t take me a couple tries. But, it feels taking away challenges we can accomplish becomes a slippery slope.
Cerebral palsy wants to inhibit our physical abilities. The disability doesn’t seek to slow the body through purpose, as it doesn’t qualify as a degenerate disability. Simply through the tension CP causes inside the muscular skeleton, it chips away at the body more quickly. The only way I’ve found to slow the physical breakdown is through exercise. Another approach is through not giving up on physical tasks I have the ability to accomplish. Even though certain physical tasks may require more patience to attain, it seems worth the extra effort. The effort to achieve those physical tasks keeps my body functioning. It keeps the pathways from the brain to the muscle firing, even with the added difficulty of CP. If those pathways shut down from physical inactivity the cerebral palsy wins the battle, costing me physical mobility. Inactivity and the lack of effort to attempt physical tasks will always be the enemy.
If everyone helps with everything we learn very little. Independence can be defined as being free from outside control. Independence helps us gain self-esteem, adding feelings of achievement and happiness. Cerebral palsy takes away my independence at times, stripping away the emotions of contentment. Making it important to hold onto those physical activities I continue to have the ability to accomplish. One of the awkward things about cerebral palsy has been a lack of understanding. I’m unfamiliar with the way things are going to look as I age. The plan is to continue working out and exercising in an attempt to fend off the symptoms of CP. But, I don’t know how effective it will continue to be. It is important to continue with the physical tasks I can perform, because who knows how long I will be able to achieve success. It’s a gift to have people around who can help with those things I cannot execute on my own. There seems to be extraordinary value in recognizing the challenges I can overcome. Understanding the difference may just be the key to acceptance.