New Plateaus

We all work hard at something. Maybe we work at all kinds of things. Setting goals for ourselves often keeps us moving in the right direction. But what about achieving goals you didn’t think were possible? Finding something you thought would require an entire life to achieve, has been accomplished much more quickly. Making improvements at a pace which becomes startling. Cerebral palsy always seemed a mystery never to be solved. Providing feelings my life would be spent searching for solutions to physical difficulties. Believing deep inside, there would never be peace surrounding my disability. Life would be spent learning new ways to cope, without feelings of progression. Almost like being stuck in a box labeled cerebral palsy. It seemed true physical and emotional improvements would always elude me. However, over the last few months’ things seemed to have changed rapidly. Or there has been time for pause and reflection. Looking back on things that have been achieved seemingly without paying attention. Whether talking about time spent in the gym beginning to drastically change appearance or finding more belief in what may be achievable through the acceptance of CP and its gifts.

When thinking about plateaus, or the achievement of goals, it occurs to me once we reach one plateau, we might take a breath, then begin our work toward the next. A plateau seems comparable to a goal, the difference being once we reach a plateau, we don’t move backwards. The plateau becomes a new starting point. It’s something solid we reach and step onto for support. Once securely on one plateau, we can begin our ascension to the next. Having a solid place to begin from again. These plateaus have become a part of life without me looking. There was always a feeling anything achieved could be stripped away. Meeting a goal in weight lifting or compound movement would be stripped away if left alone. If I wasn’t working out constantly every goal reached would disappear. One of the major ideas coming to my attention has been the technique of working out in a variety of ways, causes strength in movement to become more permanent. While giving up entirely would cause strength to revert back in some degree. All gains wouldn’t be lost because of the new plateaus we create.

Getting older was becoming frustrating. It was beginning to feel as though it wouldn’t be possible to gain true strength. While peers were getting stronger lifting weights. The weight I lifted didn’t seem to get heavier with the time worked. There seemed to be weakness throughout my body due to cerebral palsy. Even when working in the manner a trainer instructed, my body wasn’t becoming more sturdy. Working out on my own was almost impossible and lifting weights with a friend, was simply holding back my friend. The progression wasn’t coming as naturally for me.  But, after making a change, working with someone who had a better understanding of cerebral palsy, those plateaus began to take shape. No two days of working out has been the same. We work the entire body; each muscle is exercised in different ways. There’s no longer one movement to strengthen a single muscle. Each muscle experiences multiple plains of movement with weight. The strategy has caused much more stability throughout my body. Cerebral palsy begins to feel different as the workouts become more complicated.

The emotional plateaus reached often feel more like steps. We reach the physical plateaus first, by concurring a new physical movement. After achieving the technical fluidity of a movement, more weight can be added. Once the movement has been mastered, a new plateau has been reached. With each addition of more weight to the movement, we have achieved the new plateau and my body has changed. As we continue to achieve these movements, add weight, and change body composition, self-perceptions change. The change in those self-perceptions change the emotions about myself. It seems the hold cerebral palsy has on my life diminishes causing the world around to look slightly different. There are unfamiliar emotional adjustments to be made almost constantly. Learning the adjustment to emotions of improving my disability instead of viewing CP as a static or worsening condition is challenging. As we climb to each plateau, we move away from being stuck inside the confines of cerebral palsy.

Emotions also play a role in accepting the new strength of my body. People tend to look upon me differently today than they did before. It seems they see a more physically capable person, which can be challenging to interpret. The feeling of becoming more physically capable is unique. Throughout life I’ve tended to continually question my physical capability. The questioning became a habit growing up due to the lack of balance and strength. It was quickly apparent I would be unable to physically keep up with those around me. The emotion of being slower, more awkward, and more physically challenged took hold early. There was also an obvious lack of strength compared with my peers. These factors brought on emotions of helplessness. Having trouble handling the frustration that comes with an inability to perform tasks. Not only was there a lack of strength, but the lack of endurance compounded the frustration. As exercise begins to heal the weaknesses of my youth, the emotional change takes time to catch up. Experiencing positive feelings related to physical activity and appearance is something new. Those positive emotions relating to physicality has always been the goal, but often can feel strange and overwhelming.

Achieving goals, we didn’t think possible can bring on different emotions. Normally we seem to simply associate positive emotions with achievement. However, often achievement can change the way someone is viewed or views their world. That change can be large or small depending on the significance they associate with the goal. The accomplishment also brings on adjustment, which may take time to settle. When we hit a new plateau, or accomplish a goal, interior and exterior perceptions change. Those emotions can become overwhelming, especially when accomplishment seemed impossible. Cerebral palsy at times seemed a physical death sentence of simply coping. Today my views of the journey with CP have changed. Through hard work and intelligent help, the disability can dramatically improve. Those improvement, may look and feel scary, but they are worth the emotional challenge. For me, continuing to work hard at achieving those new plateaus and chasing things seemingly impossible is of great value. We never can tell the gifts awaiting us when we step onto that next plateau.

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