Raising my hand was the natural action. Life had been spent in the shadow of others. Living in the background of many relationships. Feeling as though cerebral palsy was to blame for the position. It remained less complicated to follow the wishes of other people. Taking the ideas, they suggested for my life. Then, executing on those suggestions. Holding myself short of wondering how positive the moves would be in my world. Hoping the adherence to their thoughts would gain me acceptance. My actions of following them did seem to gain approval. Providing a social network to be included. The problem became how that social network was representing itself. The activities being engaged in as we moved through life. There were boundaries placed on those relationships. A few hard lines for me, not to be crossed. When actions went beyond the simple limitation placed on the friendships, I would become vacant. Though some of my lines got fuzzy over the years. Bending a couple self-rules, which probably would have been better left in place. But, I wanted so much to be included. My self-worth leaving me struggling to provide that firm line at times. Until the circumstance arrived to lower my hand from being raised. When I stopped looking around for people who caused emotional pain. Whatever benefit was being perceived ceased the worthiness of pain. My life started turning the corner toward something good.
The turning of corners doesn’t seem to happen overnight. I had become comfortable with the uncomfortable life being lived. Understanding even with emotional pain, people could be there for me physically. Physical tasks of many kinds have been challenging through life. Cerebral palsy impacting my ability of movements. With the disability, concern often arises around performing most anything physical. Placing the self-trust of movement into questionable places. So, having people near with the ability to help in those sticky spots felt advantageous. After losing one of those parents providing some physical comfort. Who would be able to support me with the execution of tasks. Having moved on to different options for his life. I felt tasked with finding someone else who would support me in physical tasks. In calmly combing the landscape for that person, my thoughts shifted. Beginning to feel as though having the physical support was required. Inside my thoughts, part of the role of my father was physical support. Being there to lend a hand with physical activities. Providing space and guidance for me to learn the tasks. Because, cerebral palsy was going to extend the learning curve. There wasn’t any anticipation of the support disappearing before I was prepared. But, he had somewhere more important to be. Leaving that physical support vacated.
There becomes a unique aspect when living through divorce with a disability. More specifically, the impact cerebral palsy had on my circumstance. The emotional hurdles might be similar across the board. With variations here and there based on the events surrounding the splitting of family. The physical loss of a supportive parent sent me reeling. Pressure being placed onto already fraying emotional stability. With the breaking of the heart having to be worked through emotionally. My father was supposed to teach me how to work on physical tasks. Because learning them was going to require more experimentation. Figuring out how wood would be cut, a drill might be used, or an appliance might be fixed, with cerebral palsy challenges. Not to mention the other physical things requiring extra practice to execute. The entire situation left feelings of extreme desperation. Leaving me connecting with one of the strongest people I could find. Thinking he might be able to help with anything physical needing to be accomplished. The mistake was in believing this could all happen out of pure kindness. I remained willing to go the extra step in our friendship. Help him out more than possibly should have happened. Due to the understanding of having someone there to help me out physically. However, our friendship didn’t purely transpire because of physical help. I like to think we started by caring for one another emotionally as well. The friendship would simply fall apart over time. Having gone sour for many reasons.
My hand went into the air resulting from that physical desperation. The desire to be protected. For someone to be there, helping me when physical trouble presents itself. There remained challenge in understand what my specific challenges might have been. I started looking upon everything as being an unsurmountable obstacle. Everything physical involved in daily life went into the category of panic. There was very little credit being given to my ability in meeting the challenges of my disability. While growing through the early years of life my attitudes about cerebral palsy were positive. Looking at CP as being the physical challenge involving excitement. Inviting those challenges into life and feeding off finding ways to meet them. Whether it meant working more diligently to find comfort with movement, or finding modification to make physical activities achievable to some degree. Remaining excited about how my diligence might open more doors in the future. When the world shifted with the departure of my father. The drive of taking on those challenges of cerebral palsy shifted. As he walked out the door, I remember his overwhelming theme. We were going to be better off without him around. The narcissism coming to the surface again. It was our fault for not “needing” him. When it was simply about blaming others for devastation he didn’t want to take responsibility for inflicting. Since the day he walked away, we hardly speak about ways of making cerebral palsy better. No longer was he spending time helping me improve on physically challenging tasks. He just seemed disappointed that I couldn’t function normally. Pushing me into uncomfortable positions to become more normal functioning. My hurt turned into anger and cerebral palsy felt like a burden. The excitement of taking on the physical challenges had disappeared.
When the desire to battle, cerebral palsy evaporated, something got lost. In the commotion of the changing landscape, easing desperation and heartbreak was the priority. I became the victim of cerebral palsy rather than the challenger of the disability. Turning most every physical task in question into something needing assistance, when it didn’t need to happen. There became a strong feeling of “poor me” that couldn’t be shaken free for years. A person who had spent years challenging the odds, was now succumbing to them. Allowing the disability to be used against me without a fight. Fully making myself open to manipulation, even spending time inviting the action of being used. Not wanting to return to that place of putting forth effort. Because the drive being given to improving cerebral palsy felt vulnerable. Until the day fatigue had made its presence known. The feeling of giving up on myself daily was overwhelming. The foggy emotion of uncertainty had been crowding most every thought pattern. While going through the motions of daily activity. Attempting to escape the pain that wasn’t feeling escapable. The disruption had to be looked at head on, before my life was thrown to the side. My buddy seemed to reach a similar conclusion. Taking him off into the direction of military service. In an attempt at getting his life back on track. Though we had greatly lost touch during those years, he reconnected while in the process of making his decision. It helped propel me into the place of leaving our hometown as well.
In those moments, my hand started lowering itself from desperation. Like him, I chose to leave town, only in pursuit of my college degree. The thoughts of departure were fear provoking. Having never left home previously. With many things to consider around my disability. Being forced into situations of taking care of myself. Without someone there consistently to help when physical tasks became challenging. The safety lied in my relative short distance from home. Living just shy of ninety minutes from my childhood home provided comfort. Giving me the opportunity to venture home on the weekends. Making the challenges of living more independently with cerebral palsy easier to manage. Being away from home for the first six months was exciting. However, there were more challenges than anticipated. Like eating inside a cafeteria with many people. Figuring out how to balance a try of food while walking to the table. Returning back for something to drink, as the glass couldn’t be stabilized on my food tray. Through all the challenges, cerebral palsy was starting to become the challenge it had been previously. If I wanted to continue on the college journey, there could be no shying away from my disability. Raising my hand to be rescued wasn’t an option anymore. The person who looked around for someone to rescue him seemed to vanish. The world of possibility was being presented in my path. Learning how to manage my disability away from the comfort of home.
A major corner in my life was slowly being turned. Removing myself from the toxic relationships of my social environment. Holding me away from my father and buddy, who desired the sidekick image we all contributed to building. Even with the fear of being away, a sense of freedom persisted. The obligation of making others happy wasn’t felt as persistently. The people who would be surrounding me now, were less familiar with that person. Having the ability to grow into something different was real. Because of the free feelings it was providing, I wanted to go through the journey. Even when the unfamiliar physical challenges were going to push the ability to navigate my disability. When moving away to college I wanted to live by myself. Having a room just for me would provide an escape. When new physical demands on my body became overwhelming. The empty room would provide that place of refuge. Those well thought out plans didn’t last much longer than a week. As a sticky note was found placed on my door one afternoon. Someone was looking for a new roommate. Instead of backing away from the opportunity in an attempt to protect my sanctuary, I chose to meet with him. Though there was enough hesitation on my end to be felt. He seemed to be a kind person and worth the risk of rooming together. We had good boundaries set in place from the start. Enjoying the six months we spent together. For me, the situation pushed me even further beyond my comfort zone. Into a whole new world with my disability.
The new group of people our decision brought around provided excitement. Seeming to accept the different person, I was becoming. They even seemed to enjoy being in my presence more than expected. Without showing the desire of using me for situations making me uncomfortable. The freedom to do my own thing without pressure was being felt. With the absence of fear around being left alone. My constant search throughout life for people to belittle me had gone. There didn’t seem anyone around to fill the role of codependent partner in crime. So, it became one of the most freeing times in my life. We all seemed to be looking toward a future of possibility. Riding the wave of positivity being felt on the college campus. The move away from home saved many things in my life. Not just the college dream that had been floundering for the two years after high school. Those first six months provided a small glimpse into the person I could become. The options open to me if chosen to be explored. It was a simple transfer into attending junior college in a new city. While living in the dorm rooms of a four-year college campus. The experience renewed my faith in the ability to someday graduate. Cerebral palsy was making life a little more challenging, but hadn’t become an insurmountable object. My grades began elevating with my social life. Being included with people attending the four-year school, even while working my way through junior college. It was the best of life changing experiences.
There were many learning moments without someone to help me through most physical tasks. Without the person holding my hand most of the time. People talk all the time about the positive changes occurring when someone typically developed leaves home. Spreading their wings and learning to fly. The positive stage of growth didn’t seem possible for me at many times. Feeling as though having cerebral palsy would hold me short of experiencing those milestones. As the disability has robbed me of certain experiences while life continues unfolding. However, it felt important to at least try before the dream of college became another victim of perceived inability. My findings, once the risk was taken, became nothing short of remarkable. Probably the most valuable was learning to curb the codependent aspects of my personality. The discovery of the sidekick temptations no longer being necessary. Settling for interactions that weren’t enjoyable, no longer required toleration to fill loneliness. The tasks of my daily life could be managed independently for the most part. The realization only brought about more confidant behavior. Propelling me into a successful period of life. Experiencing much more peace than being felt in the recent years. With good friends on my side, the help needed didn’t seem obligatory. They were around if there was something extra required. Through these positive situations, junior college was complete. Then, on into the four-year school my friends had been occupying. My life was on the positive track always hoped for.
The realization of functioning away from home influenced my self-worth. The act of participating in a lifestyle not feeling possible before the chance was taken. Beginning my college career in my hometown didn’t work much. Dropping out of classes or achieving poor grades that weren’t contributing to graduation. That weren’t going to make possible the transfer to a four-year institution. The same friends from high school continued to envelop my social outlets. While I was participating in age old habits. Begging desperately for them to include me in their lives, which they didn’t want me included with. Life after high school was spinning emotionally out of control. The steps being attempted to feel better where only deepening the hole of depression. In my mind, I was supposed to have been off at college. But, my grades and test scores were met with a rejection letter. The letter coming from the only school I could muster the strength to apply for admissions. The only one there seemed possibility for being admitted. With my grades at junior college turning out the way they were, it was no wonder the rejection letter showed up in the mail. Everything was signaling there would be no college experience. No real future. My place was inside the box of desperation. Carved out by friends, my father, and myself. My hand would be permanently raised. Locked into the distinction of sidekick. Without anywhere positive to venture.
Taking the chance of moving away from home saved more that my college career. The move saved my life. Who knows what would have happened, had I remained home. If past actions become predictors of the future. Life would have continued to stay in the darkness year after year. Without providing myself the opportunity to explore my capabilities. My views around my cerebral palsy possibly never finding relief. Continuously looking upon my disability through a negative lens. Remaining in a sidekick mentality without moving out from behind shadows. Always doing the things others wanted from me, in an attempt of gaining acceptance. Instead, the chance was taken and my life pivoted. From the final days of those first six months away from home. The script of my life had been flipped into a new journey. One demonstrating the possibilities open to me with added diligence. Gaining the ability to take risk even within the storm of fear and doubt. It would be great to say my life took off from there without more darkness. But, that simply hasn’t been the case. I have fallen back into old patterns since. Raising my hand in desperation again. Allowing feelings of self-worth to find times of plummet. Letting people back in my life who belittle and promote the sidekick little Petey. But, I try keeping that first adventure away from home in mind. Reminding myself happiness might just be a calculated risk away. Knowing the strength has been there to take the leap.