Cerebral palsy can be exhaustingly challenging. We spend time talking about the physical challenges. The hardships shown in front of the world. Challenges that can be viewed by watching me walk down the street. Those are the ones easiest to write about. Creating blog posts around exercises to improve physical functionality. But there has been a darker side to being different. An aspect difficult to verbalize. One I have held inside, punishing myself in the absence of others. Believing if they weren’t watching me, they wouldn’t know, or be impacted. I grew up watching an addict drink beer after beer. Without truly understanding what was happening inside the home. It wasn’t until later in my life. I began understanding the happenings that were in plain sight. The picture was something I vowed to never allow in my life. The concept I didn’t understand at the time, was that my actions weren’t all that different from his. Just because they took place alone, didn’t mean they carried a lesser impact. In fact, those actions happening in solitude carried a significant impact. They were changing my brain, and in turn, changing my personality. I believed my reasoning for these private behaviors was justified. It felt as if I had the ultimate justification. While, I heard about others who battled addiction. Talking about the excuses that legitimized their actions. I thought to myself, they really were making phony excuses. They didn’t have a physical disability.
We make the transition into adulthood worried about similar aspects of life. Spending energy thinking about being accepted. Whether our peers want to be around us? Whether we will be invited to the party everyone is attending? We don’t want to be someone who gets left out. We want to be part of whatever the in crowd might look like inside our world. Becoming desirable by the opposite sex. Being viewed as one of the cool people, with our act together. Whatever the image going through your mind at the moment. I would venture a guess; you are far away from imagining someone disabled. If I’m incorrect, my hats off to you, and I will gladly wear my inaccurate assumption. During this time when most were beginning to find their way in life. Learning where they fit in and the people they fit in with. Exploring relationships with the opposite sex, and playing games like spin the bottle. Making connections for the first time in their lives. My fear of the world might have been at its peak. The major things I remember feeling were being scared, embarrassed, and ashamed. As I tried desperately to fit into a world that wasn’t designed for my disability. I was different with cerebral palsy, in the way I walked, talked, and moved in space. Different didn’t feel acceptable, so I found an escape.
My troubles might have begun early in my teenage years. But, throughout my life they have deepened in intensity. They shallowed themselves during times of feeling accepted. Only to come back again, because I couldn’t let them lie dormant. I was convinced cerebral palsy meant girls would run. They wouldn’t want to be intimate with anyone who looked weird. My disability makes me tremble and shake easily. When someone gets close to me, it can feel more challenging to control my body. Leading me into a deep feeling of discomfort. Asking myself why any female would choose to be with someone who couldn’t have total control over their body. Who walked, talked, and moved differently from most everyone else. And if they did, by some miracle, find themselves interested in me romantically. I had convinced myself; they would grow tired of being with someone physically different, and move on down the road. The thought still haunts me years after it first appeared in my mind. These ideas inside me head became regarded as factual. Leaving me pulling away from anyone who might have shown interest. I was finding myself wrapped up in my own world of fantasy. Where I could look at pictures in a catalog or watch women in the world. Creating my own reality once I was alone inside my bedroom. Believing, I would never be good enough for real attention from females in my world. Maybe even more damaging was the thought that my actions weren’t impacting others. Because I was doing things when no one else could see. I told myself, they weren’t impacted by my actions.
Self-gratification had become my escape. Beginning when I was in junior high school. The action caused me shame even in those early years. Though, I had conjured up all kinds of justifications. Many of them having to do with my disability. Being teased at school, as the competition for attention heated up with the boys. And probably for the first time, noticing the real differences between myself and my peers. It had become my escape from the heartbreak of learning I was different. I would use images from my everyday life to escape into my sexual fantasies. Where the object of my affections wanted to be intimate with me, instead of calling me weird. Or, asking why I talked funny, walked funny, and sat in a kneel funny. In my fantasies, those questions never were spoken. The kinds of questions my peers weren’t being confronted with. It seemed to me, at the time, my peers were less likely to be looked upon as gross and different. Not having to worry so much about shaking when they reached out to touch a girl. Or, question whether they would be trembling so much, they might miss when they went to kiss someone. And even if they did manage to connect properly with the lips of a girl, would I be capable of moving my lips appropriately to kiss her. These were deep seeded fears. Some of which, still rattle around inside my head, today. The escaping was easier. I had no idea of the impact of my actions. But they felt justified because I was disabled. Making me feel unworthy.
There was a feeling taking shape during those first years of junior high school. An emotion that a huge part of life was becoming deemed off limits. It was the first time of feeling like I was looking at life through a window. Cerebral palsy leaving me unable to participate, in some aspects of life, like my peers. Leaving me escaping in ways that would take more than twenty-five years to understand. The frustration and anger surrounding my emotions about having a disability were unbearable. While, hiding in my room and fantasizing another life took the pain away. At least inside the moment. Until the next day came around and I had to attend school. Watching the people around me, physically function at a much higher level. Intuitively, I knew they weren’t worried about the way they were walking down the halls. The ability to navigate the stairs getting on and off the bus, in and out of the portables, or down the stairs behind the cafeteria. They probably didn’t spend much time worried about opening their locker. Turning the wheel just right to release the handle and get their books. The boys weren’t supposed to ask for help or use the ramps instead of the stairs. It was one of the many challenges in being disabled. But, maybe not quite disabled enough. I was living in two confusing places without truly fitting on either side.
Impossible to understand at that age. I have found it challenging to understand at any age I have experienced. The answer became easy when I discovered the ability to experience sexually fantasies. Self-gratification turned into my daily escape. For years, it didn’t turn into traditional pornography use. I was finding images in life that felt safe in my mind. It didn’t look like any kind of addiction I had seen or thought of. I believed through my study of psychology, I knew full well what addiction looked like. It was inside the bottle, people around me used. Or, in the cigarettes they smoked multiple times in a single day. It was found in the drugs I sometimes saw or heard about. I thought addiction was reserved to involving a substance, I was wrong. My escape was happening in private. No one knew what I was doing. So, it couldn’t be as destructive as the things in plain sight. Plus, I was never going to live the life of my typically developed peers. With the physical freedom, they had been afforded. No one wanted to get close to me, so what did my action matter when no one was looking? The problem was those actions did matter and do matter. Even if they were taking place without anyone else around to look. The escape from reality was never going to help me heal. Never going to help me accept my disability. My addiction to sexual fantasy was only messing with my brain. Each and every day, steering me down a harmful road. For the boy in junior high school, the road had no end in sight.