If I can manage to write all of this without spontaneously bursting into tears, I will consider that to be an achievement. See, I had been doing so well, friends. For the first time ever, I would have actually described myself as stable, both emotionally and physically. Then, almost a month ago now, it all changed. My whole world was shattered within one (approximately) thirty-minute conversation. As always, it is my sole responsibility to collect these pieces and put them back together, in whatever way I can. By now, it will not surprise you to know that writing felt like the answer. So, before we begin this particular group therapy session, I want to thank you for being here to hold my hand. I appreciate it more than ever. Deep breaths.
It all started when I decided to make an appointment with a new physiotherapist. I love my current one, but the rates are also expensive, you know? So, I did a few small exercises in front of two people I’d never met before, then sat down with them to chat about their overall assessment. This is where it gets interesting: they told me that I should be walking by now. They followed this by saying (quite nonchalantly) that if I’d had the right intervention as a child, I would be walking by now. At this point, I stopped being able to really hear or process any of it, but I was aware of one thing — they wanted to try and make it happen. Not only that, but they firmly believed it was possible, without making any promises.
So far, this might all sound like a Good Thing, which is exactly what makes it so dangerous. Firstly, they implied that I had simply always been too lazy to bother. In response to this, I held it together for as long as necessary, then promptly burst into tears once I reached the car. These tears were ugly and produced from the deepest depths of my soul, so let’s unpack that. Like I said, group therapy. To be brutally honest, I generally make it through every day by just not thinking about my inability to walk. Compartmentalising it. Not allowing my brain to be consumed by how different life could (and arguably should) have been. Except now, suddenly, I had no choice. Every time I blinked, I was drowned by these scenarios in quick succession — almost like being in a parallel universe. Despite logic telling me that I have always fallen to the ground whenever I have attempted to stand for more than half a second — despite knowing that it’s impossible for this reality to change —, there was still hope.
Similarly, my parents also spent the next week blaming themselves. Analysing every decision made when I was younger. Wondering where it all went wrong — and if all of this had left me more disabled than I might otherwise have been. Then, we asked my current physiotherapist for her opinion on it all. She explained that nothing about our other encounter was based in fact: although some people with Cerebral Palsy can stand and walk, it was not (and never has been) a possibility for me. My legs just don’t operate in that way.
I was supposed to feel relieved upon hearing this, I know. It is what it is. If I’m being brutally honest, though: it feels like all of the steps I have taken towards self-acceptance over the last ten years were unravelled, just for the sake of hope. I have always resented the limitations that my body has placed upon me, however quietly. Never fully accepted how suffocating this version of reality can be – or how easily it’s taken for granted by everyone else around me. Still, this time, I will not bury it. I will not pretend. I will feel all of the intensely painful and complex parts to this puzzle, in its entirety. Today, I choose to let go and be liberated by the promise that disabled is beautiful, if not always easy.
Olive, thank-you for being ready to openly discuss these complexities with me. When our futures are bright, we will have done that for ourselves and by ourselves. How badass. Rebekah, if you’re reading this: thank-you for all that you are, even (and especially) when it’s messy. xxx