Over the years I have come to realise that there are a wide range of people out there who will feel they have something to say about my cerebral palsy (CP). I personally have no problem with people asking about my CP as long as they are interested and engaged in what I have to say. I am excited when people are interested because I often forget that there is anything different about me ( I only remember when I catch a glimpse of myself in shop windows as I walk along looking like a pigeon wearing stilettos). I am amazed that people want to hear my side of the story and learn more about my experiences. However, having said that I would much rather someone ask what is wrong rather than just continue to stare at me and make me feel like I am a complete looney (I was never any good at staring competitions). I thought I would take you through just a few of the different encounters I have had related to my CP.
Can I offer you a lift?: When travelling alone in the Far East (in Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand) after I left school, I would be offered lifts from local Thai people on their mopeds whilst I was walking from the bus station to my hostel. At the time I didn’t think this was anything to do with my CP and would more often than not say I was happy walking. When I had further to go I would take up this offer. This was definitely not the best life choice I have made and I didn’t mention this to my parents until I was safely back in the UK but I now believe that the locals (who were some of the friendliest people I have met) felt that they could help me out as I was lugging two ridiculous backpacks around and wobbling from side to side making very slow progress. I also appreciate that I was extremely luck that all of these encounters ended with me arriving safe and sound. So there you go-free trips abroad when lugging rucksacks-always a bonus
Taxi Please!: Whilst at University I was entitled to Disabled Students Allowance (something that I never really felt I deserved but took up all the same). As part of this I was given free taxis to take me from my Halls of Residence to the camps (a half hour walk downhill). However, more often than not I would use these taxis to take myself and my friends back from nights out saving us a long journey back on the bus or an expensive late night taxi!
Phil the Form: Whilst on a family holiday we had the chance to go on a two day trek in the jungle in Borneo. However, Phil who was leading the trek had different ideas about me taking part with my CP. He was an Ex-Army corporal or something running outdoor camps and activities. He said that he had worked with other disabled children and would only let me take part if my parents signed a form to say that they would take responsibility for anything that happened to me-hence the name Phil the Form. It is also worth mentioning that we happened to be spending this part of our holiday by gatecrashing my brother’s school hockey tour so were with a load of teenage boys-just so you know the vibe I was dealing with here. He had a number of terms and conditions about me joining the trek:
- He made a major song and dance (not a tuneful one) of fact that he had to change the route for everyone involved so that it was suitable for me-making it shorter and easier and blah blah blah.
- I was not allowed to carry any rucksack and that Dad and everyone else would have to carry all my supplies for the trek (he was also happy to announce that to everyone else on the trek too-cheers pal).
So he decided that he was able to lay down the law on all this despite the fact that myself and my parents tried to convince him that I would be perfectly fine doing the normal trek. He didn’t seem to care about the fact that my parents and I knew more about my condition than he ever could. He seemed to decide he was the all-knowing Lord of All when it came to my abilities and legs.
Karma did its trick: In my first week of uni at Bristol, we were walking between lectures in different buildings. I was walking next to my friend another student walked past me and asked “Why are you walking weirdly?” I begin to answer him and he just continues to walk past me not caring at all about anything I had to say. Now as I said earlier, I really don’t mind people asking as long as they are happy to respect my answer and listen to what I have to say so I wasn’t impressed with his response but I just carried on with my day, life is too short for me to be bothered by people like him. Despite this, upon walking into our lecture the following day, my friend and I were thrilled to see that he had a whacker of a black eye due to a disaster on the squash court. My friend and I were stifling our giggles at the back of the room, karma worked its magic!
Sounding like a broken record: Throughout school I would constantly be asked why I was wearing strange things on my legs. I understand that we were only about 10 at the time but my major frustration was the repetition especially when the same people would ask me day after day. I am pretty sure they didn’t have issues with their short term memory?
Sorry but she is not my doppelganger: Whilst at secondary school one of my best friends had a problem with her legs which was not cerebral palsy but it also affected her walking gait. The teachers would constantly get us confused even though we look nothing alike and even our walking was completely different. As much as my friend and I tried to explain it was a losing battle-this continued throughout our time at school-you would have thought that by the end of our 7 years together they would have figured out whos’s who… maybe they need a trip to Specsavers?
So there you go a whistle-stop tour through some of the encounters I have had with people having something to say about the way I walk. Ah well, I guess the negatives are a price to pay for the bonuses I get. Anyway, as they say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and I have learnt over my 24 years that people who have enough time and energy to be rude about the way I walk are just not worth it. As far as I am concerned they can continue with their day and I hope it improves from them feeling the need to bring others down-frankly I have bigger fish to fry.