It’s the first thing that came to mind when confronted with the idea of discussing my disability. It’s the only thing that comes to mind. That’s why I don’t live in a mental space where I consciously acknowledge it, I just deal and move on. If I focused on the downside of my life I believe it would hurt too much and quite honestly, I doubt my ability to handle it when my pain on any given day is already an eight. It’s not like the pain that wakes me at four in the morning because my abs are sore nor is it the fiery ache rippling through my back from sixty pull-ups the night before, it’s much worse. It’s a deep-seated emotional agony rooted in insecurity.
Insecurity, in my opinion, is like a cockroach, hard to kill but not impossible. I’m not an insecure person but I do have insecurities and this one has plagued me my whole life. Particularly my childhood. Growing up is tough. Valerie Lawrence, a woman with three beautiful children and some great tattoos got me thinking about the things I never really think about when I watched her latest Youtube video; Growing up with Cerebral Palsy. I commend her for approaching the topic head-on. In an ideal world, I would do the same. Well, if we’re proposing ideals I would like no disability at all and perhaps a pet lion. Watch the video, like it, pass it around. She’s like me but more interesting.
Part of the reason I don’t allow myself to think about the dark side is that I have a radiant life. I am abundantly blessed. I am savagely loved. I get to be the writer I want to be every single day. Who am I to complain? Good things don’t erase the bad, they just help you handle them. When you get up and all you want to do is put your socks on in under five minutes, it’s hard to reflect radiance. This seems petty and I think it is but it’s also reality. My petty, infuriating, reality. Dozens of inconveniences all day long add up. It’s like being in a pressure cooker. Hot and painful. I would love to simply chill out but I have to battle my boiling points constantly. I don’t talk about my childhood because it was hard. Everybody around me made it enjoyable, God bless them but I felt the burden of being different before I even knew what a burden or being different was. That is a torturous concept for any child. Cerebral Palsy is the outline for which my character was crafted. It made me stubborn and bold and confident but I didn’t choose that. I wouldn’t choose that, who would? I dealt with it because I had no choice and because of that I am resentful. I survived childhood and my teenage years but not with ease. Despite the great times I had, there was still an overwhelming sense of pain. Even as I think back now, old instances swell up fresh tears as I write this. I applaud ability advocates like Valerie Lawrence and every other Youtuber eager to share their life that happens to have CP in it but I’m not quite there myself. I’m not in a place I’d like to be, it is still my greatest pain. When you just want to run, like really run or wear heels or at least have the basic ability to learn those hip-hop routines that appear so liberating it’s hard to reflect radiance. For me, having Cerebral Palsy is being alone in a crowded room. It’s pain. Not the physical pain that my grandmother always believed I was in for some reason despite my repeated refutes, but a relentless heartache. At least physical pain has its limits or at least we have limits with it. If you can’t take it, you die and then it’s over but this, this could go on forever. I carry it with me like a nightmare I can’t wake up from so the best I can do is not rent out any mental space. That doesn’t stop it from knocking at the door though or underneath the floor like my very own Tell-Tale Heart.
I felt the burden of being different before I even knew what a burden or being different was.-Genevieve Rose
My primary activity as a child was physical therapy, the other kids ran but I had a walker. I couldn’t wear the shoes I wanted to wear on the playground because they had to be functional and not fashionable and it hurt so much when people made fun of them. I didn’t want to wear them. I had to. An ever-present haunting all throughout grade school and high school with the parties and dances that people wanted me to go to but I couldn’t manage crowds so I missed impactful experiences. Yes, there is always a way to do those things in spite of the obstacles I face but it would’ve been so nice to not have to do it differently. When you’re a teenager you just want to do it, you know? I could’ve gone to prom but I didn’t want to go differently. I could party with friends but I don’t want to have to do that differently. Nevertheless, I have forged my own path, I’ve pulled a Sinatra and done just about everything my way but not because I want to, I do it because I have to. Please try to understand that. Please try to understand that pain that comes with creating individuality. No wonder why we all want to be the same. Standing apart takes bravery and people like me are thrown into the arena. What if I wanted to be average? What if I wanted to be a barista? What if I wanted average issues and not these jagged scars?
Please try to understand that pain that comes with creating individuality.-Genevieve Rose
Maybe one day I’ll be braver than I am today. People like Valerie Lawrence help me chip away at the stone surrounding my heart. Still, that day is not today. Even in the realm of athletics, I am an adaptive athlete and not simply an athlete. That is not an insult by any means but an observation on my part that the dividing lines are inescapable. Thank God for athletics because it’s the only area of life wherein I feel somewhat comfortable addressing my disability. Though it would be nice to climb podiums of physical victory on my own without assistance. How frustrating it is to do be able to do handstand pushups and deadlifts and then have to ask for help when carrying Chipotle from the restaurant to the car. Dozens of daily pains. I’d love to date but I refuse to put my disability in the bio of any dating app. Dozens of daily pains. I’d love to go to a concert but I can’t do it on my own. Dozens of daily pains. I’d love to walk stairs without a railing. Dozens of daily pains. When I walk up the stairs anyway I’d love for my left slipper to stay on my damn foot. I lose it every time, the shoe and then my temper. Dozens of daily pains. I wrote this not for sympathy or God forbid pity, I wrote this to be authentic. I wrote this to be honest.
Having a disability is far from the worst thing in the world but it is my worst thing. It is my greatest struggle. It is my deepest pain. It is my endless sadness. It is my loudest rage. My only sanity is the hope others see through me. If I can inspire others through my words, my fight, my love if I can makes others better by being me, this rough, splintered cross I carry feels much less heavy.