What comes to mind when you hear the term Cerebral Palsy? For me, it’s a list of stereotypical attributes that I myself, having been diagnosed with mild Cerebral Palsy don’t even have. This in and of itself is enough for me to know there is a significant misunderstanding of Cerebral Palsy among the general public. Physicality is only part of who people are, not the whole, but our physical bodies do factor into the equation of public presentation. It’s imperative for the able-bodied as well as adaptive to remember that our physical makeup is not our identity. It certainly isn’t mine.
Lately, I’ve come in contact with so many humans who abolish what others may think of those who have Cerebral Palsy and I thought it might be fun to share their stories on a platform where others could get to know them.
Perhaps, a better understanding can be brought to the topic of Cerebral Palsy. Perhaps as a writer, I can help adjust the narrative but no one ever achieves anything great alone. Our minds fail to flourish when we focus on the negative so why label things that way? Disappointed, despair, disingenuous, disgusting, disturbing and then there is ‘disability.’ Why the negative prefix? Why not ability? ‘Dis’ takes away from the greatness that is attached. That’s what this Mindless Peace series aims to do, highlight the abilities of those with Cerebral Palsy. Why dis anything?
Let’s start with John, he lives in a beautiful state and drives an even more beautiful car, a Dodge Challenger. He also happens to be a bodybuilder. Constructing the temple he lives in now took many years but as the pictures below prove, hard work pays off.
I’ve always been physically active because my friends and family always made sure I never used my disability as an excuse to not be outside and making friends and I also played sports in high school.-John
1.Mindless Peace: How would you explain your diagnosis of Cerebral Palsy?
John: I have diplegia which affects my lower body mainly and I sometimes have trouble controlling my right arm and hand if I get really nervous.
2.Mindless Peace: How have others explained your diagnosis of Cerebral Palsy?
John: I’ve always heard I just had Cerebral Palsy. I actually did my own research and found out what type of CP I have.
3.Mindless Peace: How do you define strength?
John: I define strength as being able to overcome obstacles in your life regardless of what limitations or disadvantages you may have. And personally, that’s my greatest strength because no matter how strong [I am] or how much weight I can lift, not letting my disability dictate what I can and can’t do is my greatest strength.
4.MP: How do you define weakness?
J: Weakness to me is giving up. Weakness is something that I believe only applies to someone who gives up who just accepts failure and doesn’t push through or try again.
5.MP: Do you find that your strengths and/or weakness are related to your disability, how?
John: I do, my disability has shaped me and really shaped my train of thought and how I view the world. To me, true strength isn’t about just being physically strong. To me it’s more about mental strength because I’ve met so many people, strong-willed individuals who regardless of their situation, they are smiling, happy, and making the best with what they [have] and that inspires me to always do my best, to be as great as I can be, and not give myself any excuses.
6.MP: What made you want to focus on bodybuilding in spite of your condition?
J: I’ve always been physically active because my friends and family always made sure I never used my disability as an excuse to not be outside and making friends and I also played sports in high school so I already had a good foundation but then I got into a car accident which really affected my lower back along with my CP and I needed the motivation to get back in shape so I set a goal to step on stage and compete in a show in May of 2017.
Photos of John from April 2019.
7.MP: How do you feel about the word ’disability’?
J: To me, it’s just a word. I don’t get offended by it and I have no problem when people use the word.
8.MP: In your point of view, what, if any, are the advantages of living with Cerebral Palsy and what are the disadvantages?
J: I mean it’s hard to say but without being diagnosed and living with CP I wouldn’t be the person I am today or potentially having the opportunity to meet so many amazing and inspiring people. But honestly having CP has not made any aspect of my life easier compared to if I didn’t have CP. I mean work, dating, etc. it’s like right away people are judging me (intentionally or unintentionally) before ever getting to know me.
9.MP: Based on your own experiences, how do you feel the world responds to you as a person?
J: Honestly, for the most part, the world responds to me in a way that is polite and nice but still not fully being aware of what CP is. I have to constantly deal with misconceptions people assuming what I can/can’t do. I will say that as I’ve gotten older it seems that I do get fewer stares when I’m shopping or just out and about.
10.MP: If there was one thing you could change about the way society views Cerebral Palsy, what would that be and why?
…it’s like right away people are judging me (intentionally or unintentionally) before ever getting to know me.-John
J: Just treat me and anyone else with Cerebral Palsy as you would treat anyone who doesn’t have it. I’m a human being just like everyone else.
Find John on Instagram @thestun24