Once Upon a Time I wrote a book called My Famous Friend, a young-adult fiction novel about fame and being brutally human. I wrote it with the thought in mind that celebrities, as bright and shiny as they may appear, are people too. The problem with famous folks is that people forget they’re people too because they see fame before the person. I see a similar problem for those like myself who have Cerebral Palsy, too many people see the disability before the person and I think it’s time to change that. That’s why I started the blog series called, This Ability, chronicles that highlight the lives of people who have Cerebral Palsy. It’s not about the disability, it’s about this ability that people with CP have to overcome, to conquer, to inspire. These people possess a shocking level of tenacity. People with Cerebral Palsy are formidable characters that challenge the perseverance of the able-bodied. They are superheroes in stealth mode, prime examples of optimism, persistence, and courage. The world always needs more of that.
Back in June, we met John the bodybuilder, this month my guest on the blog is painter and weightlifter, Kaitlin.
Genevieve: Hey Kaitlin! Tell the readers about yourself, what do you love to do?
Kaitlin: Hey there! Honestly? Doing simple, random things and feeling so much happiness and enjoyment at the moment. Like when you laugh so hard you can’t breathe. I also love weekend breakfast dates with my boyfriend, taking myself on a date to Target, snuggling under blankets, eating pizza, reality TV, and Bloody Marys.
Genevieve: That’s great, all things I like as well! What about the opposite, tell the readers things you cannot stand.
Kaitlin: Here it goes, insincere people, being cold, and peanut butter (people don’t believe me about this but it’s true).
Genevieve: You really don’t like peanut butter? If you say so. How do you spend your time?
Kaitlin: No, I don’t, I know people are very serious about peanut butter. When someone asks this question, I always think to myself what do I actually do? Then I think, I’m the most boring person in the world. I would be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy just hanging out on the couch but I also love going out with friends, painting, and lifting weights.
G: By that description, I am a boring person too and I also love it! Go ahead and tell the world what they need to know about you.
K: I’m a very determined person. I know that when I want something, I have to put my best effort to get it – so I always try to do that. I guess I want anyone reading this to know that no matter what, it’s never too late to improve your quality of life regardless of the negative things that people say.
G: Lovely introduction! Let’s get into it.
This Ability questions
G: How would you explain your diagnosis of Cerebral Palsy?
K: I have left Mild Hemi Cerebral Palsy.
I had a doctor once say it was hemiparetic and then another doctor say it was hemiplegia, so I honestly just called it Hemi. it affects my whole left side. I have very poor motor skills on my left side. My brain and the left side of my body can’t really connect.
For people without a medical background, I like to say it’s like living with someone you don’t really trust but you can’t get away from them.
I don’t trust my CP side very much to do things, so I think over the years it just got easier to use my right side.
G: Funny analogy, I can somewhat relate as my right side is my dominant side. I would explain the feeling as, half of me is a robust twenty-something, the other half is closer to a sleepy seventy-something. It’s not exact but you get the idea and it’s a burden I can easily deal with.
K: Yes! See, you know where I’m coming from.
@KreationsByKittles painted with her non-dominant hand
G: How have others explained your diagnosis of Cerebral Palsy?
K: This is actually a funny question. Some people that have known me for a really long time explain my diagnosis as “I’m fine.” This kind of makes me sad in a way because a lot of people can’t see the pain and struggle I feel from not having four fully functioning limbs.
G: It’s hard for others to truly know anything. How do you define strength?
K: Overcoming any obstacle you have. No matter how big or small, you were able to overcome something you might never think you would.
G: I’ll snap my fingers to that! How do you define weakness?
K: When you don’t take the time to focus on a way that you can better yourself to get stronger.
G: Do you find that your strengths and/or weakness are related to your disability, how so?
K: 100%. From day to day it’s hard to know exactly how your muscles are going to react at any given time. You tell your brain to focus and concentrate to move a certain way but your CP (LEFTY in my case) has other plans and it just does whatever it wants. This can be extremely annoying but a silver lining is the fact that Cerebral Palsy also gives you determination. I believe that individuals with CP are some of the most determined individuals on this planet. We’ve struggled so much but that has helped us gain so much. If I didn’t have CP I probably wouldn’t be as determined as I am. Working hard is something that I just can’t let go of in anything I do.
G: Who knew a life like this would raise up conquerers? In the words of the poet Bukowski, “it has been a beautiful fight, still is.” On the more negative side in my opinion, how do you feel about the word ’disability’?
K: To be honest, I think I have mixed emotions about the word disability. Some people are afraid to use the word “disabled or disability” but I think it’s OK. For years I didn’t like the term “disability” because I would always say that despite having a disability I am able. Before I created my public Instagram account, I spent years trying to ignore publicly that I had a disability. I think owning the fact that you have a disability is awesome and saying yeah I am disabled but look what I can do.
I believe that individuals with CP are some of the most determined individuals on this planet.-Kaitlin
G: Well said, I’m coming out of the ‘hiding’ phase myself, with the help of things like writing this series. Disabled people are people too. What made you want to focus on powerlifting in spite of your condition?
K: Growing up, my parents always wanted me to be active and they tried their best to help make me not feel different from others. If my sisters were playing sports I was playing them too and I think that has a direct effect on my ability to walk today.
In January, I had a lot of time off of work and I decided to start working out to improve my motor function. I was then asked to compete in an adaptive CrossFit competition and to try to get more individuals to join that had neurological disabilities.
I placed 10th worldwide (6th in the US) with upper-body limitations/disabilities (even though my disability affects my whole left side). It’s crazy to me because when I started this competition, I had ZERO experience with CrossFit. I was thankful to have the amazing WheelWOD Women break things down and explain the workouts to me. Then I found my love for lifting heavy things.
G: Congratulations! Tenth worldwide is amazing! The people at WheelWOD are incredible.
K: Thanks! Yes, they are. It’s hard for me to put into words what lifting means to me, there are so many things in life I have struggled to do compared to the person next to me. Growing up, I fought so hard playing team sports not to be a starter, but just to make the team. When it comes to weightlifting, it’s just me and the bar. I’m competing against myself getting stronger and stronger every time I step in the gym (and with adaptive equipment) that’s something that Cerebral Palsy can’t steal from me anymore.
G: In your point of view, what, if any, are the advantages of living with Cerebral Palsy and what, if any, are the disadvantages?
K: As far as advantages, determination- I feel that I am such a determined person when it comes to every aspect of my life. I think a major disadvantage is when someone sees your disability before they focus on your ability and they already have misconceptions about what you can and can’t do.
Another disadvantage is that I am constantly annoyed by myself when I try to do things and my left side doesn’t cooperate.
G: Based on your own experiences, how do you feel the world responds to you as a person, why do you think that is?
K: This is an interesting question. When people have known me for a while and they find out I have Cerebral Palsy, I’m automatically inspiring to them. I think sometimes it’s hard for me when people say that I’m Inspiring. That might sound weird to you but sometimes I don’t feel like I am inspiring. I’m just trying my best to deal with what was given to me. Sometimes I don’t think that people are truthful when they say that I’m inspiring. I guess everyone is looking for some kind of inspiration out there.
G: Yes, aren’t we all? It can feel weird to be considered inspiring for doing no more than being yourself. If there was one thing you could change about the way society views Cerebral Palsy, what would that be and why?
@KreationsByKittles the tenacious work of LEFTY.
A major disadvantage is when someone sees your disability before they focus on your ability and they already have misconceptions about what you can and can’t do.-Kaitlin
K: I think we need to do more for those that are labeled “mild”. I can’t tell you how many times people have said to me that I am fine or that my pain doesn’t matter because I’m not seriously disabled.
G: Hopefully, with interviews like this, things will start to move in the direction of a more comprehensive understanding.
K: I hope so! It’s a start, right? Thanks for offering to interview me. I think this is an important discussion.
G: Of course, thank you for taking the time to talk about the things we don’t really talk about and being so open on the subject. It was a delight conversing with you.
You can find Kaitlin and admire her art and fitness on Instagram @KreationsByKittles