More Than We Believe

Perception has become a primal validation, since truth often sits alone on a ledge between ignorance and fantasy.

Although I am twice college educated, alternatively exposed and voraciously read, people still cast me as mentally-retarded. Maybe, that explains why I often lead with intelligence first.

I know I have Cerebral Palsy. I have no use for daily confirmations. When I am obsessed over like a science experiment, I get anxious. And so I avoid people and situations that advertise the fallacy that living with Cerebral Palsy is a despondent catastrophe of rejections, aspersions, and demarcations. For me, Cerebral Palsy is just a frame that makes my life more interesting. But am I constantly defined by it? No.

My mom was clear from my childhood that I should never limit myself. And this is the struggle I live against: the thought that having Cerebral Palsy isn’t a standard idea. Cerebral Palsy is the most common childhood disability. And children must become healthy adults. Today, I’m a healthier adult because my mom, without fanfare or bombast, cheered me on from her humble workstation.

More than we believe, there is a running narrative that every person with Cerebral Palsy is the same. We are currently conquering the stigma of Down Syndrome and Autism. But we still have people believing that I’ve got Spina Bifida. And I must tell you that I don’t know what Spina Bifida is!

I asked a friend: Why do people tell me “I’ve got my mind” as if I was never supposed to have any opinions. I get that many people with Cerebral Palsy are not able to compose intricate sentences, but why do I have to make myself an idiot so t others can feel like they are doing me a favor that I did not request.  Am I a child or an adult? If a person feels weird around me, I just wish they would ask me a series of questions. My answers could help us both.  I could tell you several stories about people who assumed that being disabled meant I’m incapable of learning.

But that’s the problem with perception… it’s not reality. However, I have a larger point. The craziest thing we’ve done is assume that every mentally ill person deserves our compassion. Sadly, every case is different. Some mentally ill people are professionals who work in great positions and follow protocols while managing their conditions. But some mentally ill people should be nowhere near a job that makes them lead.

More than we believe, people with serious problems are elevated because decision makers are under-educated and under-scrutinized.

Cerebral Palsy is not a eating disorder. Cerebral palsy is not diabetes. Cerebral Palsy is just Cerebral Palsy. It’s arthritis; it’s taking breaks. It’s using resources. It’s learning new ways to do human things.

Maybe, CP is just letting me tell a person if I need something. But I’ll tell you what CP isn’t: It is not assuming that every case of this common occurrence will be the same.

Like CP, we assume that every mental illness is the same. WRONG. Compulsive lying can be linked to a mental illness. But sometimes people just like to lie because they are lazy and want to take advantage of the simple-minded.

The biggest reason I work hard to separate my Cerebral Palsy from my person is:

I don’t think of my disability as something that separates me from the world. I don’t live worried about how I manage my CP. I’m 32. I think I’m going to be fine.

I worry about people believing that Cerebral Palsy and SAD, ADD, and Autism are the same. MORE THAN WE KNOW, we are placing too many things—- that are not the same—in the same box. And we are paying for that error with our incomes and our sanity.

More than we believe, we must get back to researching the things we hold dear.

Documentaries are awesome. Movies are cool. Reality shows are alright. But nothing replaces the un-disturbed power of books.  Books are full of opinions, no one tells you to believe them. But they are tools that help you peacefully process powerful things. Reading a story about my account of  disability gives you time to digest the weight of what I’m saying before you listen to the sensationalism of a news story. These words can linger with you… if you read them.

They can help you pause and REFLECT before you assume that I’m just writing garbage.

And that’s needed… more than we know, much more than we believe.

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