I only ever remember wishing that I didn’t have Cerebral Palsy once, and I was about five at the time.
It was summer and I was playing outside in the sunshine. At the time I was an only child because my sister hadn’t been born yet, so I’d become very good at using my imagination to make up my own games. That day I decided that I was going to practice running, not for any particular reason, I just felt like it.
I did a couple of laps going from the front garden to the one at the back of the house. I knew that I wasn’t technically doing it right, but I didn’t care. I was moving faster than I did when I walked and I wasn’t falling over. It felt good, and that was enough for me.
After a couple of laps I was starting to feel really proud of myself, it didn’t last long. As I came out of back garden round into the front again, there was another child who wasn’t from my street watching me over the fence. I didn’t know their name and I don’t think they knew mine.
“Ha, ha. You can’t run” the kid chanted, before galloping up and down the pavement to show me what I should have been doing it. I was heartbroken. She was right and I knew it. I’d known that I hadn’t been doing the same as the other child, but I’d been pretending that I was. I felt stupid and pathetic. My illusion had been shattered. I burst into tears and wondered back inside to find my mummy.
When I did I wailed to her about what had happened and declared that I wished I had normal legs like everyone else. My mum just stared at me and told to “never, ever say anything like that again,
“And anyway”, she carried on “you can run in your own little fashion, can’t you?”
For the second time that day I was left feeling deeply ashamed of myself, not because I couldn’t do something, but because I knew that I’d been ungrateful for everything that I could do that so many other people with Cerebral Palsy can’t. That day, I promised myself that I would never wish my disability away again, and I haven’t. Sure, there were other times in my childhood I got upset at not being able to dance like my friends could and stuff, but I think that’s probably quite normal for any kid sometimes, disabled or not. I spent the rest of my childhood telling people that I was proud to have a disability because it meant that someone else in the world didn’t have to. Now that I’m older I know that might not necessarily be the way things work, but it was how I liked to think of things at the time.
Despite my difficulties I still took part in all my primary school sports days on my walking frame alongside everyone else and managed to think about how I usually always came in last because it didn’t matter anymore. I decided not to take up running in the end, not because I couldn’t, but because I realised that I’d much rather bury my head in a book.
So far I’ve stayed true to my word. Yes, I have CP, that will never change, nor do I want it to. More on that later.