It’s a question I’ve thought to myself over and over and over again. After all – “you never get a 2nd chance to make a first impression” and when you have a disability that often becomes THE first impression.
What is it that people notice first about me?
- My beaming smile
- My blue eyes
- Or the fact that I walk funny?
Pessimist that I am, I have always been convinced, quite stubbornly so, that it is my awkward and stiff movements that catch peoples eye first.
I can’t blame them. I’ve caught myself on occasion looking twice at another person due to something “catching my eye”. It’s not something to be proud of, but I am human like anyone else.
When I signed onto The Mighty this morning I was met with an article by Brooks Fitts that so resounded with me because he asks this very question.
It’s a great read – check it out: https://themighty.com/2017/03/learning-to-see-beyond-a-persons-disability/
First impressions are a huge part of forming relationships, connections, and establishing bonds. I have felt the overwhelming pressure of walking in to a job interview worrying they’ll take one look at my gait and assume “I can’t do the job” or am even a bit “slow” mentally. I’ve felt the pressure of meeting blind dates and fearing that as soon as they see me in motion they’d take off. I convinced myself in my younger days of bar-hopping that everything would be ok as long as I stayed seated. lol But then I’d inevitably have to pee, or go to the bar, and “the jig is up” so the saying goes. I’m certain I’ve seen that tell tale look of disdain, confusion, disappointment on a blind dates’ face when they realize I have a disability.
As I’ve Aged . . .
I’ve become less worried with what people think of me. I’ve stopped trying to disguise my gait or movements.
It may be because I took a fall over a year ago which resulted in a significant amount of new pain and discomfort. I chose to reach out to the disabled community (on line) rather than mope in front of the TV all day. I’ve researched and read articles from those living with the same struggles I do. I’ve been encouraged by the strength I’ve seen in others who have had to deal with SO.MUCH.MORE.
Learning that it’s ok to ask for help has been difficult for me. Realizing just how many people I have in my life who are there to STEP UP and help has been incredible.
If you read Brooks’ article and are wondering if I too would not trade my CP for anything – the answer is NO!
- ~ Yes Cerebral Palsy has forced me to be a much stronger woman than I may be without it
- ~ Yes I’ve learned to push myself past pain, fatigue, and hopelessness to get to the finish line
- ~Yes I’ve learned that things could be (and are for many) so much worse
As much as I’ve learned to overcome my Cerebral Palsy, I simply cannot yet say that do not wish for a life without it and it’s accompanying aches and pains.
Maybe one day I’ll be able to make that statement.
But not today 🙂