Rebecca Sullivan is a blogger who uses her writing as a medium to express her experiences of living with cerebral palsy. Her work allows her to come to terms with her disability and she hopes it also inspires others to change the way they perceive the disabled community.
I believe that cerebral palsy (CP) is something I have, but that it is not who I am! Just like having brown hair and blue eyes is only one part of me, so is CP. This is the message that I always try to get across through my writing and blogging.
Your disability or challenge is not all of you, and you can overcome the obstacles that come with it. But in order for you to accept your disability and feel the freedom that comes with it, you have to address the tough bit first and recognise your challenges.
Hiding from my disability
Before I started writing about my disability I never really spoke about CP. I guess I didn’t know how to put it into words, or even the right words to explain my experience with a disability.
I was also afraid of what people’s responses would be or what images of me they may create in their minds. When I go somewhere I am usually in my wheelchair. Because of this, I sometimes get odd looks from people, or they may speak differently to me.
Now forgive me, but I don’t think the dramatic announcement of every syllable is their default mode of speaking. So why have they changed anything about their behaviour for me?
It goes without saying that witnessing this type of ignorance is not exactly an open invitation to speak about my CP! In fact, it used to make me want to detach from my disability more.
However, if I had been brave enough to highlight why I was sitting between two wheels and what CP actually is, maybe the stigma surrounding my disability would fade. Maybe not. But at least I would have spoken my truth!
Becoming confident in my story
When I started writing, I was, again, a little hesitant to share my disability. But, writing down my thoughts is somehow slightly easier than expressing them in any other way. So I gradually started sharing parts of my story with CP and how it affects me.
I write about my challenges and how I overcome them, to show others how they may overcome theirs. For example, because of my CP, I have less control of my muscles on the right side of my body and therefore use my left hand for basically everything. I have also talked about how I try to improve the use of my right hand through painting.
I also share other things that I struggle with, including my muscle incoordination, as it can take me longer to do things that people without CP or other related condition.
The importance of sharing your story
At first, revealing parts of my life online was really daunting. Not knowing how my words would be received meant that fear tried to talk me out of it. It tried to convince me that what I offer lacks importance or that no one else will understand.
But it is important that I and others alike let our voice be heard and don’t let our disability or challenges take control. In doing this, we can dismiss false ideas around disability and can educate others about conditions they may know little about.
Another important part of sharing our stories is that we will discover a sense of freedom by unleashing our true selves and inspire others to do the same.
It is crucial that we all find our own way of expressing the more vulnerable parts of ourselves and our thoughts around disability. Being able to see, feel or hear ideas that are different from your own allows you to grow as a person.
Since I started writing about my disability, I have found immense freedom. I am slowly getting rid of my fear of disclosing parts of my disability and realised just how unhealthy and unnecessary it is to keep stuff locked away. I have found that by telling my story I can connect with others who have faced similar struggles.
We are in an age now where minority groups are finally speaking up and we need to keep these conversations going. Being open and sharing our vulnerable side makes us one step closer to being set free.
To learn more about Rebecca and to read some of her work, visit her blog, From this Window.
By Rebecca Sullivan
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