As a person who has lived with cerebral palsy for 35 years, the common statement that people make is: you’re such an inspiration. It probably won't seem like a harmless statement, right? Or at least it shouldn’t be, but it can be annoying and even frustrating for some. Let me explain why, in the simplest form, we as people with cerebral palsy or any other disability long to be treated like anyone else. We have to get dressed every day, eat, brush our teeth, contribute to the world and face our fears. It only may look a little different, and many of us (if not all of us) want the same things in life. To be happy, pursue our dreams and meet someone that we want to spend the rest of our lives with.
And in all honesty, that can be a bit harder of a pursuit for some people with disabilities. It doesn’t mean that would hide beyond excuses or throw pity parties. I’m only saying that it’s a lot harder than it is for the average person. Hopefully, you can see why it would be somewhat of an irritant being seen as an inspiration. For me though, I personally do not find it irritating or frustrating when people tell me that I’m an inspiration. In fact, I sort of welcome it, why? Because that means that people are watching me! You can call it vein and self of absorbed, but if someone’s watching me, perhaps they’ll take that very inspiration and use it as a means to change their own lives!
Do you see? Sometimes there’s more going on than what we know and perceive. When I was still competing in CrossFit years ago, I was always the only adaptive athlete at an event. I did all my heavy lifts on my knees or seated position. There were countless people coming up to me, shaking my hands, hugging me, telling me that I’m an inspiration and some would even come up to me with tears in their eyes. Stating how they have a special needs child themselves and that they hope to inspire their child to be like me. This was no small occurrence for me, I embraced the interactions that I had with people as an athlete. I thanked God for it, and still do because maybe that’s God's way of using the light he has given me for the greater good. Forgive me if this is so forward, but I don’t believe that being called inspiration is something that we should be so offended by. There’s a lot of other things in life to be offended by, like someone trying to prank us by doing something to our wheelchairs or hiding our crutches or what have you. I’ve learned to take a lot of things with a grain of salt and let things roll off my back. Believe me, there’s a time to be angry at things. But at large, I feel that many of us find new things to be angry at. And for what? It’s only robbing us of joy, peace and the ability to make the most out of the time we’re given.
Image credit: Brandon Ryan