Independence seems like quite a basic topic but not when you factor in cerebral palsy (CP). The neurological condition can interfere with one’s independence. Naturally how much interference cerebral palsy causes varies by a case’s severity. For instance, my pal and cerebral palsy cohort over at Handicap This Productions, Mike Berkson goes as far as redefining what independence means.
Meanwhile my mild CP allows me to hassle with the more traditional concept. I say hassle because I face my obstacles towards independence. These obstacles mostly deal with the fact I do not drive, a decision I made as opposed to a decree handed out by Ohio. My right leg would not navigate foot pedals well leaving hand controls an alternative option. The problem there lay with my less than stellar hand-eye coordination.
So in a society highly reliant on cars, I don’t drive. You could see how that creates independence issues, right? I chose to go the freelance route with my writing career to make commuting to work a non-issue.
Given the steep learning curve I encountered freelancing I still live with my parents, a convenience saving me from worrying about transportation to and from the grocery store. I’m slowly adapting to the aforementioned steep learning curve. Transportation to the grocery store when I’m on my own I’m well aware I will need to address.
Rather currently my main independence issues involve transportation to social gatherings. Most friends I can call up and say “Hey, could you pick me up Friday night?” and without a problem I’m set. While incredibly thankful for these friends, my pride deflates.
Initially that may sound irrational but stay with me. Successfully getting yourself from point A to point B stimulates a liberating sensation. Drivers, you probably grow so accustomed to the liberation you take the sensation for granted. However, think back to high school and the first time you drove to the movie theater to meet your friends or a date. Remember how that felt?
Anytime I can get myself to a social gathering on my own I fill with that feeling. Actually over the past month I walked to two different parties, both within a two-mile radius from where I take up residence. With the first my parents offered to drop me off. The latter I knew a ride remained one phone call away. Again though, I desired to protect my pride.
Previously I felt unsure how to respond to the weird looks and drawn out “Okays” I receive when I pass on a ride to walk somewhere. At least that proved the situation until today. I always discover the right words conversing with you, my lovely blog reader. You make me explore my thoughts in-depth and as a result I better understand myself.
Next time I will diffuse the weird looks and prolonged “Okays” by explaining how walking makes me feel independent. If needed, I can draw the parallel to that first time in high school the person drove to spend time with friends or a date.
To my brothers and sisters in cerebral palsy reading this, I want to ask you a question. How does your CP affect your independence? Leave a comment and let me know!
For insights on the independence issue from someone with more severe cerebral palsy, I highly recommend you listen to Handicap This’ podcast episode “Redefining Independence.” Mike and his co-host Tim Wambach discuss the matter at length.