I literally cannot believe it is nearly September! It actually feels like May/June time! As September fastly approaches, so does possibly one of my biggest challenges yet ... university. A lot of people keep saying to me 'oh, you'll be fine. Everyone will be scared and you're all in the same boat' ... are we though?
Now, for those of you who regularly read this blog will know that I don't use my disability to hide behind, without sounding big-headed - I just don't approve of using my disability in such a way. I expect people to treat me 'normally', so if I constantly hide behind my disability, how could I even expect people to treat me 'normally'? But, without sounding negative, because let me assure you I am not being negative, I am very excited about university, but, I can't help but get a bit 'angry' (I'm not sure what the right word is!) when people say to me 'Oh, everyone's in the same boat'.
Obviously there will be other disabled students in this year's intake, but the other students on the whole have not got a disability to take into account. Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't change anything for the world, but for me, it's not the actual going to university that is worrying me, it's the going to university with a disability, which I know sounds a tad ridiculous as I've had Cerebral Palsy for the last 19 years ... it isn't exactly a new spanner in the works!
Because of my Cerebral Palsy, I have lived a rather 'sheltered' life, and by this I don't mean I've sat at home for the past 19-years drinking cups of tea and knitting (not that my hand function would even allow me to knit, but that is beside the point!), because believe me, I can party all night long! What I mean is, I've never really gone anywhere alone, I've always had someone with me to lend a helping hand. Now, some people may say, 'Well, that's really silly...' but, even if I was super confident, my hands don't really work so anything like shopping, popping into a coffee shop etc. is out, my speech is affected so although I am 'understandable' (poor choice of word again!) I haven't got the confidence to ask complete strangers for help, and unfortunately, some people are unpredictable, and my walking is slow and 'wobbly'! So, all of these things combined, I've always had someone with me.
I am living at home, so this takes some of the 'pressure' off. But, the prospect of getting taxis around the city as and when I need them and finding my way around the campuses etc. is quite a massive step for me, even if it's a tiny baby step for other students. In fact, the other students are probably used to getting themselves around their own hometowns and cities. I was even escorted around my small secondary school so that I didn't get crushed on the corridoors! So, to be suddenly navigating my way around a city, even though it's a city I know well, is quite a scary thing!
Also, again, probably a stupid thing, but, I've never really had to 'introduce my disability' to anyone before! Now, that probably sounds really bizarre, but I've always either had my parents to 'explain' or as I said before, I've always been with someone who obviously knows I have had Cerebral Palsy. Likewise, at school, my teaching assistant had 'that conversation' with the teachers and any other relevant people. At university, the lecturers are given a pack to read, but I am a realist and they are busy, busy people and like any university, my university is a massive organisation spread across a city. Me & Laura (who I met through CP Teens UK!) always say how we hate that 'awkward conversation'! ... But, I will admit, it's something I do need to get used to!
For me, it really is going to be a confidence challenge. I've not been able to build up a 'normal level' of confidence as I've always had someone alongside me. All my friends can get themselves places, do simple tasks such as go shopping, pop out for some milk etc., have a part-time job, which are all things that build confidence without even realising it. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not moaning at all ... I've experienced some crazily amazing things because of having Cerebral Palsy that my friends and other people my age will probably never get to experience, I just wish I could have maybe built up a tad more confidence along the way!
And, this is why I get a tad 'angry' when people say, 'you're all in the same boat'. For most students, September will be all about having a new found freedom and moving out, and probably becoming even more confident. For me, it will be about building my confidence almost from the start, getting to grips with my disability when by myself in the outside world and being confident with speaking to people and saying 'I'm Ellie and I have Cerebral Palsy'.
My point probably isn't all that clear? It's just 'tiny' things I suppose, and physical worries that your average student won't have to worry about, for example, my campus is quite old and there are small steps everywhere. All the other students understandbly won't have given them a single thought because they don't need to, however, I on the other hand, am sat here thinking 'what shall I do?! Slide down on one's bottom?!'
I think, the only thing I can do now is on the morning of the 22nd September (the day I start!), is take one deep breath, smile and just go for it and try not to think about what other people are thinking around me!
Through CP Teens UK, I have met a lot of you who are actually at university, and this has helped me a lot, so thank you to every single one of you! It is great that we can all share our experiences on here and create such a great community, and I will leave you with the CP Teens UK Facebook status about our community ... also, a massive welcome to new Ambassadors, Hannah and Jamie!
'I don't normally post posts like this as I feel extremely big headed doing so! But, tonight, I feel I need to! I am so, so proud of CP Teens UK and all the CP Teens and users out there - the sense of community and togetherness is incredible from Scotland down to Cornwall, from London to Leeds, from Plymouth to Newcastle ... all over the UK! And then, even overseas to America and Australia!
Ambassadors are great friends with one another, tonight 2 CP Teens UK users have met up again in their home city, 1 CP Teens UK user is coming to stay with me at the end of the month and we are fantastic friends through meeting through the website, and I got approached tonight by a builder who adapts properties for those with disabilities - he wanted all the details for CP Teens UK and he was 'so glad' he met me!
On the 5th October, CP Teens UK is holding it's first fundraising event to head towards charity status to provide equipment for it's users and spread awareness in schools about Cerebral Palsy and similar disabilities. Lots of the CP Teens UK users are coming and even more of us will meet!
I now feel extremely big headed! But I just wanted to say a massive thank you to all of you! I never set up CP Teens UK for me, I set it up for all of you out there, but it has actually given me so much confidence, especially in a world that at times, can not be very understanding of disability. I am proud of CP Teens UK and all of you out there, thank you for helping to create CP Teens UK! I don't deserve any praise at all, you all do!'