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Physical or Psychological?

It is now the end of July - how did that happen?! A week on Sunday I will be off to the World CP Games, I still can't quite believe it. I would be lying if I said I wasn't also a tad nervous. Although I am nearly 21, and people of my age have been away from home countless times and probably actually live away from home, I have never really been away from home. This is mainly because of my disability, and partly because the 'right' opportunity for me to go away somewhere (e.g. with school) has never really come up.

My only 'real' experience of being away from home was the festival I went to last year (which I blogged about at the time), and unfortunately it didn't last long! I am an outgoing person, and I'll always give anything a go, so I thought camping would not be an issue for me. My Cerebral Palsy was the last thing on my mind, the only thing that I thought about beforehand was getting dressed in a tent could be interesting, but most definitely not impossible! I don't like to use Cerebral Palsy as an excuse, but when I went to the festival, I totally underestimated my disability.

I did not realise the importance of the right mattress and bed - I just thought "Oh, it is 2 nights of my life, I'll be fine!". I was so, so wrong! I struggled so much and I was virtually in tears to my Mum on the phone - not one of my finest moments at the age of 19! I underestimated the fatigue levels that come with Cerebral Palsy - I was tired on a whole new level. There was so much walking, so much standing, and not even a proper bed to return to at night. I was meant to be there Friday through to Sunday evening - I bailed out first thing Saturday morning. It felt like defeat as I packed all my and waited for my parents to turn up. And, that is my only 'real' experience of being away from home!

I am confident that the World CP Games will not turn out to be the nightmare that the festival was! For starters, I will have a proper bed and everyone will have Cerebral Palsy. Whatever I need help with, at least one other person will need help with it too. Cerebral Palsy will be at the centre of everything, rather than being this 'bit on the side' that no one fully understands apart from you. There will be no shame in saying "Can you cut up my food please?", "Can I have a straw in my cup of tea?", "Could you tie up my shoelace please?" or even "I can't walk any further, can I have my wheelchair now please?"!

I will obviously blog on my return about the big adventure of the World CP Games!

Yesterday was National Paralympic Day and the Anniversary Games in the London Olympic Stadium. I would just like to say a massive congratulations to Abbie. Abbie is an F32 Club Thrower (the same as me!) and yesterday she threw a massive 21.01m bagging a National Record, a PB, the title of UK Number 1 and World Number 3! I couldn't be prouder! No one deserves it more than Abbie and I can't wait to see her at the World Games ... I think we all know who will be taking home the Gold!

So, moving on to the title, 'Physical or Psychological?'. Lots of parents of young children with Cerebral Palsy have been asking me, "You can walk, how?". It is a well known fact that people with my type of Cerebral Palsy (Quadriplegic Athetoid) do not tend to walk. So, how did it happen and how have I got to the stage that I am at now? Obviously Cerebral Palsy is a physical disability, but psychological factors most definitely played a part in getting me to put one foot in front of the other. Because walking was such a big thing for me physically, it became a massive thing psychologically.

I learned to walk with aids, whether this be a walker, the hands of my parents, or even holding onto a doll's pram. I could essentially walk, the only thing I 'couldn't' do was let go of whatever I was holding on to. To me, if I let go, I was going to fall, and if I fell, it was going to hurt. What I hadn't identified was the fact that over time, I was hardly holding on to the walking aid - I felt safe as it was there, but it wasn't supporting me or holding me up. When I was holding my Mum and Dad's hands, they let go for a couple of seconds at a time - if I noticed, I would burst into tears and feel very wobbly, but if my concentration was on something else, I wouldn't notice and I would stay on my own two feet. My Mum and Dad noticed this and identified that although walking would always be a physical challenge, it had become a psychological challenge too.

Holding a doll's pram - don't let go!

So, over time I had to get rid of this idea that I was 'unsafe' if I wasn't holding on to something. I started off by having a go in carpeted areas. It's safe to say this didn't happen overnight. It was something that was built up over many years, and if I did fall over, it was literally one step forward, two steps back. I would argue that my psychological 'issues' would have stopped me from walking independently if they were allowed to carry on and develop.

It could be worth bearing in mind if a child is walking well with a walker/walking aid - is it muscle tone/balance that is stopping independent walking? Or is it the belief that they can't let go of their safety net? I am no medical expert at all, but I am pretty sure the mind can be as powerful as physical factors at times!

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