Over the last couple of weeks, something that I have believed since my early teenage years has come up a lot in my conversations. I appreciate that some of you may not agree with what I'm about to blog about. In fact, I'd be interested to hear of your views. In some ways this post could be seen as slightly controversial, but hopefully it'll make interesting reading!
So, as some of you might know, my Cerebral Palsy is Quadriplegic, meaning that all 4 of my limbs are affected - we wouldn't want an arm or a leg to feel left out now would we?! My legs are significantly affected, e.g. I walk funny(!), I can't walk far or for long meaning that I have a wheelchair, I can't move at any kind of speed, I can't stand for long and I am prone to losing my balance. Now, I don't know about you, but most of the people who I've met in life who haven't met anyone with Cerebral Palsy before often immediately associate the condition with the lower limbs/wheelchairs. This frustrates me so much - they're not incorrect with this association, but neither are they correct!
In my case, my arms/hands are severely affected by Cerebral Palsy, much more so than my legs. I can't cut my food up, pour drinks/I have to use a straw, do my hair, handle money, tie my shoelaces, do buttons etc. I started to really notice this during my early teenage years - before this, I didn't really notice. You don't realise until you start having to look at situations from certain angles, but all the things that I struggle with are routinely done for children, e.g. children's food is cut up, children use beakers/straws, children don't tend to handle money etc. So, whilst I was a child, I didn't even notice as the help I was receiving was 'normal'. During my teenage years, and very much so now, I work hard to optimise my level of hand function. Now, I'm a realist, I know I'm not going to be pouring cups of tea anytime soon! But, I've found ways around a lot of things, e.g. how to use an iPhone (I just bought one knowing I wouldn't be able to use it - but, if I hadn't have had one, I wouldn't have had the chance to change this! 2 years later, I am now a 'successful' iPhone user!) and how to do my makeup (when I first started, the carpet wore more makeup than me!). By persevering with such tasks, I have seen a noticeable difference in my hand function.
People concentrate so much on legs and being able to walk. I suppose some people may say that it is easy for me to say as my legs do allow me to walk, even if it isn't 'normally'. But, my family has always said I could have a greater level of independence if my legs weren't so good/didn't work at all and my arms/hands were of normal function. Let me stress, I wouldn't change anything about my disability (nor would my family), but I do agree with them. I have friends with Cerebral Palsy who are unable to walk at all and their arms/hands are unaffected, and they are much more independent than I ever will be. They go shopping alone, they make their own food/drinks, dress themselves (I can dress myself, but buttons, zips, laces, tight tops etc. are a no go!). As long as they're seated, they can do anything that an able-bodied person can whilst seated.
I've had quite a lot of conversations recently about legs being 'overrated' and everyone who I've had a conversation with about it has actually stopped, thought about it and gone "oh yeah!". One person put it very simply by saying "Yeah, we put you in your wheelchair and you keep up with us. We put you on your RaceRunner and you actually run faster than most of us. But, there's nothing out there other than a miracle to 'fix' your arms/hands.". Legs can most definitely be overrated at times!
My 'biggest' issue with my lack of hand function is doing my hair. My sister currently does my hair (straightens it), but obviously we are not going to live under the same roof forever and my sister will probably be moving away to University in the next couple of years. I have tried and tried with the straighteners off to 'perfect' the movement to straighten my hair - lets just say if I ever turn them on, I'll be heading straight to A&E with third degree burns! I have the exact same hair as Mia off of Princess Diaries before her makeover, so I am absolutely dreading my sister moving away! My Mum can straighten hair, but it always still looks frizzy when she's done it in the past (sorry Mum!) ... so, I'm really going to have to get my head around how I'm going to do my hair, which is going to be interesting given I am only able to brush it!