Things I have Learned From Having Hemiplegic Cerebral Palsy

I will never confuse my right and my left.

Mouths are secretly hands that never grew fingers, and can be used as such.

All doorknobs should be levers. Seriously. You try opening a doorknob with your fist when your other hand is full.

Whoever invented shaving should be tarred and feathered. Or at least forced to shave under his or her right arm with his or her right hand.

Muscle twitches are the spice of life. …right?

Ovens are very, very dangerous when you have little feeling in one hand. So are sharp things.

While typing with one hand is possible (and much faster than with two) beware- the typos mob you and name you their Queen.

Things carried in the left hand are liable to being dropped and/or tilted precariously at any moment. This makes carrying breakable items, stacks of things, and containers of liquid inadvisable.

While some people will be rude and tell you to your face that handicapped people are a burden on society, many more people will line up to beat the crap out of those few. Wait and see who gets there first, and befriend those people. If you are very smooth, they might let you call them your mafia.

Almost anything can be done with one hand. Even if no one else believes it can be. If no one else believes it can be done, finding a way to do it is much more satisfying.

If something really, truly cannot be done with one hand, there will always be someone willing to do it for you.

Fencing is a one-handed sport. Therefore, it is made of awesome. Also, it involves swords. Therefore, it is made of awesome that is made of awesome.

Having horrible balance only makes fencing more fun.

It is possible to catch, flip, and throw a Frisbee in one motion with one hand. And looks darn cool when done right.

Ditto with hitting baseballs out of the park with one hand on the bat.

The only time something becomes impossible is when you say ‘I can’t’. Up until that point, it is merely improbable, but can be accomplished with the right amount of sheer bullheadedness.

Buying shoes is frustrating when one foot is a size smaller than the other. Likewise with shirts when one shoulder sits lower than the other and your spine twists. And forget trying to keep buttons straight.

Never ever carry crushable or squishable things in a hand that clenches uncontrollably. It’s not pretty.

Ditto for loaded plates and/or bowls.

Walking and talking are things for which to be fervently thankful.

Driving is possible with one hand, thanks to this cool thing commonly called a suicide knob. Doesn’t that sound safe?

Hugs tend to last longer than expected when your hand clenches on the other person’s shirt. (If you just don’t feel like letting go yet, this can be used as a great excuse.)

Low nerve sensitivity means that, for some reason, textures are hyper-sensitively felt and absolutely fascinating. This may leads to shirt-petting when friends wear soft things.

Basically, friends learn to be tolerant of quirks fast, or they don’t stay friends long. But the ones that do stay are amazing people.

Velcro is the world’s best invention (when it lets you do things you otherwise couldn’t) and the worst (when it doesn’t).

Perfectionism is useless. Not necessarily unavoidable, but not really helpful either.

The little things really do count the most. Whether it’s opening a door or zipping a jacket or just holding a cup of water without spilling it, little moments of win make life spectacular.

Handicapped people are no different from anyone else in all the ways that count. We might not walk, talk, and look like the rest of the world, but that doesn’t mean our minds work any less than yours. And even if they do work differently than yours, we’re still people. We still think and hope and do dorky things to make people laugh. So please, don’t treat us like we’re stupid. Chances are we’re a lot smarter than you think.

Being handicapped is not the end of the world. In fact, in many ways it is the beginning of a whole new world. It provides a unique perspective on life and pushes you to find new and creative ways to approach problems.

Having a spastic-ataxic left side works to your advantage when people call you a spaz- you can look at them all serious and say “Actually, I am” and the crack up when they get all flustered and embarrassed.

If I ever injure my right arm and/or hand, I will be utterly and completely screwed.

I cannot walk in a straight line- I veer to the right. This makes walking beside people…interesting. And God help me if I ever get pulled over for a sobriety test.

It’s really easy to fake a limp when you already have a little one. This is extremely helpful in Theatre class. And when you are feeling unloved and want some attention.

I can opt out of any gym class I want on the grounds that I physically cannot complete the course; if it’s required, I always come out with an A.

I can never be drafted into the Army.

Earring backs are a pain to get on when I can’t hold the earring in question still and straight with one hand.

Mind you, I can’t even feel the earring in my left ear anyhow, so I have to watch that it doesn’t fall out.

I can crack an egg into a bowl completely with one hand and get no shell into it (usually).

I have a disability; I am not disabled.

Folding laundry is a task that entails both hands, teeth, cursing, and many, many retries.

Guitar Hero can be a cooperative game- I hit the buttons, my little brother works the strum bar.

When you’re handicapped, you have to have a sense of humor. If you can’t treat obstacles lightly and find the ridiculousness of the situations in which you find yourself, life gets very grim very fast.

When I’m struggling with a task and I just can’t seem to get it right, I don’t want pity and I definitely don’t want ‘Oh, let me do that for you’. I have this need to be independent, probably more even than I would if my body worked right. I will accept help if I’m really stuck, but other than that, just let me figure it out on my own. Even if it doesn’t seem like a big deal, to me it’s important.

People tend to assume that it’s only physically/mentally “normal” people who take things for granted that they assume others can do as well, but that’s not always the case. I learned today that most people put pants, shirts, and socks on with both hands- and have difficulty or can’t do it with just one! Now, pants and shirts I can understand, but I really thought everyone put socks on with one hand…

On that note, just because there are things we can’t do doesn’t mean we can’t do amazing things of our own- can you automatically know what day of the week any date of any year was or will be? Or draw an absolutely accurate picture after looking at the subject only once? Yeah. Didn’t think so.

Itches were invented by the Devil to torment people whose fingers don’t work well enough to scratch them.

Fingernail clippers are useless when your grip isn’t strong enough to actually use them. Teeth, however, are universally functional.

The rocking of a large ship feels quite like the sensation I get going down a steep flight of stairs- like I’m about to pitch forward and fall on my face. Fun stuff, yes?

Practice, while it rarely makes perfect, does make better. Just holding things more often builds strength and increases function- and confidence.

Handicaps make bowling fun! (or at least two-handed)

So do bumpers. Yay bumpers!!

When starting a new school year, job, or other social activity, it’s easiest just to wear a brace (or equivalent) if you have one and get the questions over with right at the beginning. You’ll still explain your handicap twenty times, but at least it’ll be twenty times in a row and then you’ll be done.

There are always a few people who think being handicapped is ‘cool’ or ‘useful’, i.e. ‘I want to be handicapped and get out of gym!’. Just humor them. They don’t understand how wrong they are.

Mountains, both literal and metaphorical, are much easier to descend if you’re walking with a friend ready to offer a steadying shoulder.

Doctors can be wrong.

Change is always possible, even if eighteen years’ worth of doctors and exams says it’s not. Have hope. Things can get better.

Horses are magic.

It’s okay to ask for help sometimes. It’s not a sign of weakness. No, really.

On the other hand, if you think you can do it, trying literally 50 times is not a sign of insanity.

Just as you shouldn’t make a mountain out of a molehill, neither should you make a mountain range out of a mountain; a handicap may be a big obstacle, but it’s not the end of the road.

Things can always get worse – and probably will – and they can always get better –and probably will. You never have to settle for what you have, because nothing is certain or stable or unchanging.

Unpredictable depth perception makes life…interesting? I swear the walls I run into look further away!

Nothing is ever independent. Seemingly unrelated events, thoughts, even symptoms can be linked. Uncontrollable temper tantrums, mild stuttering, and sensitivity to textures may seem completely apart from one another, but they’re all symptoms of cerebral palsy. There’s always a pattern, or a joining link, if you look hard enough.

Never be afraid to think outside the box. Heck, don’t be afraid to live outside the box. We have a lot more space out here.

Hope is a wonderful, terrible, painful, glorious thing. There is always room and cause for hope.

You can’t do it alone. Good thing you don’t have to.

Juggling is absolutely possible with one hand. Start with 2 balls and work your way up.

Never be afraid to try something new, even if you think it won’t work. Turns out physical therapy can still be helpful even if you start for the first time at age 19.

Sometimes it is literally the best, most necessary thing in the world to take a step back and breathe. Just breathe. Things may seem overwhelming but you can do it.

pediatric-stroke-blogger-heather-tarneyArticle written by CHASA blogger, Elizabeth Tarney, a student at North Carolina State University majoring in Zoology. Elizabeth was diagnosed with hemiparesis due to a stroke in utero at about four months of age, but hasn’t let that stop her from doing… anything, really. She is a fencer, hiker, rock climber, and white-water rafter. At NC State Elizabeth is an activist for disability awareness and the president of a disability advocacy club. She plans to combine that passion with her love of animals to someday train service animals for children with special needs.