I often hear people comment about my positive attitude and my ability not to be deterred or disheartened by challenges.
But to an extent, people with a congenital disability don’t have a choice.
In my experience, people with congenital physical disabilities who have the capacity to live independently in the world learn early in life that persistent complaining doesn’t change anything, that there are limits to what can be fixed, and that the only way to succeed in an ableist world is to prove that we can contribute and that we are worthy of space.
To do that, to push those messages and to push those behaviors into the world despite whatever pain or physical challenges face us, requires a lot of strength and energy.
So mood and attitude mean everything. Because if my psychological state fades into grouchy or sad or frustrated, my energy drops. My concentration dissipates. And it’s on the subconscious level.
And it takes more energy for a disabled person to navigate the world.
For instance, my blind friend Nancy doesn’t necessarily move from point A to point B in a straight line. Often, she is having a tactile interaction with her environment that requires extra steps and physical behaviors whether that be using her white cane, trailing a wall, or following the body movements of a sighted guide. Hell, if she’s with a sighted guide she can’t even determine her own walking speed. She has to match her companion.
But this also applies to me and my cerebral palsy. Because of lower limb spasticity, my leg muscles don’t relax. I have to concentrate on my body, my posture and my movements with every step. This is exhausting.
A 2010 study by Bell and Davies concluded, “that children with mild CP had a lower physical activity level and lower energy requirements than typically developing children. However, during walking the children with CP expended significantly more energy.”
And I honestly believe I that when my “good attitude” shifts into a darker place, I don’t have the energy for that level of focus and my body revolts.
I might be wrong.