This week as felt like another whirlwind of sorts. I feel like much of my time here has gone by way too quickly. It is also hard to pick a highlight from this week to write about in particular. This past Thursday was absolutely amazing. First off, the CRPD got sent to the Senate floor! After the CRPD mark-up I went to AAPD’s “Justice for All” Award Ceremony and ADA celebration. I heard many inspiring stories there but I think what struck me most were Joyce Bender’s words, “I am Epilepsy.” Before this internship I would never have had the courage to say, “I am Cerebral Palsy.” For most of my life I was taught that my disability made me “a problem,” “a burden,” and “an incompetent person.” As much as I have tried to tell myself over the years that those things were lies I lived like those lies were truth. I tried to live like I didn’t need help, like I could do anything anyone else could (possibly even better) and like my life was not any different from anyone else’s
I tried to live under the statement of “I am Normal.” I thought for a while, that I pulled it off pretty well. Then, I go hit with a neurological disability that made my act a little hard to keep up. Now, I have applied for a mobility dog to help with the neurological issues. I had been encouraged for years to get a mobility dog but for years I avoided it because I lived in places that were not considered “disability friendly” and I didn’t want to be the woman who was treated differently because she had a service dog with her. I wanted to hide my disability, to the point that I had begun to endanger myself. I was willing to live dangerously just so I could say, “I am Normal.” When I heard Joyce shout from the podium on Thursday, “I am Epilepsy” I wondered in my heart if I would ever be secure enough in the way I was created to shout, “I am Cerebral Palsy.” I think applying for the mobility dog was the beginning of working up the courage to do so.
Yesterday, I also went to Philadelphia for their first ever disability pride parade. I was totally honored to be a part of that event and I was glad I went. The time I will most treasure though is being with Yoshiko in 30th Street Station for two hours (our train was very delayed). First of all, I love her and I am amazed I had the opportunity to meet her and get to know her. She is so encouraging. She talked to me about Justin’s dreams and how the world needs people with disabilities who are willing to lead and be involved in politics. She told me I could be a leader. I think, though, that to become the leader Yoshiko encouraged me to be I need to be confident in who I am and who I have been created to be. I need to be able to confidently shout,
I AM CEREBRAL PALSY!