Claudine’s guest post is the 22nd post in the segment on my blog, called “The Reality Of…” which gives others the ability to share their story and raise awareness of the disabilities, illnesses, impairments and invisible illnesses that they have.
I’m Claudine from Belfast UK and I have Cerebral Palsy (CP). CP is an umbrella term for a whole bunch of different conditions ranging from relatively minor life-effects to very severe effects where you are unable to do much for yourself at all. CP affects various things including movement, spacial awareness and memory, the ease at which you learn new things and even how you feel temperature.
I personally have left-side hemiplegia just the same as a friend of mine, actually. It is fairly mild, considering the huge difficulty-scale that exists. But, it does, nevertheless, affect me significantly enough. Today, I’ll talk about the five biggest things to me. Keep in mind that I have always had my condition so there are no changes ‘since’.
My balance is really poor and has definitely got worse as I’ve grown up mainly because I’ve grown taller and my brain has more difficulty gauging heights and angles now compared to when I was little and closer to the ground. It’s actually one of the reasons that I am terrible with heights.
Standing near the edge of something or up high throws my brain for an even bigger loop and it retaliates by making me dizzy and faint. Ergo, no heights for me unless you want me to panic. Often to the point of palm-sweating.
Also, trying to balance on my left leg is a no unless I want to keel over the second that I try. It is as if my body doesn’t know that the leg exists at all at these times. It certainly should still be strong enough to last a little while.
My left side is mild/moderately affected in that it is significantly weaker than the right. This is because the side of my brain that was damaged by the stroke as an infant is the right. Damage to the left brain = weakness to the right side and the other way around.
My brain just does not connect properly with the nerves in my left side and it causes movements to be much more difficult compared to others. Indeed, I’ve been advised that people with CP may take 3-5 times as much energy to walk or otherwise do something than someone without this. In more digestible terms, a 15 minute walk for you would be an awful lot more work for me.
It is particularly important here to point out that, whilst this isn’t a progressive disorder as such, the added strain and energy requirements do age my body quicker than that of others and I may end up needing to rely on a walking stick sooner than I would like. Probably within the next couple of years. Ugh! One hand is also almost useless, though I do try to do as much as I can with it.
Memory may be a thing for many people, but it is definitely affected by CP. My memory is shocking. If it isn’t written down, it is forgotten the majority of the time. Appointments might be hugely anticipated and known well in advance, but unless there is a reminder in my phone and others know to remind me, I could well miss it.
Shopping lists are very much required and my boyfriend texts me reminders for various things all the time to ensure it’s done. Mental maths in school was a nightmare of epic proportions at the time.
I will start off by saying that this is something that is perhaps the most embarrassing/annoying aspect of CP. I have dysphagia (trouble swallowing) and an easily triggered gag reflex which means that I choke on food and drinks quite easily. I, therefore, avoid anything stringy and anything chewy (fat is a huge no). Because of the swallowing difficulties, water/juice gets me a lot too just simply because my throat has randomly decided to add water to my lungs.
Mostly, I am fairly content in life and try hard to not let my difficulties make me feel bad. It can be hard, though. As a child seeing other children running freely and jumping around when I knew after several attempts that such activities would get me hurt was hard.
Other times, I envy the ease with which people do things like going upstairs. Overall, though, I know that I am lucky. I know that I have done well and learned to cope in my own way. I may tie my shoes differently, but I can still tie them etc. It is important to monitor my mentality and catch myself when I get too low.
On the plus side!!
I can (and do) cook and clean for myself. I can (and do) dress and generally look after myself, not including fiddly jewellery which gets put on my friends or boyfriend and a couple other bits and pieces. I can work even if I get tired a lot quicker than others and can generally live my life happily.
I can (and do) also write and boy would I be a wreck without it. They should prescribe writing as a form of therapy if they don’t already! I just need to be a lot more careful, I need to take my time and generally have to avoid certain things (stringy foods/running/items that require hand dexterity).
My Favourite Superhero
Lastly, I will always be a Superman woman. Always… though I admit to loving someone that’s more of a Batman.
Thanks Claudine for sharing your story with my readers and me!
If you would like to keep up to date with Claudine, then you can find her on Twitter!