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Finding Balance as a Writer With Cerebral Palsy

I am a writer.  I spend my days playing with words, spilling my thoughts and pouring out my heart in the hope that someone, even if it is only myself, will learn from my mistakes.

I am a woman with cerebral palsy.  I spend my days relentlessly analyzing my gait, adapting to the world around me and longing for acceptance from society, in the hope that someday, I will reach complete self-love.

I am a writer with cerebral palsy.  

I constantly find myself at the cutting edge of a precipice, dangerously close to a free-fall.  I strive to be seen as a typical woman, but I feel an overpowering responsibility to advocate for the disability community, to use my writing to foster hope and belonging.  

I am invariably tugged in opposite directions, torn between two worlds.  In one world, I maintain a veneer of privacy.  I am never asked invasive questions by strangers on the street, nor am I denied opportunities as a consequence of my life circumstances.  In another world, another life, my privacy is shattered by my vulnerability, by my insistence on authenticity.  I am a woman weathered by the harshness of life, a woman well accustomed to overcoming, a woman who needs the world to see the truth behind the facade of normalcy.

Sometimes, I teeter on the precipice feeling stark naked, worrying that I’ve shown the world too much abnormality, fearing that my disability consumes my identity.  I suddenly realize that cerebral palsy is all I know, blinding me to the outside world.  It becomes all I can see, but is it all anyone can see?  Does the world see a woman intent on broadcasting her lilting gait, her struggles, and her life story for the sake of a shred of unsolicited awareness?  Or does the world see a well-rounded, stable woman with an unquenchable lust for life, a burning passion for writing, and a slight touch of cerebral palsy?

Then, without warning, my balance shifts.  As I send ink cascading across a blank page, breathing life into loss and love and life itself, I agonize over whether or not I am doing enough for the community that has accepted me, encouraged me, shaped me.  I am struck by my relative privilege, my verbosity, my mobility, my intelligence, and the prospect of choosing to downplay my life story, my disability, fills me with guilt.  How can I write, advocate, and still be myself?  How can I help others to the best of my ability while still retaining a semblance of normalcy?

I breathe a sigh of relief knowing that I remain on solid ground.  I am clinging to two conflicting worlds with every fiber of my being, and although I am dangerously close to careening off the precipice, for now, I remain stable.

I am a writer with cerebral palsy, and one day, I will find balance.  For now, I’m successfully toeing a steep precipice, one word and one step at a time.

Kelly Douglas

Kelly is an avid writer and mental health and disability advocate with a focus on personal growth. She is passionate about using her life experiences to help others. Her ultimate goal is to make a difference in the world -- no matter how small. When she is not writing or educating others about life with disability and mental illness, Kelly can be found listening to music and cuddling her cat.

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