I walk slowly. I have always walked slowly. I walk more quickly now that I am stronger through therapy, but my walk is still slow. Some people slow down to match my pace. Some people walk ahead of me and I struggle to catch up. I don’t feel frustrated and angry with people who don’t slow down to walk with me. I feel angry at myself that I can’t walk as quickly as other people can, even after more than five years of therapy. It embarrasses me when, if I am walking with a bigger group of people, two or three of them will slow down to walk with me while the rest of the group goes ahead. I can’t help but feel that I am physically and metaphorically slowing other people down and inconveniencing people.
I started my rehabilitation therapy in November of 2007. Before then, I believed that I could never – and would never – get better. Cerebral palsy is thought of as an incurable, permanent, irreversible condition because it is the result of brain trauma. I didn’t have the right information that I could get better and I didn’t have the tools to make myself better. I had spent my whole life struggling to keep up with people. In the summer of 2007, a group of girls invited me out on a shopping trip with them. They later rescinded their invite on the basis that I walked too slowly and I would slow them down. They added insult to injury by saying, ‘But we love you.’ But they were right, in a way. I would have slowed them down. Until I found out I could get better, my slowness wasn’t something I could ‘help.’ I have since learned that I can help my slowness – and I have certainly helped it through all the work I have done – but I still walk slowly enough for other people to notice it and slow down for me. I just wish people didn’t have to slow down for me. I wish I could keep up with everyone else. These kind of experiences make me sad and frustrated, but they also motivate me to work harder so that I will eventually be able to keep up with people and they won’t have to slow down for me. I do my physical therapy with the intention of making my body and walk as normal as I possibly can, and walking in time with everyone else might give me a stronger sense of normalcy.