My two previous posts had a lot to do with the hardships and challenges that people with disabilities can be faced with in different situations, such as medical and personal matters. I based the two previous posts on my life as someone diagnosed and living with epilepsy. I didn’t think I could write anything about anything that related to my life as cerebral palsy. Epilepsy somehow took over my level of priority. At times, I’d even forget I have cerebral palsy. I can’t say it’s right to forget you have a disability as you consistently have to work on being physically capable of taking care of yourself despite your physical disability, but that’s just how my life turned out. Now that I’m older, wiser, and more experienced, I realize that my physical health is just as important as my chronic health and mental health. All three are related to one another, and I think it took me having my son to realize that.
While working on bringing the posts to life, I realized that I’d been advocating for myself and my life with cerebral palsy for a very long time now. I just didn’t understand it. This was the case since a very young age, even before I became of legal age for that matter. I guess my parents were preparing for the real world before I ever was a part of it. Cerebral palsy is a disability that affects people not only physically, but mentally as well. In fact, cerebral palsy used to be known as ‘mental retardation’. And no, I’m not laughing about it, nor am I exaggerating when I say mental retardation was a legal term for cerebral palsy. For obvious reasons, the term was changed to what we know now.
Even though the term changed, the treatment towards people with cerebral palsy hasn’t. I’d been trying to put into words how badly I was treated by anyone who’s future I was dependent on in the outside world. I never found the term to describe it until I found out that cerebral palsy used to be known as mental retardation. Hearing the term for the very first time was a ‘AHA’ moment for me. It explained practically everything about the way I was treated from the moment I stepped foot out of my house.
When my parents and I first moved to Canada, it seemed like a promising decision for my parents to make because Canada promoted itself to treat everyone equally no matter the sex, sexual orientation, disability, or otherwise. It seemed I’d have a bright future, at least at the time. That really seemed to be the case for the first two years that I lived here. I had a wonderful guidance counsellor that really helped me settle into a whole new life in a different country that had a completely different culture than what I was used to.
That positive experience shifted once I started high school. The support I’d gotten when I first came to Canada faded completely. I was alone and depended on myself when it came to my studies. I was also socially alone. I had no friends whatsoever. I had no one to turn to for help. The friends that I did have weren’t such great people and they didn’t have a good influence on me. Those were probably the worst 4 years of my life. When my parents went to parent-teacher nights, my teachers and guidance counsellor would tell my parents that I’d achieve nothing and be nothing. With a lot of work, mainly from my parents, I finished high school and moved on to college, which were even harder. I failed my first year in college entirely, with a 1.1 GPA. I was obviously distraught, but this motivated me to do better.
I was very much determined. I had a mission. I was at my lowest point when it came down to my studies, and the only way for me from there was up. I went to my disability counsellor to get her take on how I could better my grades and where I was headed in the future. My meeting with her ended up being extremely short. She just looked at my grades and proceeded to tell me that there’d be no way my grades would ever improve and that there was nothing she could do to help me improve my life because it’d be sh*t anyway. Maybe she didn’t say it in those exact words, but you know what I mean. I left her office utterly furious. At the same time, though, her discouraging words encouraged me to work harder. With that, I started working on my stress management. My boyfriend at the time was also very encouraging. He turned out to be an a**hole as he cheated on me with multiple women, but I’ll give credit where credit is due. It was only thanks to him that I was accepted to the Human Resources Bachelor’s Degree program.
Everything went smooth sailing with just a few hiccups here and there. It was a very tough journey for me to be in school, but I wasn’t going to let it stop me from achieving my goal. I was ready to fight the battle of people not believing in me because they thought of me as being mentally retarded, and mentally retarded people really don’t achieve anything. I fought the school system until the very end of my school years. It was the most evident, at least in my eyes, just when I was about to graduate college for good after 7 long years. Right before my graduation, it was brought to my attention that two courses I previously completed were not marked in the school system’s records, and therefore, I wasn’t to graduate. When I attempted to speak to someone in administration, they’d all brush me off as if I wasn’t even a person. All they’d tell me was that my parents could come speak to them to resolve the matter if I were still in middle school. Absolutely no one even wanted o listen to me, so I took matters into my own hands and posted an article on my social media platforms for everyone to read how the school failed me the entire time I was enrolled there. When the director of the school saw the responses my post was getting, that’s when the matter was resolved.
But the school system wasn’t the only place that I felt failed me. Life as a whole kinda, sorta failed me. It started out when I was a mere teenager. I remember I was at a cerebral palsy related appointment with my mom. The person who saw me attempted to get me to agree to wear a cast that, in his words, would make me walk better. I declined his proposal, and in response, he still attempted to persuade me to do as I was told. He was telling me all the benefits that he saw in me using the cast that didn’t sit well with me at all. He was almost demanding by that point. It was as though he was my parent, and I needed to do as I was told. But I wouldn’t oblige, nor did I give to his treatment towards me. When he saw I was practically a useless case, he looked at my mom as if he was trying to get her to ‘straighten me out’. But she wouldn’t oblige either, and that was the end of our appointment.
If I were to say to you that I was only treated this way when I was a child, I’d be lying to you. This type of treatment towards me continued on into my adulthood, and I’m not just talking about my schooling. That was evident when I was getting my driver’s license in my 20’s. Before I ever thought of getting the opportunity to drive, I had to get tested to see what adjustments needed to be made in a car in order for me to drive safely, and then these records would be sent to Ministry Of Transportation. These tests are costly, let me tell you. When I completed the tests in 2012, they cost me $700 CAD. I’m sure they cost even more now , especially after the effects of the pandemic. I completed the tests just fine, and it was determined I could drive a car without making any personal adjustments. That was such good news, both for me and my parents, monetary wise especially. There was a big downfall, though. No one took me seriously even though I was a 20 something year old woman. The only times my case would ever be taken seriously was when my dad spoke on my behalf as if I were a child.
There’s no denying the facts – people with disabilities are degraded in the real world. They’re being taken seriously. They’re seen as just kids who aren’t capable of making their own decisions and always need a caretaker to do so. It doesn’t matter if they’re fully capable of living their lives just as anyone else with just a little aid. No matter how we try to prove to the world we’re most capable, society is just going to treat us as just that – mentally retarded. What people need to realize, though, is that just because we’re born with a disability, it doesn’t mean we’re not fully capable. Not every disabled person is the same. And just in a blink of an eye, each and every person is just one accident away from becoming disabled and be treated just the same.
So what do I do when I see I’m being treated as mentally retarded?
I fight and I get what I want and what I deserve.