The joy of Colour: Finding my way to my own version of pretty.

Yes, people with disabilities are allowed to feel pretty too.”

So here am sitting in my flat on holiday and I have just looked around and come to the realization of how much I have changed over the past 18 months. I am permanently surrounded by bright colours and things signifying the pride I have in being part of the LGBT+ community. (no joke, I am listening to an LGBT+ anthems playlist and wearing a “Love is Love” sunflower hoodie as I write this post!) Those that know me may be aware that I have only recently felt able to comfortably start living life as an “out” bisexual member of society who also lives with cerebral palsy, if not – this piece is how I choose to start introducing people into my full and complete world.

It obviously no secret to anyone reading this piece that I am proud of the person I am a lot of the time and my cerebral palsy has always played a huge role in that. It has come with it’s fair of challenges too though – particularly when it comes to the way I feel about myself sometimes, as well as the constant reminder from the wider society that I do not function in the same way as others and probably never will. This has often spilled over into relationships and conversations with people with regard to whether or not I am considered “attractive” or “pretty”… strangely enough many of the encounters I had growing up resulted in believing that I was neither pretty nor attractive due to the fact that I had a disability – it affected me a lot because if people tell you something enough – you start to see things they way do. I am not going to lie – cerebral palsy is not something that would label as “pretty” because it can hurt- A LOT and it resulted in many trips and falls for me growing up. But what i have discovered is that just because it is not pretty does not mean it cannot be powerful. Powerful is pretty too and it is thanks to the double leg braces I had a little girl that I developed my love of bright colours and bold patterns (I mean come on, who doesn’t want to walk around with red, teddy bear covered leg braces on them all the time!?!)

I can hear some of you thinking “okay, fair enough. But was have cerebral palsy have to do with your being a member of the LGBT+ community?” Let me explain because it is not something i think about a lot when I am alone – but more to do with the questions other people feel compelled to ask. When I was growing up people used to ask how someone like me might be intimate with another person due to the restrictions of movement linked with cerebral palsy, as well as questioning whether relationships i had with others were more “patient and carer “rather than equal and loving. As I am sure you can imagine this did little to help me feel pretty or attractive and really knocked my confidence. It was this reason that not many, if any knew that i was bisexual during my teenage years because I was scared and possibly ashamed of the judgements and opinions people around me might have if I introduced another aspect of my personality that made me so different from everyone else. Just as a side note to this bit – i don’t want you to feel sorry for me, i am in a much better place now – but i just wanted to give you the fullest possible picture of my reality.

Thinking about it – I probably started to accept and explore my sexuality when I left home to go to university. This was my opportunity to reconcile the two very important aspects of my make up. I joined the university Drama society and met a lot of my friends in the LGBT+ community through that, I was also lucky enough to live close to a city where LGBT culture was greatly celebrated, which meant i could start to find my place and feel comfortable with my whole self. It felt really nice not having to hide a part of myself anymore and it felt nice to have a part of myself back that I feel i had lost so long ago. This new found joy helped me to reintroduce colour back into both my personality and my wardrobe – something I am very pleased to say remains to this day!

Skip forward to now – and anyone i work or socialise with will be able to tell you that the way i dress is in no way understated – i am obsessed with rainbows, unicorns, pastels and bright colours and find joy in using them to express myself. I am also now a proudly out member of the LGBT community and work hard to represent that both in my personal and professional life. I do unfortunately still get questions about “how i can have both” a disability and be bisexual, it can be tricky to answer sometimes but I gently remind people that neither of these parts of my identity were choices – but they are a large part of who I am and i am finally learning to be proud of both of them. So I guess what I’m saying is, yes – disabled people can be pretty too – it’s just a case of finding our own way too it.

Remember – everyone is trying to figure themselves out, try your best to support them on that journey.

All the love,

Lucy 🙂

Cerebral Palsy, I have learned so much from you.

Dear Cerebral Palsy,

I am sitting in my bed right now trying hard to write my first ever letter to you. Sorry if you think it’s taken too long, but you know how life can get. For the last 20 years or so we have co-existed and you have been a shadow standing by my side. I’m going to be totally honest, even now I don’t fully understand how you came to be in my life, as far can understand it life was pretty standard until you dropped in just after I turned 3 and forced the start of our relationship.

Routines had to be established pretty quickly once you had made yourself known, because although to be fair you wouldn’t have known it at the time but my parents had to change their already challenging circumstances to accommodate me and my new needs. Therapy seemed to improve and bring understanding into our relationship and swimming lessons seemed to let you sleep and I feel free from you, albeit only for a brief time.

You and I spent a lot of our time creating armour for my legs to prepare for when we entered the daily battle of walking – I need you to know that I am grateful for the protection because even as a young child you helped me find joy in the most unlikely places, the colours and patterns wrapped around my legs with Velcro made me feel safe and powerful, whilst the eye patch that your presence introduced me to helped understand that I could be anything I liked if I kept fighting.

I’m not going to lie to you kid, growing up with you consistently hovering was not easy, I spent a lot of my young life knowing that you were around me but not really knowing what you were, this made the constant stares, gasps and giggles when I hobbled along or fell over all more difficult to stomach because I just wanted to function and play like everyone else. Now Cerebral Palsy, don’t get me wrong, I know am lucky because you let me walk and I will always be thankful for that small victory that let me do so much.

I remember vividly the overwhelming amount of care and support that I encountered because you were part of my existence and I understood as I grew older that all the extra SEN lessons for sewing and drawing where you often pushed me to my limits actually taught me how we could form a team and function alongside one another. I will be forever grateful for all the positive people who invested so much time and passion into my progression, they are invaluable to me.

I now know exactly what you are and I have learned that although you sometimes make life a little challenging I will never let the bad days you raise your head stop me from reaching my full potential.

I suppose through all this I just wanted to thank you, because even though you are less prominent in my adult life your companionship has driven the way I live my life and care for the children with whom I spend so much time. I like think that when I graduated with my first class honours degree you were there at the ceremony as elated and proud as I was. The point is, until now I wasn’t sure how I felt about you. But I can now say that you have taught me to take care when I choose my friends, you taught to celebrate difference and see each individual as special and unique in their own way. Thank you for showing me that I can do things even when I didn’t believe they were possible. You have made me stronger and you are a large part of the reason why I have become who I am.

All the pain and tears have been totally worth it, I will never question why you are in my life. Cerebral Palsy, I do not regret anything we have been through and I am pretty excited for our future.

All the love,

Lucy J