BADD 2013: It Starts With Us

It’s Blogging Against Disabilism Day 2013! A day dedicated to speaking out against disability discrimination of any kind, life obstacles of those with disabilities, etc.

I have been absolutely devouring the amazing posts that are flowing through today; there are some great writers with great thoughts and ideas out there in the Blogosphere. I encourage you to check out Dairy of a Goldfish, where all the posts will be listed, or the BADD Facebook Page.

This is my third year participating in the day. Two years ago, I wrote about intelligence and interacting with people with disabilities. Last year, I missed the actual BADD day, but my post about the dance of Cerebral Palsy brought you into my world of living with a disability, if only for a moment.

This year? Well, buckle up. I don’t really know how the idea for this post came to me or how it’s going to work into the theme of this day, but here we go. Knowing that BADD was coming up, I’d been jogging my brain trying to figure out what I wanted to put out in the world as a person with a disability.  My one small voice.

It’s taken me the better part of 24 years to be “okay” with having a disability.   I think some of this is because I tended to live life with blinders on and not even pay attention to it.  I had great friends and family who helped make it a non-factor in my life and, while this was a blessing, it also was a little bit of a curse.  Full disclosure: I hate that cliche, but I couldn’t think of anything else to write.

But then…life hits you. People are often rude or ignorant, situations aren’t ideal, you’re forced to be independent at times when you’d been used to relying on someone by your side. You can no longer wear those blinders, because this is real life. It’s not going to stop while you adjust.

There comes a point in your life when you have to recognize your situation and your limitations.  Being an adult now (arguably anyway-my sisters will tell you I’m still the baby), that point has come hard and fast over the past few years.  Now, trust me. I’m not, in any way, at all, ever, ever, ever (got it?!) saying that you should be defined by your limitations or let them control your life.  Quite the opposite actually. Recognize and understand them so that you can live your life for you and move beyond them, if that is the path you choose.

How does this fit into BADD?! Hold your breath, because some of you might not like what you’re about to read…

If you don’t want to be discriminated against, start by not discriminating against yourself.   

Simple as that, right? No. I’m not naive. I know it’s not that simple, but it’s the initial step on a long journey. Think logically for a second, and this goes for anyone whether you have a physical disability or other obstacle in your life, if you don’t want someone else to judge you, limit you, or assume something about you, why would you do those things to yourself? You tell your best friend that they can do anything they want, but then you tell yourself that you can’t? That doesn’t sound right to me.

I’ve learned something very valuable on my journey, and even more so now being a fitness instructor of a class for people with various limitations, and that is that we as people with disabilities are the role models of how other people with disabilities should be perceived and treated.  Whether we want to be or not.

Want people to believe in you, to give you a chance?

Believe in yourself.

Want people to treat you with respect and dignity?

Respect yourself.

Want people to understand just how strong you are, that you are not to be pitied?

Show your strength, do not pity yourself. 

Want to be heard, to leave something in this world?

Speak up and don’t be afraid to be a little vulnerable. Let people in.

IT STARTS WITH US!

Advertisements

The Power of the Mind

I’ve always believed in the power of the mind. It’s power to get you through tough times, to unlock potential, to be strong when the body is weak.  Anyone who knows me knows this.  One of my favorite quotes is even “change your mind and your body will follow”. However, this is something I’ve always had a bit of a hard time seeing for myself, within myself. You know, one of those age old can’t take my own advice kinda things–I can tell people how important the mind is to achieving your goals, but casually seem to forget that when it comes to my own life. Whoops!!

Until this morning.  Saturday mornings have become my sanctuary since the semester started.  With my interning and class schedules, I’m lucky if I make it in for a class during the week, so I’ve started doing doubles on Saturdays. Drums Alive for the fun cardio and then Full Body Blast/Core Fit for the strength, cardio, and ass-kicking.  The format of FBB changes week to week, but we almost always start out with some variation of interval training: 3 rounds of 7 different exercises performed for one minute each with a one minute breaks between rounds.  The idea is to ramp up your intensity each round, giving all you have left for that last round.

Take a journey with me: it’s the last exercise of the last round. Jumping jacks. Side note: I do regular jacks in terms of the lower bosy, just holding on to my walker for balance. We’re 21 minutes in at this point and everyone is just ready for it to be over. Timer goes and we’re all moving through our final for 60 seconds.  I have a tendency (in everything I do) to come out of the gate insanely strong, too strong for my own good, and then end up having to take a break or two within the minute.  Today started out no differently.  I was beasting through those first few seconds in both speed and accuracy.  Janice, our amazing instructor, was going around the room keeping everyone on track and all the sudden she stopped right in front of me, mirror image.  Janice has been an amazing asset to my life in the past few months since joining the gym and going for certification and has truly supported my goals from the get-go.  She started talking to me telling me things like “I know you want to go faster than me so do it” and that if I stopped and took a break at all in the next minute we’d all be starting over.  It wasn’t the fact that  I was slightly terrified of her in the moment that sparked my motivation, but what she was actually saying.  It was like she tapped into my own mind and knew what I was thinking. I did want to go faster than her. I am a competitor at heart. But my mind was stopping me from getting there.  And then something crazy happened. Janice looked at me and said “I know it’s hard, but do it anyway.” Those words not only unlocked my emotions and almost made me start crying, but unlocked my mind and body together to give me what I needed to push through until the end and do those jumping jacks for a minute without stopping. I have acknowledged that things are hard before, but hearing that acknowledgement from someone else is not something that happens often.  In that moment it was as if our minds synced.

It’s hard. Do it anyway. Do it because you want to better yourself. Do it because your dreams don’t take breaks or days off. Do it because your body does not define you. Do it because you can.

Fitness Friday: How Group Fitness Gave Me Life.

Happy Fitness Friday! Not sure if this is the only one I’ll ever write, but the topic fit for tonight, so I have to go with the nice little title!

So much has evolved for me in the past few months. I’ve mentioned in a few posts before how I hit an almost two-year long rut after graduating college and leaving the comfort and support of my amazing gym where I spent so much time for four years. Moving on for me when I joined a new gym meant opening up again; letting people know my story, my strengths, my limitations; and being more self-motivated than I’ve ever had to be before.  In 3 months, I can proudly say that I’d almost consider myself back to where I was 2 years ago physically and in an even better place than I ever was emotionally. I’ve also added 2 additional classes to my weekly workouts and tried a bunch more. I was away from the gym for 2 weeks due to a pretty serious abdominal strain, but I’ve been working my way back up since Monday. Tonight I tried a new class, Piloxing-a fusion of Pilates and Boxing, and while it wasn’t my favorite, I was so proud of myself for trying something new.

On my way home, I got to thinking how much Group Fitness (and those that I’ve created lifelong friendships with through it) has changed my life. Because of Group Fitness:

-I spend more time in the gym than I do doing anything else (with the exception of homework). Damn Graduate School.

-I get to have the amazing experience of riding a bike, even though my balance prevents me from riding one on the road.

-I have met some of my best friends (and grown closer with some family members. Love you Claud!).

-I have competed in 5 5k road races and finished every one.

-Physical therapy became fun.

-I feel like a dancer.

-I look at myself as a person-a mind, a body, and a soul-instead of Cerebral Palsy.

-I’ve learned how to modify movements and classes to make them work for me.

-I’m virtually pain-free (if you don’t count soreness and abdominal strains).

-I can look in a mirror (both during a class and elsewhere) and be okay with what I see.

-I’m actually starting to love what I see.

-I am stronger and more physically successful than any doctor ever believed I would be.

-I AM AN ATHLETE.

–I have developed a confidence in myself that I never thought I’d be able to uncover…

The strongest marker of this confidence for me is knowing that, on September 15, 2012, I will be taking a huge leap of faith when I take Aerobics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA) Primary Group Fitness Certification. I know this is going to be difficult for me. I’ve got the academics/studying down no problem, but the practical component is going to require continuous hard work this summer. My movements aren’t the same as everyone else’s and it sometimes takes me longer to coordinate them. I know all of this, and I’m doing it anyway. There will be hundreds of people getting certified on that day with me, most of whom will not understand how or why I’d want to put myself through the rigors of certification. I know all of this and I’m doing it anyway. 

Why? Because Group Fitness gave me something I did not yet have: passion, purpose, hope. If I can get certified and help one person-with disability, injury, or just starting out at the gym for the first time-to find that too, it will all be worth it.

The Return

Can it really be that I haven’t updated this blog in three months?! That was a complete shock to me! I knew it had been a while, but no where near that long! I could sit here and rattle off excuses as to why I haven’t blogged, but don’t we all hear enough excuses in our daily lives? And do we really listen to the full response once we hear a person say, “I haven’t done XYZ because…”. I know I have a tendency to turn my ears at least partially off at that point.

Instead, I’ll give a quick rundown of what I’m up to, what’s new, and what I hope to post more of in the coming months!  First and foremost, if you’re a new reader, welcome and thank you for starting to follow along on my journey.  Scroll up a little and click on the “About Me” tab just below the picture if you’ve gotten here via Google or another search engine to find out more about me.  Also, feel free to subscribe using the button to the right. 🙂

Next to the “About Me” tab is something new!! I’ve added a “If you like what I have to say…” tab.  This a my way of adding some new resources to my blog.  If you click on it, you’ll see that I’ve added some of my most frequented blogs, sites, and videos. I’m hoping this will be a fun way to let everyone see who and what inspires and interests me, without me just writing about it.  Please check it out and comment on the page to let me know what you think!

The page is also a bit of a preview of what I’m hoping to do with the blog as I continue writing.  When I was getting ready to start blogging again, I felt like I needed to change some things. Not really take anything away, but add things. What I’d like to in addition to my own anecdotes, rants, and just general musings, is add in a holistic approach that is relevant to not only my life, but the lives of everyone who stops by to read.  The way I’d like to do this, if it works, is through an array of posts on fitness and recreation and the adaptations for the special needs community, health and nutrition, faith and spirituality, my research interests in psychology, and many other areas.  I’ve always wanted to find a way to make my blog into a “whole life” blog while still keeping it personal enough as it relates to my life and my experiences with all of these topics.

I hope you’re as excited as I am about these new changes! Thanks for coming along. 🙂

Life with no ceiling

This past week, I was talking to my PT about this whole pool concept that’s been kicking around in my head for weeks.  I have my first lesson tonight, and I had been starting to feel a little overwhelmed, like I had jumped in (no pun intended) a little too quickly. Not to mention I’ve been sticking with my MO of picking some of the most difficult things to accomplish, which is tough when “patience of a saint” doesn’t quite describe who I am.

I am still constantly on that balance beam of trying to figure out how to make CP a part of my life instead of letting it mold me, and that becomes an even more of a struggle when you are constantly choosing physical challenges and physical goals for yourself.  One of the biggest downfalls of creating physical challenges (anyone remember Nickeloden’s Double Dare?! :)) is that we constantly want to make comparisons.  I say we because we are all the same in this way, disability or not, we are human. We compare. We compete. And we try our damnedest to come out on top.  This comparison always gets tricky for me though, since it’s not quite fair to me to start comparing the things I do physically to “normal” able-bodied people.  However, I can’t exactly compare myself to someone with CP, because it comes in so many different forms, you’d be hard pressed to find someone exactly the same. Okay, I know some of you are probably thinking “you shouldn’t compare at all. it’s bad. blah blah”, but I’m pretty sure we can all think of at least one time we have done that, so that option is off the table. It’s not realistic.

A ways into our conversation, my PT said to me “the sky’s the limit for you” and it got me thinking…

It’s a funny thing to think about when you take the time, isn’t it? (Which is probably why you’re not really supposed to take the time, but of course I do.) The sky being the limit to everything we want to do, try to do, or will ever do in our lives? We can never actually touch the sky. The closest I’ve ever come is being in an airplane, and even then there is still such vast, amazing space above me.

In my case, I think starting to understand that the sky is the limit begins by realizing that not being having someone else to compare to is actually one of the best gifts I could receive. It gives me no ceiling, nothing to measure up to.  It allows me to see what a can do and to never stop trying. Ever.

So for now, I’m waking up each morning and asking “What can I accomplish today?” For me. Based on my standards.

UPDATE!!!

A little update for you all…

I GOT THE MASTER’S GRANT!!!…meaning that this year (and a strong possibility the other 2 years) of my degree are going to be funded in exchange for working for the Rehabilitation Services Administration working with people with disabilities for 2 years once I’ve finished the porgram!! This is what I want/wanted to do anyway, so to have the opportunity to be gauranteed a job and have my degree funded is absolutely a Godsend! 🙂 So pumped!

Also, unrelated, I stumbled upon this article from the NYT about a man with Cerebral Palsy who was able to gain better movement and body awareness through the art of dance. Pretty interesting. Crossroads has a lot of this technique of muscle awareness and stuff down too, and I’ve been going there long enough now that I can honestly say I’m pretty proud of the awareness I have of my own body. But, it was extra cool to see it applied to dance, something I love! Check it out!

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/25/arts/dance/25palsy.html?pagewanted=1&_r=2&sq=greg%20mozgala&st=cse&scp=1