“She’ll probably never walk.” Imagine the bleak picture this announcement evokes to a set of panicked parents. Concerned when their twenty-four-month-old daughter hadn’t begun to walk, a set of anxious parents took their child in for an examination, unaware such a proclamation would be made. Those were the exact words the doctors said to my parents.
After numerous tests, doctors proclaimed that I had Cerebral Palsy. It was predicted that I would probably never walk or speak or be a productive member of society. Once the diagnosis was made, years of difficult circumstances followed. I was placed in special education classes, as well as in occupational and speech therapy.
Although my disability was later labeled as “mild,” it was very pronounced in my younger years. I struggled to form an identity, which was a difficult undertaking when I was teased for being clumsy and weak.
From an early age, my peers taught me I was unacceptable. To survive, I often turned inward for salvation and peace. And that’s when I learned I had strength after all. The feelings came easily enough; the anger at being alienated, the sadness at being different, and the fear of not being able to find my place in the world.
I began to write down the pain. Only the written word allowed me to fully express myself. And after the hurt was written and therefore explored, it began to fade. Not entirely, of course. No one can live a lifetime without it. But the wounds began to heal as I wrote of promise, of hope, and of possibilities.
In school, I was able to excel in my English classes. I won several writing contests in elementary school. My D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) essay was voted to be the best by my sixth grade classmates. I had the honor of reading that essay in front of the entire school. In junior high school I excelled at advanced English. In high school, I wrote several compositions that earned me college scholarships.
Nine months after college graduation, I got a break that made me realize I may have found my purpose. My last college course’s final assignment was to do a research paper on a topic of importance to us. Since I was about to enter the work world, I chose the issue of disability disclosure during the job hunting process.
My professor loved my paper and mentioned I should get it published. I submitted my work to Careers & the Disabled. In the fall of 1999, my English paper became my first published article.
Over the last six years, I’ve had articles published in a variety of publications. I was editor-in-chief of Banshee Reeks Nature Preserve’s newsletter, The Preserve Press. I was an editorial assistant of a non-profit magazine. I had a short paragraph published in ‘Chicken Soup for the Recovering Soul’. And the proudest moment of my life occurred in September 2005 when I self published my first novel, ‘The Butterfly’s Dance’.
I have, thankfully, discounted the doomed prophecy of those doctors of yesteryear. Today I am a fully functional member of society. I have a college degree, live on my own, and earn my own income. I am a freelance writer and a published novelist. And I feel this is only the beginning.
An interesting thought occurred to me during this whole process. Without my disability, without the pain and the struggle to find my identity as a disabled person, this glorious gift of exploration wouldn’t have been possible.
It’s an odd twist of fate, I know. My love of writing would be unacknowledged if not for my disability. I now see that without my disability, I wouldn’t have discovered my true ability.
By Christyna Hunter
* Stories From the Heart is an ongoing series of user contributed heart warming stories, that shine light on the Autism and special needs experience.