Last week I went out to lunch with my mom, our family and friends. In the group there was one person whom I had met only a handful of times, and another person I was meeting for the first time.
Today, I am a seasoned 21-year-old and meeting someone who has never encountered me and my cerebral palsy does not snow me the way it once did. I am much more confident in my assistive devices and why I use them; independence and my will to want to experience things triumphs over how concerns about how I am perceived. I used to feel the need to explain myself to someone, but not anymore. There are definitely benefits to the switch that sort of flips from your teenage brain to your adult brain.
Lunch was going well and all was fine, but because we were going to a buffet-style restaurant, I couldn’t use my normal, everyday walker. Instead, I opted for my uncle’s walker – the kind with a tray/seat so that I could get my own food and had a place to keep my belongings. This way, I could be independent. I had used walkers like this before so it was not a big deal; it was just something to help me along.
So, after we all finished we went outside. It was a beautiful day and because not everyone in our group was outside yet, everyone was just kind of standing around. I walked up and down the sidewalk a bit with my walker, while my friend played with her son, and everyone else talked.
Then it happened. I went up to my mom to ask her a question and I fell. It was by no means a huge deal. In fact, my mom didn’t even see it happening as we continued our conversation on my way to the ground. My mom and her friend simply picked me up, we laughed and carried on, scoffing about my normal walker having two wheels compared to this walker, which had four wheels and was clearly much too free for me. That was the problem.
But, one of the women who I had just met expressed concern because she didn’t know what to do when I fell.
My mom’s friend joked that there is only one rule with me: “If you see her lying ANYWHERE, please pick her up!” This is true. My mom then joked about how as a kid with cerebral palsy I had fallen much more often and I was always very embarrassed by it. So, my parents would have to play it off whenever I did fall, otherwise I’d be so angry with embarrassment.
I remember those times very clearly and I was angry because I found it so difficult to express how I felt to people who often did not know how to help me when they saw me. At that time, people always seemed to be helping me too much, but really I just wanted the ability to do things that I now can do.
More importantly, something I never knew how to do was ask for help because I wasn’t prepared with the knowledge of what I needed when something did happen.
So, here are the five steps that I have found useful. They may help you prepare to ask for help when you need it:
- Show that you know your illness, your cerebral palsy, and be confident, that you are in control of the situation, and you do know what to do. People will respond to how you react.
- Breathe. Take a minute to access the situation and your needs. Stay calm. You know how to handle this.
- Locate someone who you feel comfortable asking for help.
- Ask for what you need. Don’t be afraid to say “Hey! Can you help me off this curb? I just need a hand.”
- Accept the help and be thankful. There is no need for embarrassment or awkwardness; you own the situation and you get the help you need.
I hope this helps you as much it has helped me.
Note: Cerebral Palsy News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Cerebral Palsy News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to cerebral palsy.