I Finally Learned to Accept My Cerebral Palsy in Stressful Situations

I Finally Learned to Accept My Cerebral Palsy in Stressful Situations

Cerebral palsy is one of the most diverse disabilities because each type is different than the other. The form of cerebral palsy I have is a complicated one. I’d love to find more people who have similar experiences as mine.

I have a mix of spastic cerebral palsy, in which muscles are stiff and rigid, and athetoid (or dyskinesia) cerebral palsy, in which my muscles move involuntarily. 

Having cerebral palsy is an adventure because one never knows what the body will do next. At school, I realized that my body reacted to stress. I felt anxious when I was about to read aloud to a group and anticipated everyone looking at me. My body acted crazy when my turn came to speak. As I grew more comfortable with the group, my body relaxed.

I’ve learned that my cerebral palsy has triggers that set off spasms. Meeting new people, sad situations, angry arguments, or feeling hot or sick can cause my body to move more than usual. When I entered my teenage years and started liking boys, my spasticity increased. Can you imagine how embarrassing it was to know that my body would move uncontrollably because I was talking to someone I was attracted to? I hated it.

Over the years, I gained some control over my body. Muscle relaxers help me if I am able to plan for an uncomfortable situation. For example, I take medication if I have to attend a funeral. While I can’t predict every situation, I’ve learned to recognize my triggers, and having some level of control over my body is empowering. 

Anxiety and social anxiety are hot topics right now. Some friends with cerebral palsy emotional triggers have been helped by anxiety medication. So, I made an appointment with my doctor. She suggested I try Zoloft (sertraline) because it has worked well for some women with anxiety. I decided to try it to talk more easily with others.

Unfortunately, it didn’t take long to know that Zoloft wasn’t for me. Instead of making me feel relaxed, I became spastic, and my thigh muscles were so tight I had trouble sleeping. My attendant noticed a difference when she lifted me into my wheelchair. Sitting became so difficult that I could hardly teach my weekly religion class.

I couldn’t stand the side effects that my doctor said could last for three weeks. I realized then that my main problem isn’t anxiety, but rather cerebral palsy triggers at certain times. I fear that people will reject me because of my speech.

My life became a happier place when I realized I needed to concentrate on improving my self-worth, boosting my confidence, breathing, and using my muscle relaxers during stressful situations. It only took me about 20 years to accept myself as I am — but I’ve finally arrived!


Note: Cerebral Palsy News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disorder. 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.


  1. Charlotte Jones says:

    Thank you for your article, Jessica. I have a 10 year old with athetoid CP. She is going through a tricky stage at school with peers. We have noticed her movements become more uncontrolled during high emotions. Millie’s self-worth is definitely diminished by her disability currently so it was great to hear a story describing how it’s possible to come out the other side and learn to love and accept yourself.

  2. Jill Carpenter Smith says:

    I can always tell when I’m under stress and/or in a stressful situation. My mild ataxia CP flairs up, my arm jerks a little (a lot) more and my writing comes to a grinding halt. Taking essay tests in college and graduate school was sheer torture. Taking notes and trying to half way keep up was a close second. It’s hard to relax when what comes ‘normally’ to everyone else is a huge struggle for me.
    Over the years (many), I’ve learned to access situations and react accordingly. If it’s too much, it’s too much. I do the very best I can.

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