I heard it all the time. I don’t know if they meant for me to hear it, but I did.
I heard it in the hallways, and I felt their stares.
The first week of high school, barely anyone knew my name. But I quickly got a label.
“That kid in the walker.”
As I heard it over and over, felt more and more stares and answered the “what’s wrong with you?” question again and again, I began to believe that when people saw me, all they saw was my walker and later, my crutches.
I began to believe that Cerebral Palsy was all that other people saw, and then slowly without me really realizing, I began to only see that about myself.
My many scars looked larger in every mirror, my noisy feet were the loudest thing in any room, there was nothing I hated more than my crooked leg.
I saw me, and I saw CP.
My thoughts continued to silently morph. And it felt like all there was to me was my limp, noisy feet, cramping hands and scars.
When I met new people, most of the time my CP was the first thing I mentioned. Partly just to get it out of the way, partly because I assumed that’s all they were seeing.
I got to college and followed a similar pattern.
While I didn’t hear the whispers because college is a more accepting environment, I still had the idea in my head that when people saw me, they saw CP.
In college, this idea that all that there is to me is my CP became completely consuming because my future was racing towards me -- scenario after scenario, short-term and long-term, staring me in the face.
On a short-term basis, I run through a list of daily questions all day, every day: when I walk into this next class, will there be a seat I can get to easily? Will I spill my drink or food today when I try to carry my lunch in Reitz? Will I fall in class today? Will I be able to get this door open if the button doesn’t work? How many stares will I feel today? When I walk into this social situation, will I even be able to do the things everyone else is doing?
On a long-term basis, I wrestle with these things: will I get whatever job I end up really wanting after college, or will employers not be able to see past my crutches? What if I get my dream job and have to go on business trips, how will I get through an airport by myself? Will my pain get worse as I get older? What if I end up in a different state than my parents, who’s going to help me when I need it? Will I have to move to a new place all alone? Will I be alone in my life because no one else will be able to see past my crutches?
With this idea, that CP was all that I am, came lie after lie each day. I lived in this state of lies and flawed identity.
I tell myself almost every day that because of my CP, I am a burden to people.
I’ve told myself in social situations that because of my CP, I’m unlikeable and undeserving.
I tell myself that I have to hide it the best I can from everyone else so I don’t create any problems for them.
I silently but viciously learned how to tear myself apart.
I’ll spare you the details, but a few weeks ago I hit rock bottom. These thoughts consumed me and instead of going to Jacksonville with friends like I planned, I didn’t and let the lies not only win, but also take me to some of the darkest places I’ve ever been to.
I went home that weekend and fell into my parents for support and help. I processed a lot with my parents then came back to Gainesville silently hoping nobody would ask me why I didn’t go to Jax so I could hide from my issues a little longer.
But I am so thankful for the people at UF God has placed in my life because they don’t let me run from my problems.
That Monday night, I met with my Bible study. And with hesitation as they asked me questions, I opened up to them about what happened that weekend.
I didn’t spare them details and told them all I was struggling with. The lies I internally fight.
The girls in my Bible study have become some of the best friends I’ve ever had. I think that’s because of how honest my friendships are with each one of them.
Since that weekend, I’ve been walking through a book with my Bible study leader, that’s all about the Core Lies we believe about ourselves.
When she first came to me with this, I was terrified because I knew doing this meant brutal honesty and no hiding places. But I was excited because I knew I needed to do it.
As I’ve been going through this with her, it’s been one of the most convicting things I’ve ever gone through as I realized how flawed my view is of not only myself, but of God and other people.
This is where I realized how much I let CP define my life and myself.
I realized I was finding my identity in it. I blamed my problems on it when in fact, some of them are Jordan’s fault, not CP’s fault.
I realized that my view of God’s character was so flawed. I realized that my words and actions don’t always match up. I say I trust God but then I let my fear of my future consume me.
I realized I had a serious identity problem on my hands.
Writing is how I process the stuff in my life. This blog is full of a lot of processing and internal conversations I’ve had with myself.
As I put my story out there and hear from others, I realize that I’m not the only one that struggles with a lot of these things.
And I learned a long time ago that in order to faithfully follow God and share my faith, I have to share everything; not just the things I want people to see.
So, out of me processing through the lies I continually believe about myself and my conviction that my story on this blog can’t just be the good, happy stuff I want people to see, I’m kicking off this blog series.
Because I believe I’m not the only disabled kid out there that struggles with defining themselves by their disability.
Because I believe lies and identity are two things that are so easy for everyone to struggle with.
In this series of posts, I can’t promise you a set schedule (because #college and #finalsweek is approaching), but I can promise honesty. I can’t promise these will be easy to write (in fact I know they won’t be), but I can promise they’ll be purposeful in learning to define myself in Jesus and give Him all the credit.
I promise to believe the statement: I’ve done nothing, He’s done everything.
Surrendering is hard for me but writing is my greatest outlet.
Through writing, I hope to find surrender and to be fully used by the Lord.
The hard stuff is the good stuff, right?
Welcome to From 3West’s first blog series: Truthful Identity.
“For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin…”
I remember in the beginning of high school I would wonder about it a lot.
I’d had experienced close to it growing up, but nothing like what I was dreaming about.
I would long for it but never would really get my hopes up.
If you know me, you know I am a One Tree Hill fanatic. I think one of the things that drew me in was the writing of the show. If there’s one show that I’ve watched that’s rich with good quotes, it’s that one.
I started watching it in high school, right around the time that the two friendships that were my best high school ones, were slowly dying.
So, when Peyton in OTH hit me with the line “people always leave,” I got it, I completely understood where she was coming from.
The Jordan who was eating lunch alone every day completely got Peyton in that time and wondered if it was ever going to change.
The thing I wondered about and longed for was that one best friend.
Don’t get me wrong, the friends I grew up with were and still are the best (shout out to my TCS gang). I was really blessed in that department. But once we got to high school and we were all in different places, there’s only so much we could do. My best elementary and middle school friends became those friends you only see once in a while but when you do, you pick up right where you left off.
The “only see them once in a while” part was the part that got me. And when I was sitting alone junior year after my two best high school friendships had completely dissolved, I wondered if I’d ever have that one friend.
That one friend that would text me all day. That one friend that would know what I was thinking before I said it. That one friend that would be down for the craziest of adventures.
That one friend that would sit with me and be mad or upset with me when life really sucked. But then they would pick me up and make me keep going.
The one friend that would make my sides hurt from laughing every time we were together.
That one friend that there was no “picking up where we left off.” Because no matter where each of our lives took us, we never actually left.
And then, where I least expected it, I found that friend.
I don’t think it was until my junior year of high school that I realized it.
Curly red hair and a coffee and Nike addiction bigger than mine walked into my life, and I don’t think I realized it for a while. I don't think I realized that I had found '"that one friend" I was always wondering about.
Frankly, I think that’s because I kept waiting for something to happen.
I was really hurt by the other friendships I let go this deep last time. So, I just kept waiting.
But I slowly realized that even if something did happen, I think you’ll still be around.
When you picked me up every Wednesday after school my junior and senior year, I started to think this was it. But I still wouldn’t get my hopes up.
I think the moment I knew it, I knew that you were that one friend, was my freshman year of college. I started in the summer and was struggling with the massive change of it all.
I knew my mom was coming to see me one day. But when I opened her car door, you jumped out too.
I showed you around campus and we totally crashed my scooter that day.
But I don’t think you know how much that day meant to me. The fact that you would jump in the car and come cheer me up for just a few hours, meant the world to me.
So, we ate Burrito Bros and I silently made a note that that was the day I realized that I was kinda stuck with your crazy redhead self.
Dear Mary: thanks for being that one friend.
Thanks for blowing up my phone all day, every day. Thanks for laughing at the same things as me. Thanks for always wanting to get coffee. Thanks for singing in the car with me. Thanks for driving to Gainesville a lot. Thanks for picking me up (literally and figuratively) more times than I can count.
Thanks for not leaving.
Thanks for being that best friend I always wondered if I’d have.
You’re the craziest, best step-half cousin and friend a girl could ask for.
Glad to know I’m stuck with you and your Jeep for a long time.
We sure do make one heck of a #DreamTeam.