I don’t know why, I wish I did. But for some reason for the whole month of March, my body didn’t want to give me a break.
Some family and friends could hear it in my voice or read it on my face: I was in a full out boxing match with Cerebral Palsy for an entire month, and it was trying to take me out.
This has always been my life. Some weeks are better than others with my pain. Sometimes, those few hard, painful weeks quickly turn into a full month. Sometimes there’s a concrete cause for why my pain dial has suddenly cranked up that I can change or fix, sometimes there’s not.
March was a double whammy. It was a few random painful weeks that turned into a full month of pain that had no concrete cause that I could think of.
I remember realizing probably the second Sunday that I was in for it.
Tears burned as I was just trying to load my clothes into the washer. I remember limping back to my room, hopping on my bed and for the 30 minutes my stuff was in the washer, just lying there, not moving and doing my best not to cry too much.
I called my dad and told him that this was one of the worse spells of pain I could ever remember and that it felt debilitating.
He knows my pain tolerance is very high, so the fact I described it as “debilitating,” I knew would worry him. But the tone in his “I’m sorry Scooter,” told me that he knew I was crying even though I was trying to hide that fact.
I knew to some extent that this was just a side effect of being a CP kid and living completely on my own in college. And as I’ve discovered, college pace is fast and full, and CP and I don’t always keep up with it that well.
But what frustrated me was that while it was a busy week, it really wasn’t much different than previous weeks. What frustrated me was that I knew that it wasn’t anything that I did or was specifically doing that caused the pain. It was simply just my handicap body saying: “Jordan, I’m done.”
So, there was nothing I could do to help the pain stop. All I could do was lay on my bed. Fighting it mentally.
I’ve always said that as a physically disabled kid, the mental fight is actually harder than anything I face physically. Anger is easy to turn to, the “why” questions like to hide around almost every corner.
I knew that I couldn’t do that this time. And frankly, I was way too tired to be mad and scream at God.
Sitting in the middle of March, something in me told me this wasn’t going to let up, so I needed to buckle up.
I knew I was I going deep into a CP-pain-driven-valley. But on that Sunday, I made the choice not to be mad this time.
My prayer was simply for God to meet me there. To me meet me there and help me keep pushing. To help me keep smiling a smile that wasn’t through gritted teeth, trying to not let anyone know that my insides were screaming. A smile that was genuine. A smile that was strong, channeling the Jordan who somehow walked on a broken femur this summer, a day after surgery.
I prayed for that Jordan to show up and for the crying Jordan to leave.
And y’all, the main point to this post is this: when you ask him to, like really actually ask him to, God shows up.
Through my tears, I was begging him to. And boy, did he.
The back half of March was just as painful. I woke up every morning, and my shoulders screamed, my back cracked, and it felt like my legs said: “Sorry J, not doing today,” everyday.
But here’s the catch: I was happy because I was dependent on God. I was tired, but okay.
God placed thing after thing and friend after friend in my life to distract me from the fact that it felt like my body was shutting down. The happiness due to dependency showed up in my social life and school.
I hung out with more people than I probably ever have because I learned that it’s sometimes better to fight the pain off in the moment and just cry about it later instead of skipping things, just so I could be alone.
The week of a Macro exam would’ve had the old me spiraling out of control and stressing. Because I suck at Macro, and heightened pain only makes studying harder.
But I just buckled up. I put in my best. Early mornings with lots of coffee, and late nights sometimes with ice packs on everything that hurt.
And God met me there. Coffee, ice packs and all. I did better on that Macro exam than I initially thought I did. And I fully believe it’s because I decided not to stress, because I knew that if I gave my best, God would meet me there.
My point is not that you can now be aware of my chronic pain. Because the name “chronic pain” tells you all you need to know.
My point is not to show you that CP kids have a high pain tolerance. Because that’s not always true.
My point is that God is bigger than my pain and my pain tolerance.
And that he can use that to teach me things.
He can use the pain to make me stronger. Physically and spiritually.
My point is that even in your lowest of lows, God can meet you there and he will meet you there, in the smack dab middle of your deepest valley.
And that’s something to celebrate.
I’ll close with one of my signature lines that will hopefully put a smile on your face: the small able-bodied Jordan inside me is doing kart wheels right now she’s so happy.
Fighting pain with a smile, and a Jesus dependency.
March is CP Awareness Month. This post is dedicated to that and to doing my best to raise awareness to how possible a great life is with CP.
Dear Cerebral Palsy,
I’ve spent a lot of time hating you. I’ve spent a lot of time screaming at the people I love just because I didn’t understand you. So really, I’ve spent a lot of time yelling at the people I love over something that had nothing to do with them.
That’s because I’ve let the negatives and hurdles you’ve thrown in my life control me.
I’ve given you a lot of tears. I’m mad at you when I wake up in pain.
I’ve put you on trial more times than I can count.
I’ve wondered if my future isn’t going to be what I want it to be because of you.
I hate how much you knock down my confidence.
I’ve wondered if high school would have been better if you weren’t a part of it.
I wonder what people think when they see or meet me because of you.
I’ve wondered what employers are going to say when I crutch into their office.
I long more than anything to run, and I blame you for the fact that I can’t.
I hate the fact that as a kid, I knew the ins and outs of my PT clinic and orthopedic doctor’s office better than I knew the ins and outs of the playground at school.
The fact that I’ll never play the sports I love so much literally shatters my heart sometimes.
I wonder what my family and friends say to someone before they introduce them to me. Do they warn them that I’m on crutches?
Dear CP, I’ve spent a lot of time hating you.
But not for everything. There is another side to our relationship.
I love you for how you’ve brought horseback into my life. Without you, my horse Concho would not be in my life.
I thank you for what you’ve done to my relationship with my brother. In a strange way, I know that because of you, our relationship is unbreakable. It’s easy to see how much your 21-year-old brother, who has a million better things to do, loves you when he refuses to leave your side in your hardest moments.
When you’re laying in a hospital bed, your body is shaking from all the meds, your leg pain is killing you and you look to your side and see your bother sitting there holding your hand like he has been for the last hour, it’s easy to see that he’ll forever be the ultimate best friend.
I thank you for the way you’ve strengthened my love for both of my parents.
You truly learn the definition of selfless when you try to count how many days your mom has spent on a cot next to you in the hospital.
The definition of love and strength is easy to define when you think of all the times your dad did all he could to make sure your childhood didn’t suffer just because you couldn’t keep up.
All the times he stood in the front yard, kicking the soccer ball back and forth with me and picking me up every time I fell.
I’m thankful for the perspective you’ve given me and how you have deepened my faith.
All the times you tried to knock me down and sometimes succeeded, has allowed me to learn at an early age what it means to truly lean on God.
And our time together has given me a perspective that helps me see what’s actually important and lasting my life.
So look CP, I know there are still going to be days when I hate you with everything in me.
I know that there’s going to be moments where I let your effects on me really scare me.
I know that you and I are in it for the long haul. I’m well aware that I’ll never shake you.
But I’ve learned that while there’s a lot I hate you for, there’s also a lot I have to thank you for.
And in a strange way, while there’s days I’d do anything not to have you, overall I don’t think I’d change a thing about you and me.
I am the Jordan that I am because of you.
To the disabled girl in her teens or 20s, who is drowning in the whys and what ifs:
I understand you because I am you.
I get it. This is hard, uncertain and painful. It’s so easy to wonder why this is your life and worry about the future.
It’s easy to be mad and wonder why you are the way you are when you finally work up the guts to go to that social event. But when you get there, you’re just miserable the majority of the time because your body hurts, you can’t keep up with your friends and you’re stuck on the sidelines.
I know how often what ifs about that dream job jump into the center of your attention when you start thinking about life after you graduate college.
And you do your best to not think about high school. Like ever. Because that’s when most of the really painful what ifs and whys started.
The “why does this have to happen to me?” is hard to fight away when you wake up every morning and something on your body hurts.
And oh, do I know that there actually is pain behind the jokes you make with your family that you’re just going to end up as the crazy dog lady.
The “what if I actually do end up alone?” really stings and eats away at you when you are talking to that guy in class. And then the dreaded question comes, yet again. The minute he asks if your crutches are from an injury or if they’re a “permeant gig," and you can’t lie or hide it.
I know how much it hurts when you have to answer with a yes, that those crutches are something you’ll never be able to shake and you can instantly feel him and everyone else around look at you differently.
The why questions grow 10 times bigger and haunt you when you fall in a crowd of people and hear the laughs that some people aren’t even trying to hide.
“What if this never happened to me?” is the worst thing you can ask yourself. Because your mind instantly spins out of control, and it’s really hard to get it back. And the “what if daydreams” are nothing else but painful.
The whys are massive when you walk, wheel, crutch or scoot into a room of people and feel the stares burning through you.
The what ifs are looming and countless when you’re sitting in that doctors’ office time and time again.
I get it. This sucks.
I understand the feeling that some days, you’re not even mad about it anymore. Because you physically, emotionally and mentally can’t yell at God anymore. So instead of being mad, you’re just really, deeply sad about the whole thing.
I get it. It doesn’t make sense.
And I’m not here to explain it to you, because I can’t. I don’t understand why we’re like this either.
I’m also not here to tell you that “it’ll get better.”
Because I know how much that statement can make you want to punch a wall.
People have been telling me that for 6 years, since I was a freshman in high school, fully realizing for the first time that my life was going to be different.
I’d believe them for a minute. But then I found myself a few days ago, as a sophomore in college, sitting on my dorm floor, just sobbing. Not out of anger or spite for my situation, just exhaustion and deep, pure sadness.
I’m not here to tell you when it will “get better” on this earth, because frankly, I don’t know if it will.
And now, I’m going to make one of those statements that might make you want to punch me (it’s okay, I’ve definitely wanted to punch someone when they told me this too.)
I don’t know when or even if “it’ll get better” on this earth. But one day, when our time is up on this earth, you’ll get to run. You’ll be pain-free. You’ll wake up, and things won’t hurt. You won’t be worried about what people think.
I get it. That’s a hopeful statement, but it’s also frustrating.
Because you know that while you’re here, on this earth, it’s going to be rocky. And it’s frustrating because you want that physical healing now. You don’t want to hear about how you’ll get it later.
I want it now too. Trust me. I cried three days ago after spending a weekend with friends, because everything in me wanted nothing more than to have been able to keep up with them and play sports with them this past weekend.
So, I can’t say that this is something that you should read for answers to your whys and what ifs.
Because I don’t have them.
But I do have one answer. And it’s a hard one to completely grasp. I know, because I don’t completely grasp it.
I know, because the girl who was sobbing out of frustration, tiredness and sadness three days ago is the girl who is writing this. And that girl really struggles with this answer sometimes.
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
What does that mean? It means that if we don’t put our sights on the days we’ll be running in heaven, this life on earth is going to be sad and miserable.
If we don’t focus on our pain-free, eternal days with the Lord, our pain on Earth will be amplified.
Look, again, I get it. This is hard. I struggle with it too.
Right now, this is my life. This pain and struggle is part of me and an obstacle I have to do my best to jump every day. If this is my current situation, how the heck am I supposed to focus on a future one that I can’t even imagine or fully comprehend?
Do it through the hope in the statement.
Don’t look at the frustration in the “but I want it now” that follows the hopeful statement.
If we’re going to conquer these medical conditions that don’t have earthly cures, we can’t do it like that.
Maybe you’re done listening to me because I didn’t give you the answer you wanted.
That’s okay. A few days ago, heck a few hours ago, I didn’t want to hear it either.
All that I’m saying in this post is these things:
You’re not alone. Even if you feel like it.
Yes, this is hard. But you have to keep pushing and clinging to hope.
I don’t have the instant gratification answers that you and I both wish I had.
But I have an eternal answer.
An eternal answer that’s okay to wrestle with. Frankly, I’m wrestling with it as I write this.
But as I’ve learned before, I always walk out of my wrestling matches with God a little wiser.
I’ll let you know how this one turns out.
Here’s charge and point to this post (and know that I’m fighting to learn how to do the same thing):
Do your best to push the whys and what ifs out. Replace them with eternal hope in the one day we will have healed with the Lord.
Stay focused and keep pushing through, and I will too.
One day running,
This post is the second in my blog series, Truthful Identity. If you want to check out the first one, click here.
Ask anyone in my family. Actually, just ask anyone who remotely knows me well. They’ll probably tell you the same thing.
I stress easy.
I overthink everything.
I can spin something that is a really great thing into a really bad thing. Just because it stresses me out.
I build stories in my head about things that haven’t even happened yet.
At certain points in my life, my anxiety has controlled my actions and decisions.
Anxiety can and has controlled my life. And it stems from one thing: I hate the unknown, and I want control.
But as I’ve gone through this journey of facing the lies I believe about myself, I’ve come to the root of the things that stress me out to figure out what they are, and why I let them do what they do to me.
As I dug deep and compared different situations in my life, I came to a really strange realization about the things that I let stress me out.
I took two consistent scenarios in my life and put them side by side. I took all the times I’ve laid on an O.R. table and my school career and looked at them both.
And I can honestly say that I can pinpoint certain times when the stress of school took me to my absolute lowest point, causing freak outs and anxiety galore.
But I couldn’t pinpoint a surgery that ever made me breakdown like my school career has even though I was staring the biggest unknown in its face.
I, for some reason, remember more about my surgeries than I probably should. I remember up to the point when I fall asleep vividly for most of my more recent surgeries. My Grandma, who’s a nurse, says everyone’s different but it could be because of the fact that I’ve gone through so many.
I can remember each of those moments. I remember laying on a table, staring at that big light before they put me asleep. However, I never remembered feeling anxious. I remember feeling sadness and fear as tears leaked down my cheeks but never anxious like I have over schoolwork.
In fact, I remember one time telling some doctors as they walked me through how they were putting me asleep, “This ain’t my first rodeo,” they laughed, and put me asleep.
Last time, I vividly remember crying as I answered the anesthesiologist questions about UF that were an attempt to distract me. But once I was in there and saw Dr. Miller and returned his thumbs up, I was okay.
But why is that? Why is it that I sometimes let something as simple as homework take me to a breaking point, but if you throw me on an O.R. table after a few deep breaths and maybe a thumbs up, I’m okay?
As I thought about it, it baffled me. Surgery is far more significant than an exam or homework assignment. Yet, schoolwork has taken me down more times than a medical challenge.
But as I thought about it more, I figured it out.
On an O.R. table, I’m completely vulnerable. At that point, there is nothing I can do about the situation and I know that. It’s completely in God’s hand; no matter how hard I yank his arm, he can’t and won’t give the situation to me. I also usually have pretty significant prayer support around that moment.
I feel small on an O.R. table, and my only choice is to surrender.
But in school, I feel big. I feel like I can control it. If I spend one more hour studying or one more day looking over this assignment, I can make it better. I don’t need God in my small homework assignment, I’ve got it.
But before I know it, I have raised an exam above everything else in my life, including God. I take school, and map out my own plan and look at my plan like I’ve got it all by myself. And that’s where I lose it.
On an O.R. table, I realize a reality I should realize every day of my life: I am small and I need God. And that’s why I think an O.R. table is a place where I’ve found the most peace in my life.
Because I learned how to surrender there.
But in my everyday life, I’m too worried about my grades, what people will think of me and making sure things going according to my plan.
I put my value in my grades, so I don’t want to give them up to God.
I worry about what people think, so I don’t want God to have control. I want control.
I let myself feel bigger than I am, and my human nature doesn’t feel the need to and frankly, doesn’t want to surrender.
In The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness Tim Keller writes: “But Paul is saying that in Christianity, the verdict leads to performance. It is not the performance that leads to the verdict…In Christianity, the moment we believe, God imputes Christ’s perfect performance to us as if it were our own, and adopts us into his family.”
I think in my daily life I do two things:
I believe that my performance leads to my verdict. Because I define my “verdict” as what others think of me. The reality check here is: only God’s opinion matters, and my verdict was determined the day he hung from that cross.
And I give myself too much credit. I think I can control things that I can’t, just because their “smaller” than a surgery. Sure, I can try my best at an exam or an assignment. But when I turn it in, it’s out of my hands. Ultimately, I can’t control it.
At the start of this semester, I told myself to live with more perspective and surrender. Perspective that I am a sinner and I am small. I can’t live up to my expectations or anyone else’s, so I need to live only for God’s opinion of me and God’s opinion is already formed.
Surrender in the fact that my plan is already mapped out for me.
But perspective in that surrendering doesn’t mean I don’t try.
This first week already, I have found so much freedom in just doing my best and not stressing, because I know God’s got the plan mapped out.
Before I jump into this post and as another shout out to my Delaware crew, the Therapeutic Technician at the rehab gym that I spent my summer in, Jason Fehrle, is running the Disney Princess Half Marathon in February to raise money for Nemours and a new Child Life Center at the A.I. duPont location. I hope that most of my posts on From 3West point to how incredible Nemours and A.I. duPont are. If you feel led to check it out, donate to or share his cause, please click here. I’ll say it a million more times – A.I. duPont is an very special place full of really cool people. This is a clear testament to that.
On June 11, 2017, I posted probably the most important letter I’ve ever written in regards to how and why I started From 3West.
I remember laying on the downstairs bed, where I was camping out while I continued recovering from surgery, and typing through my tears as I reflected on that past month and all that had changed in my life.
I posted Dear Nemours, hoping just a few people I was trying to thank might see it.
As I sit here 6 months later, returning home two weeks ago from one last Delaware checkup, I feel like I’m in such a familiar spot. But if it’s even possible, my gratitude for Nemours has grown from that afternoon in June.
Two weeks ago, as my mom and I sat in the exam room alone for a few minutes and she leaned down to help me put on my shoes, when she looked back up and we made eye contact, tears started streaming down both of our faces.
I hugged Dr. Miller one more time and did my best to hide the fact that there was a lump in my throat.
My mom and I walked the halls of the hospital, smiling and laughing as we shared our memories of living there for a month with my brother and my dad.
We saw my two friends who had surgery on the same day as me this summer, Ryan and Courtney.
The three of us proceeded to walk around the hospital and the rehab gym, saying hi to everyone we could find from last summer.
It was one of the most bittersweet moments of my life. Because I knew that it was probably my last time walking the halls of the hospital that turned my life around, as a patient.
But on the plane ride home, it really hit me. The end of that previous sentence, “as a patient,” screams possibility.
Okay, I’ve probably lost you. Let me explain.
Clarity. I think it’s one of those things that everyone wants, but sometimes it’s hard to grasp. It’s something I’ve been praying hard for since the start of this semester.
When I started at UF last year, my plan was to go into the sports industry. Telling stories of the greatest athletes, the most passionate fans and the most inspiring situations on and off the field.
But as I got into UF’s sports media program, something in me often felt off. And as I learned more about the sports industry, I realized that my passion was really just about telling stories, sports or otherwise.
So in the summer, switched my major from Sports Journalism to Media and Society Telecommunications. A track that would still allow me to pursue sports if I wanted but was open enough to allow me to check out other avenues as well. I was confused because in a sense, my original plan was obliterated and I didn’t tell anyone at the time, but my sports centered dreams felt kind of like they were slipping away from me.
Since I started this journey with From 3West, I don’t think I realized how much storytelling became my focus. My focus has become telling my story and stories of kids like me who struggle medically.
The Articles tab on my blog got dusty this past semester as I stepped away from sports, just to see how it felt.
And let me tell you, writing freely, working for myself and sharing others’ stories that are similar to mine has been the most refreshing, exciting feeling I’d had in a while.
I walked into this last Delaware trip expecting to see some of my favorite people, make a plan for the future and wish a great man a happy retirement. That’s it.
But I got oh, so much more.
I got clarity.
I realized that maybe I am being called to a sports field to tell stories… but lately, every bone in my body is saying maybe I’m not.
As I walked down the blue checkered floor of the hall where I’ve cried the saddest and happiest tears these past 4 years, when I gave the man who changed my life the most earnest thank you and when I looked at my mom’s face and saw a woman who has been just as beaten up by all of this as I have, I realized maybe, just maybe, I’m being called into the environment I’ve been in my entire life.
Maybe the special needs community needs me to stick around and tell their stories.
In a few years, maybe a worried mom in a waiting room will need some hope for her kid who is in the O.R.
Maybe the high school girl on crutches who truly just realized that this is her life, will see me walking a hospital’s hall and get a glimpse that life like “this” will be okay and can be great.
My Gator-fanatic of a grandpa is a huge reason why I am who I am and why I do what I do. He lost his battle to cancer years ago, but he taught me what it means to fight. And that even when this medically challenged world starts to look really dark, there’s always something to smile about.
Maybe my grandpa needs me to take some kid’s hand who just got dealt some of the most unfair cards life has to offer, and show them that lesson too.
Maybe the sports fanatic kids who are walking into a hospital or therapy clinic instead of a sports field like I was, need to see that there’s still so much joy you can find in the game, even when you can’t play.
Maybe they need to learn how your PT gym can easily become your field or court, and this crazy medical world is actually often full of the best teammates.
This trip gave me pretty strong clarity that maybe the athletes and passionate fans can wait.
Maybe, they’re not in my cards.
Maybe this world I’ve already been living in, the healthcare and medically challenged world, is the one I need to go tell stories in.
That’s why the last part of that earlier sentence, “as a patient,” screams possibility. Because maybe I will walk those halls again, but as someone else.
There’s so much comfort in clarity and so much possibility in a maybe.
Changing paths is scary. But God’s call and clarity are really cool things to feel.
I’m actually excited to put my sports centered dreams on the back burner this semester and explore how I can find my calling in this world I already have a perspective in. And explore how my sports centered dreams and these dreams can overlap sometimes.
I’ll end this one with two things.
First, yet another whole-hearted thank you to my Delaware crew. Because without Dr. Miller, everyone in that rehab gym, each and every one of my nurses and everyone else who helped me in these past 4 years with Nemours, I don’t think I would be realizing my dreams.
And without you guys, I don’t think I’d have the guts to chase them either.
Secondly, I’m nervous out of my mind thinking about this change in my focus. But I’m also excited. Like, really excited.
I’m in the process of getting ready to reach out to different amazing places like the Tim Tebow Foundation and even Nemours to see if they need a communications or marketing intern this summer.
But if there’s anything I’ve learned in the ride from confusion to clarity, it’s that God’s plan is amazing.
So, I take comfort in the fact that I believe he’ll take me somewhere really cool this next semester and this summer.
Even if that’s just back here, working, writing and blogging.
As long as I’m telling meaningful stories, I’ll be good.
Related Posts: Dear Nemours, Ryan's Story, Courtney's Story
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.
My alarm went off at 7:30am and I groaned.
30 minutes later, I swung my legs off the side of my bed and sat there for a second.
What the heck. This is weird.
Physical Therapy. When I think of those two words, I think of you.
I think of our car rides after school to Arnold Palmer. I think of us laughing at the most random things in the waiting room. I think of how that waiting room is where your addiction to Candy Crush was born.
I think of you, Mom. My best friend and my PT buddy for years.
I’d been to PT 2 weeks before at UF but a friend took me.
This past week? I was headed to PT on my own. For the first time ever.
It was 9am when I walked up to UF’s disability bus service. They know me pretty well, so I did my best to smile.
“Good morning Jordan. Headed to UF Ortho?”
“Morning. Yep, that’s me.”
I took my seat and felt like I was in a twilight zone. I pulled out my phone to text Mom.
I’m so nervous. I’ve never been to any PT alone.
She responded right away.
You’ll be fine Pea. You’re a PT pro.
I smiled. Because no matter how much I act like I hate it, I actually love when my family calls me by my childhood nickname, Pea.
And I smiled because Mom was right. I’ve done this since I was a kid. I’ve got this… I think?
I walked up to the check in window and hesitated because Mom always checked me in. I felt super weird when the word copay rolled off my tongue.
Like Mom always taught me, I got there early. So, I took a seat in the waiting room. I looked at the empty seat next to me and missed her ranting about Candy Crush.
When my name was called, I picked up my backpack (and missed the fact that Mom wasn’t there to keep my stuff with her), walked into the back and gulped, remembering that I’m an “adult” in an adult clinic now.
Man. I hate being an adult. Pediatric PT gyms are definitely more fun.
The little old lady standing in her walker to my right smiled at me. It looked like a sympathy smile. I think I looked like a deer in headlights.
I felt like I was in a movie scene where the character has a mini version of him or her on each shoulder, each telling him or her to do a different thing.
Version 1: Snap out of it Jordan. You’ve done this PT thing for years.
Version 2: I just really want Mom.
Version 1: You’re 20. Come on. One crutch in front of the other.
Version 2: Wait. I want Katie and Desiree! Ugh, new people. Interns everywhere. Turn back Jordan, it’s not too late.
Version 1: Oh, shut up Jordan. You’d look like an idiot if you just walked out. What are you going to do? Crutch home?
Version 2: Okay. You’re right. Ummm where do I go? So many people. I want to puke. Mom? Mental telepathy kick in now. Tell her I need her!!
I snapped out of it and realized my PT had been calling my name. I smiled nervously and made my way over.
The time flew by pretty quickly, surprisingly. I walked out still feeling like I was in a fog.
I sat on a bench and waited for the bus again and texted my cousin/best friend that I’ve reached the “adulting max” because I went to PT by myself.
The Athletic Training Major in her was very proud of me.
I guess this is just one of those moments that made me realize that growing up is really weird.
And I don’t always like it.
Mom, thank you for going through this with me for all those years.
It’s weird being in a new clinic, with new people, without you.
But I’ll get used to it.
Just know that I think of you every time I sit in that waiting room.
I love you a whole lot.
Your support means the world.
Miss you, PT buddy. I don’t really know how to do this without you.
Related post: You’re my superhero.
Two days ago. I stood in the middle of my floor, looking down, staring at my bare feet.
I watched every one of my toes curl under, pushing hard enough into my wood floor for each tip to turn white. One thing that comes with Cerebral Palsy in my case is spasticity. And one thing about spasticity? When it’s happening, there’s not much you can do about it.
My deep breath was shaky because I knew it was going to be a long one. Every inch of my body hurt, from the top of my shoulders to the tips of my toes that refused to relax.
Chronic pain. Two words that control my life more than I’d like them to.
I knew this could happen. I’m not even 6 months out of surgery and in a way, my body is screaming because it doesn’t know what the heck is happening. I’ve fought back with lots of time in the gym and home exercise programs but nothing is like going to PT. Which I finally get to start this week with UF Health.
But the past three days have been brutal. Miserable. Honestly, some of the worse I can remember.
College makes me hit the ground running. I often don’t look back and don’t give my legs and body as much attention as they need.
And since Sunday, the real struggles of CP have closed in, backed me into a corner and took a figurative sledgehammer to every inch of my body.
These are the times when it’s hard.
The times when I’m in my room alone. The times when the “why” questions creep in, and I often scream at God. My mind runs in circles as my body screams for relief.
Monday night, late, I sat on my floor, knees to my chest, watching my toes cramp in and out.
Leaning against my bed, my shoulders screamed from using my crutches a lot that weekend.
Resting on my carpet, my left hip begged for the sorta-new screw that resides in it to leave.
As the first tear rolled down my cheek, I remembered how they’d have me rate my pain out of 10 every morning in the hospital. Eight, I thought to myself.
This is an eight.
The floodgates opened and I was mad at God.
Like, really mad.
It’s like everything in me was telling me to run from this, but I couldn’t. Nothing I did made the pain stop.
My 20 years of this life have taught me that in these “eight” moments where there’s nothing I can do to control the physical pain, I just have to ride it out. And do my best to reign in my brain and not let it spin out of control. Because all my life, I’ve made the argument that the mental effects of having a physical disability are probably stronger than any physical aspect we experience.
For probably 30 minutes, I sat on my floor and completely failed at keeping my mind stable.
It spun and it spun. And I screamed at God.
I didn’t want this and I didn’t get this. What the heck is the point of making me feel like everything in my body is on fire, God?
Why? What’s the point? There’s got to be more to this. You’ve got to be doing something more with this, God.
I cried and pushed through. And then started digging for answers.
On my blog Instagram account, I follow a lot of other blogs (makes sense, right?)
One of the people I follow is Audrey Roloff. I had seen her post picture after picture of “Always More” written on her hand. So, considering that in that moment, I was searching for more, more answers to my pain, I decided to Google it.
I pulled up her blog and started reading. On her blog she said that “Always More” is her life mantra and referenced Ephesians 3:20:
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,”
Woah. Okay. God can do immeasurably more with my pain?
I cried some more. But for a different reason. Because the answer was right in front of me as I sat on my floor.
It has been on my heart to somehow reach out and create a stronger community within my dorm floor that is mainly all disabled students. I take for granted how blessed I am in my physical situation so lately I’ve felt convicted to do something about it. With a little help, I will hopefully be starting a bible study for the kids on my floor soon.
Maybe that’s it. God allows me to experience these extreme spurts of pain so I can relate better. So I can lead and serve these kids from a better place.
So I get slapped with a little perspective and stop taking for granted how blessed I am. Like I’ve said before, if my medical chart spoke for itself, I should be much worse off than I am.
Audrey also referenced Matthew 6:19-21 in her blog which is about storing our treasures in heaven.
One day, me and every other disabled kid will be pain free.
That’s where my focus should be. Building God’s Kingdom so more kids like me can have hope to cling to when they find themselves in a place like I was Monday. Screaming in pain, looking for answers, wondering why.
That picture is from a summer when I did intensive PT. It was one of the hardest, most painful things I’ve ever been through. But I somehow managed to smile.
There’s always more to the pain.
There’s always more hope to grab.
There’s always more people to reach.
Fighting this physical pain with everything I got and shrugging it off when I can.
But when I can’t shrug it off, I’ll cry secretly for 30 minutes. And then pick myself up and focus back in on what’s important.
I remember it like it was yesterday. Coming home from the hospital this summer and the texts immediately coming in.
Us three college kids who all went to Dr. Miller at the same time this summer, had (and still have) a group message going.
Once we were all back on our home turfs, we each sent a message along similar lines.
“I miss Wilmington!”
“Guys, I didn’t think it was possible to miss a hospital or Delaware… but I do.”
We all shared the same feeling. Wilmington, Delaware and Nemours had touched our lives in obvious and impossible-to-shake ways.
For me, I really mean it when I say impossible to shake. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about Dr. Miller, Wilmington, Nemours or all of the above.
I’ve wrestled with why that is lately. Being thankful is one thing, but truly missing a place and a group of people is another.
Feeling like a part of you is in another state is a different story.
The first conclusion I came to is solely just the fact that what that place and those people did for me, literally got me to UF.
Dr. Miller, Nemours and Delaware gave me my life back. They replaced my physical pain with hope and possibility.
But then I thought, there’s got to be more to this. There’s got to be a reason why God puts Nemours on my mind every single day. There’s got to be a reason why I miss the little city of Wilmington, DE, of all places, every single day.
I used to hear people talk about how in college most people have just a general idea or even no clue of what they want to do with their lives.
I remember Freshman Jordan thinking: Not me, I know what I’m doing!
Now Sophomore Jordan is laughing at Freshman Jordan. Because I’m now in that “just have a general idea of what I want to do with my life” boat.
Freshman Jordan was 110% going to be a sports journalist.
Sophomore Jordan just knows that somehow, she just wants to tell stories.
I’ve always known that I have been blessed in my medical journey. For some reason, a grade 3 hemorrhage and a 9 week premature birthday didn’t affect me as much as it probably should have.
For some reason, God gave me this voice that a lot of other disabled kids don’t have.
If my medical chart spoke for itself, I probably shouldn’t and couldn’t be at UF.
But for some reason, I am. For some reason, I can’t do math for the life of me but I can write all day.
For some reason, I have this unique platform.
And that has been very convicting lately.
The disabled population at UF is larger than people realize. And because I live in the specifically accessible dorm this year and find myself in the Disability Resource Center (DRC) a lot, I see it. And one word creeps into my mind and drives me up a wall:
Why am I on crutches but the kid down the hall from me is fully wheelchair bound?
Why can I talk but the kid to my right can’t and communicates through an iPad?
Why did I start this blog?
To be a voice for kids like me. To advocate for the population that has their lives stamped with that blue symbol.
Here’s where Delaware and Nemours comes in. A year ago, I was going full speed ahead into the sports media industry. Now, I feel like I’m at a crossroads with two paths.
Do I go into sports or do I go into healthcare? Do I step onto a field and tell people’s stories or do I step into a hospital and tell people’s stories?
While both of those scenarios get me excited, lately the latter gets me really fired up.
I don’t know what that looks like right now. Part of me is starting to dig my heels in and look for communications internships at Nemours or any healthcare system where I can learn to do just that. Be a voice for kids like me and families like mine.
I guess the funny, scary and awesome part about life is you never know where you’re going to end up.
Who knows, maybe one day I’ll find a way tell stories in the sports and healthcare fields.
I don’t know where I’ll end up, but I do know that feeling God’s call is awesome.
Right now? I’m confused because Freshman Jordan’s plan might be changing. But excited because I know God’s got something big.
I used to end articles or posts telling ESPN to watch out.
Now, being fully open to God’s plan that could be ESPN, could be Nemours or could be somewhere else, I’m just saying that I’m excited.
What is clear is that I want to be a professional storyteller.
And what that looks like? I am not sure yet.
This summer at Nemours gave me a perspective and uncovered a dream that I pushed off for a long time.
But now I’m open and excited about it.
A little confused and scared because the perfectionist in me likes to know exactly where I’m going, but I’m slowly surrendering to the fact that that’s not possible. So I’m deciding to just be excited.
Like, really excited.
Dear Delaware: I love you a lot. Thanks for lighting up passions in me that I always had but never knew how to pursue.
Thanks for giving me the courage to finally start trying to figure that out.
Related posts: Dear Nemours