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Having CP and dealing with bullies is a breeze compared with dealing with the anxiety of asking your first crush out on a date!
To me — and lots of guys! — high school girls seemed unpredictable and hard to figure out. The only thing I could do was be likeable, engaging, and responsive. The hardest obstacle to overcome was starting the first conversation. A lot of guys think they don't have anything interesting to talk about. This is where having CP came in handy!
When I was in ninth grade, there was a girl I liked who happened to be in all my classes. Soon, I got noticed and curiosity got the best of her. She was forced to ask the question that was on her mind for some time, "What's wrong with your legs?" These weren't the most romantic words to start a relationship, but it got my "foot in the door."
When most guys are struggling for the attention of the girls they like (by making fun of people like me!), I have the advantage because people are naturally curious, and all I have to do is smile. I was responsive to the girl I liked, so it made it easier for her to talk to me, even if the ice-breaking question was a bit embarrassing.
Don't count yourself out when it comes to dating. People will like you for who you are — that's it!
The same theme of having a positive attitude and a willingness to try can be applied to cerebral palsy and sports. I played many sports while I was in high school, but I was best at golf. Go figure: the one sport that requires balance and precision — two weapons that aren't readily available in my arsenal. But I really excelled at golf.
My doctor explained how I was able to participate — and achieve — as well as I did in sports, particularly golf: It's possible for some people with CP to learn how to get our bodies to work in other ways. In my case, I figured out how to use different back, arm, and leg muscles to mimic the techniques of the golf swing, instinctively adapting to my body's limitations.
I would have never known that my body was able to adapt like this if I didn't have the courage to try to play. I knew that I might fail, but I also knew that there was a greater possibility I'd have fun. I wasn't afraid what the other members of the team would think of me, because by this time my reputation and positive mindset preceded me. I say this because I want to stress the importance of staying positive about CP — or any physical condition — and not think of it as a limitation.
In my experience, people tend to admire you most for trying. They want to see you succeed, sometimes more than succeeding themselves. Four years of varsity golf was one of the highlights of my high school career and some of my best friends in school played golf.
I also participated in wrestling, working up to competing on the varsity level as well. Although I wasn't the best, I kept with it and tried my hardest. My body adapted its own techniques, like in golf.
In my case, participating in as many physical activities as possible was the best way (other than physical therapy or occupational therapy) to combat CP. Exercise keeps the affected muscles loose and limber, which helps to counteract the appearance of cerebral palsy.