Learning to live with limitations

There are certain things in this world that happen without question. The sun rises and sets. Ice cream will melt if it’s left sitting for too long. Lightning is almost always followed by thunder.

Then, there are other things that the circle of life traces back to. They may be the very same things that can’t be predicted or controlled. They can only be embraced, in whatever way you — and only you — can.

I came to this realization a long time ago. I thought learning to live with my diagnosis of cerebral palsy was the most difficult thing I’d ever do. For almost 30 years, it proved to be the biggest mountain I had to climb. However, life threw a huge curveball in the form of another diagnosis, Graves’ disease, several years ago, even though I felt its many immediate, bulldozing effects the day after Christmas in 2014.

I was officially diagnosed two months later by a throat specialist in Pittsburgh. No one saw it coming. I certainly didn’t feel it coming. I didn’t even know that this autoimmune disease that starts in the thyroid gland located in the throat and effects the entire body could potentially be severely debilitating if left untreated.

I woke up the day after Christmas wrapped in bedsheets that were soaked in sweat as I tried to figure out why it felt like someone had poured gasoline on me and lit me on fire.

It was that quick, like the flip of a switch. There were no warning signs, no symptoms except for the ones I felt that morning. I was so sick and disoriented that I didn’t know what had happened to me. I don’t think I even cared at that point. I just wanted to be left alone, even though I couldn’t be.

Things got so bad that I couldn’t move off of the couch for two months. I was too ill then to realize my life had completely changed with this diagnosis, but I definitely know it now. Although they’re not as prominent as they were, I still have most of the symptoms I had on that fateful morning four years ago.

It has been a struggle to come to terms with all of this, because I’m now on a constant seesaw when it comes to symptoms. It’s even more difficult to find balance when that seesaw is leaning toward the latter – which happens most days, but I find a strange, indescribable comfort in knowing that cerebral palsy is no longer my only mountain to climb.

I’ve written about this before, when I found out I had Graves’ and everything that came with the diagnosis felt new. I guess when you consider the fact I’ve had cerebral palsy my entire life, Graves’ disease has a right to still feel that way. I also have the right to live my life the way I see fit — not in spite of my circumstances, but rather, because of them.

Everything about Graves’ still feels new. It still tries to knock me down every day, and keep me down, but I’m still fighting.

I’m still trying to figure things out. If anything, having a disability and a disease at the same time now has taught me that it’s OK to not have all your ducks in a row sometimes. It’s OK to not have all the answers you’re looking for or hoping for. After all, isn’t that what makes us all human?

Erin Kelly, 33, was born with cerebral palsy in Korea, and lives in Altoona. She also writes for online publications The Huffington Post, The Good Men Project, Upworthy and Real Talk Magazine. Email her at WriterWheels28 @gmail.com.

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