The Importance of Relating

Hi all, 

Our fourth guest blogger is Zachary Fenell. He is some one who is already out there in the CP world as a young adult who is not afraid to let others know he had CP! But he wasn’t always this way. He is spreading awareness about CP through his online and freelance work, and as an author of a book about his experiences with CP as a teen, called Off Balanced…. so there you have it guys, a true TeenCP leader! Read on to learn more about Zachary Fenell, and how he aims to relate to others with CP. Find out where you can find his book too, and share your thoughts with me and TeenCP  by commenting below, or on the facebook page. Click on the facebook icon on the upper right of the homepage to connect with us. Enjoy. 🙂 -Katy

Hey there Teen Cerebral Palsy readers! My name is Zachary Fenell. I’m 25 years old and I was born with a mild case of cerebral palsy. Yes I know I’m no longer a teenager, but I am enamored by teen life. My captivation stems from failing to fully enjoy my own adolescence. You see growing up I remained highly self-consciousness about having CP and in an attempt to be like everyone else, I ended up trying to hide my disability.

Cerebral palsy prevented me from achieving my camouflaging efforts. Thanks to my CP I walk with a limp and encounter balance issues. Concern from my parents led to IEP accommodations in school which emphasized my differences. I can handle steps perfectly fine using a railing, both ascending and descending. However my parents didn’t want me taking any unnecessary risks so once in junior high I received orders to use the elevator at school. I could even leave class five minutes early to avoid accidentally getting knocked over in the halls by a herd of students rushing from classes to classes.

Additionally I went from participating in gym class to serving as the teacher’s assistant. I always imagined an outsider finding the scene peculiar. Me in my street cloths holding Mr. Newman’s grade book taking attendance while he led my peers all dressed in their red shorts and Memorial t-shirts in warm ups. A curious onlooker might ask “Why isn’t that kid participating?” or “How come he has the teacher’s grade book?” I certainly perceived the situation as an awkward one.

All the negative emotions stirring within my mind left me feeling isolated. I didn’t know anyone else with CP who I could relate to. My parents’ care and concern for my wellbeing, well didn’t come across as loving. Rather I considered the safety precautions they placed in my life limitations. Mom and Dad insisted they wanted what’s best for me but they could never understand. I’m the one living with cerebral palsy, not them. They just couldn’t get it.

Today I’m pleased by the various cerebral palsy support groups on Facebook enabling people with CP to connect with one another. I’m encouraged to watch a place specifically catering to teens like Teen Cerebral Palsy blossom. I know I wrote my teenage memoir Off Balanced hoping to provide support to current adolescents dealing with the self-confidence issues I battled. These resources provide great opportunities to relate with each other, vanquishing negative emotions such as isolation and embarrassment.

The ability to empathize and feel emotional attachment proves so welcoming. Excitement builds when you get to say “Oh my God! I totally get that. This is what happened to me…” I recall reading Natalie’s guest post here back in September and completely sympathizing with how she felt when her band directors played video footage of the band in action. Natalie’s words left me flashing back to my senior year in college.

Graduation loomed two weeks away. Per the usual, Notre Dame College celebrated outstanding academic accomplishments throughout the past school year via the annual Honors Convocation. With me set to win three awards my parents came up to campus touting their camcorder. Later on watching the Convocation footage I did a double take. My limp seemed so pronounced. An urge to indulge in self-pity emerged. Taking a deep breath I thought “Oh well! It is what it is,” ultimately defeating the alluring temptation.

Knee-jerk reaction to the above most likely takes form in a cliché, “Easier said than done.” Trust me, I recognize the incredible challenge involved in freeing yourself from negatives and maintaining a positive attitude. Heck, that’s the basic theme to my book Off Balanced. Thankfully though, these days the Internet eases the difficult task by increasing access to resources like Facebook support groups and Teen Cerebral Palsy.

Author and writer Zachary Fenell remains dedicated to spreading disability awareness through written word and social media. He has written disability orientated content for websites including e-How, Disaboom, and The Mobility Resource (a leading provider in handicap vans). Fenell’s book Off Balanced can be found on the Amazon Kindle and Barnes & Noble Nook. To learn more or contact Zachary visit www.zacharyfenell.com.