To round out our guest bloggers for Cerebral Palsy (CP) Awareness Month Handicap This Productions brings you motivational speaker and up-and-coming country musician Shane Michael Taylor. Shane discusses the emotional element involved in living with CP.
I silently talk to myself. 60% of what I say is about me too. If that sounds crazy or narcissistic, I have a surprise for you. You do the exact same thing, according to years and years of research.
I am a 32-year-old guy with a severe form of cerebral palsy, which affects all four of my limbs and my voice. It’s no surprise that except for typing on the computer, I require assistance with all facets of daily living. Therefore I’ve been blessed with the ability to live my life closely amongst others, although it can be a curse if we are not in the right mindset or environment.
Needs creates dependency. That dependency can be a breeding ground for abuse. I’m talking mostly verbal abuse and emotional abuse, which in my eyes are far more dangerous than physical abuse. Visible bruises hurt us for a while, but our bodies heal them into scars, which in turn serve as lasting proof that we were indeed physically assaulted.
But how do our bruises from verbal or emotional abuse heal? I believe from how we talk to ourselves. When we receive a hurtful comment, we have a choice. Accept it or reject it. As youngsters, we constantly are seeking the approval of our elders and peers. So we accept their comments as true and tuck them away in the back of our minds. These hurtful comments become stored bruises that don’t heal naturally like physical bruises do.
My mom, a former teacher, chose to give up her promising career to take care of me after I was born with complications. She walked alongside me every step of the way from infancy through my journey into the “real world” as a college graduate. Mom always saw the glass as half full and was a positive force to everyone she met, even when others would offer their condolences and toxic sympathies of having the burden of me in her life.
She would smile and kindly set them straight, stating that she was blessed to have such a healthy and good-hearted child. It may come as a shocker that many of these “sympathy givers” were folks that I looked up to and considered close. Their comments brought me feelings of guilt and sadness, creating invisible bruises I managed to ignore and hide in my mental piggy bank.
Mom suddenly passed away when I was 25. I was overwhelmed as those feelings of guilt and sadness resurfaced. I felt like I robbed my mom of her life from the time I was
born and that I should be the one lying in the ground and not her. Months and years afterward, recurring comments made by “loved ones” reinforced the hidden feelings I held inside and the piggy bank of unhealed bruises finally burst open.
The pain and mental anguish of all of my raw invisible bruises was too much to bear. I attempted to do myself and my loved ones a favor and rid myself from this earth. By the grace of God my attempt failed, forcing me to have a renewed zest for life and vow never to allow the toxic opinions of others become invisible bruises that get trapped inside of me.
I now approach life and what I tell myself differently. I’ve had to revamp my thinking and my system of beliefs. I now have a smaller group of those whom I consider “loved ones” and am comfortable with who I am. Now I’m living my dream. I am a sought after motivational speaker as well as an up-and-coming country artist. The music video for my first single, “Warrior Cowboy,” is expected to debut on national video networks later this year.
Best yet I get to live life and my dream alongside Anthony, one of my best friends from college and my longtime caregiver. Rather than having a dependency on each other, we share a deep, sincere understanding and appreciation for one another and actually enjoy each other’s company. I am so grateful for getting a second chance at life.
To those with or without disabilities who are in dependent relationships and are dealing with abuse of any kind, please stay strong. I know that’s easier said than done. But I don’t care who you are. Every single one of us is here for a reason and has a unique purpose for the good of the world.
So when you are being hurt, I want you to silently talk to yourself and say “No matter what you say or do to me, I’m still a worthwhile person!” Then I urge you to work toward breaking
those dependencies and finding the folks who will become loving positive forces in your life.
The phrase “the spirit cannot be destroyed” is not just the catchy hook in my song “Warrior Cowboy.” It’s the motto of how I now live life. I invite you to do the same.
Let’s keep in touch and join hands to become positive forces in each other’s lives. You can connect with me through ShaneMT.com,
* First image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
I am really excited about tonight’s Live Chat on Twitter. (#CPChatNow) This is the first time I have ever participated in one, but I can tell you now, that it will be fun. I am sure there will be a few “bugs” to iron out, but I know John Quinn and Zach Fenell are up to the task! Our Twitter handles are @JohnWQuinn @ZacharyFenell and @HandicapThis
Tim, what is a Live Chat?
Basically, it is a guided conversation where Twitter users interested in a particular topic, chat about that topic. We use a hashtag to group everyone together. Think of it as almost a “private room” for those using the specific hashtag. Our hashtag is #CPChatNow When you want to enter the conversation, all you have to do is use that hashtag and everyone that wants to discuss that topic can see it and respond accordingly. If this is a little confusing, know that we
are learning too. Think of it this way, if you never try new things, you can’t grow. Every time you start something new, it is a little uncomfortable, and that is okay. This might be a little uncomfortable at first, but we are confident that this will become a regular medium for us to reach our fan base.
I am not on Twitter, can I still participate?
Unfortunately, this is just for Twitter users. Some people don’t like Twitter, and that is okay! We will be doing some sort of Google Hangout in the future so more of our fans can take part. We started this on a whim over the weekend. However, if you have a burning question that you want answered, email me firstname.lastname@example.org and all three of us will answer it to the best of our ability.
Who are you people?
Fair question. John W. Quinn is a retired Naval Officer who kept his cerebral palsy a secret for over 20 years! John also wrote the book, Someone Like Me. about that experience. John is an incredible guy and someone who is a role model in the cerebral palsy community.
Zach Fenell is also an author! Zach wrote the book “Off Balanced”, a memoir of growing up with cerebral palsy. Zach is a talented writer and story-teller and that is why Handicap This brought him on board to be our Guest Blog Coordinator. Zach reaches out to would be bloggers on our behalf, he edits their post, and then sends it to us to upload on our site!
Tim Wambach – that’s me. I have been a caregiver to Mike Berkson since 2001. Mike has cerebral palsy, he has virtually no movement of his arms and legs, but his quick-wit, intellect and zest for life instantly made us friends for life. Together we have started a non-profit organization called, Keep On Keeping On Foundation, and we started a business, Handicap This Productions. We travel the country sharing our story. We like to say we educate, empower, and entertain! I also wrote a book called “How We Roll”, it is based on my work with Mike Berkson.
When will it end?
Great question. The cool thing is that the conversation never has to stop! If you are using that hashtag (#CPChatNow) we can always be in communication. Honestly, we don’t have any special end time, we would say budget 30-45minutes, but the beauty is, you can check out at anytime! Obviously, the more people, the more engagement, but this is your time, if you are not getting any value out of it, by all means leave. I can’t speak for John or Zach, but I will be on as long as we have a conversation going.
I can’t stress this enough, this is our first attempt at this. There very well could be some hiccups and things may not go as smoothly as we would like, but that is okay. We want to give value to our readers, fans, and followers. Like I said, we will be constantly looking at ways to add value. Mike Berkson and myself are hard at work at producing Season Two for our Webisodes. We are also creating a podcast. Both have early 2014 release dates. We have been on the road for the last 3 months meeting a lot of you and now is another chance to be in communication with us in a very unique way.
Thanks again for your dedication. We look forward to continually serving you!
Rollin’ to a town near you!
P.S. If you have any questions, please email me! We would love to hear your thoughts! Thanks!
My name is Lon Kieffer and I am a caregiver!
In fact, I am also known as DOC, the Defender of Caregivers. It was in this capacity that I first met Tim and Mike, or is it Mike and Tim?
Our relationship started like so many others”¦with deceit and a little white lie.
You see, as a huge Facebook user to promote the word of “DOC,” I stumbled upon Handicap This! on Facebook and was astounded by the quality of their graphics and the size of their audience. Immediately I began to steal (with credit of course) some of their posts and inspirational quotes. Initially I didn’t even pay attention to their message”¦ at first, that is!
So there is the deceit part of this story. The little white lie was that I felt we were destined to have a relationship for all the right reasons; that they could benefit and learn from the word of “DOC!” It turns out that the little white lie I was telling was one I had told myself!
In life, there is nothing worse than lying to yourself!
But that’s the way it is when we hold onto our convictions, our passions, our beliefs so strongly. We subconsciously dismiss what others in the relationship have to offer and sometimes we end up lying to ourselves!
In the end, it was me who needed to learn from Mike and Tim, or is it Tim and Mike?
You’ll notice how I am interchangeably referring to Mike and Tim or Tim and Mike as though they are equals. That is because they are! Don’t let the wheelchair fool you. It is not about who is doing the pushing and who is along for the ride! These two are “rolling” together!
In my role as DOC, the Defender of Caregivers, I attempt to have caregivers learn about themselves and enjoy the stress relieving benefits of self identifying as a caregiver. I do this through encouraging and offering AWARENESS and
ACCEPTANCE of the caregiver role and that it is an equal relationship; not physically perhaps, but emotionally. Alas, Tim
and Mike (Mike and Tim) are better at teaching this important truth than me!
There is a poignant scene in their play where Mike and Tim confide in one another: “I might be his arms and legs, but he is my breath.”
This is a balanced caregiver relationship based on honesty, even brutal honesty, and trust. It is beautiful and moving even if sometimes painful. The impact of their message and their play does not come from the flawless writing of a script, nor is it diminished by flubbed lines or poor lighting. It is their bond, their honesty, and their love that catch you!
To Mike and Tim, err, Tim and Mike, the word of DOC and I are better for having met you!
Thank you BOTH for caring!
Lon Kieffer, aka, DOC, The Defender of Caregivers!