I Am Me Challenge

“There is something about words. In expert hands, manipulated deftly, they take you prisoner. Wind themselves around your limbs like
spider silk, and when you are so enthralled you cannot move, they pierce your skin and numb your thoughts”
-Diane Setterfield

I developed the concept behind the IAmMe Challenge before I had even launched my blog. The underlying concept was to take back the power of those things that others used against you, hoping to hurt you. If one could accept those hurtful things and turn them into something beautiful, something that strengthened them, those words no longer held the power to harm you. Growing up with a physical disability that so openly distinguished me from my peers, I’ve heard my fair share of derogatory comments. My disability provided an easy in for ugly, hurtful words that sought to weaken me, while strengthening those who used them against me. I wish that this was a reality I dealt with only in my childhood. However, in 2010 I learned a very valuable lesson: those wounds left unaddressed and unattended, they will continue to bleed and take pieces of our souls with them.

During a break in between classes that year, I went to the cafeteria to get some lunch. It was then that a very dear friend asked very innocently, “Ash, do you prefer to be called crippled, or disabled?” Even now, seven years later I remember that question initiating a very visceral response from me, one that looking back I’m not proud of. I understand now though that I reacted the way that I did because I was still carrying with me the pain I felt every time someone used my disability to diminish my worth.

Ugly

Cripple

Weak

These words, mere words, they cut open my soul upon leaving an individual’s mouth. It’s time I reclaim the truths behind those words and reframe my thinking. Those scars that some think made me ugly, couldn’t be more wrong. Those scars are now tattoos that I strive to wear with pride. Each of them was earned because I survived circumstances that would have brought others to their knees. I have become stronger because of those scars and there is nothing ugly about that! I look upon those marks with respect, a badge of honor that I cried for, fought for and have become better because of.

As I’ve matured I welcome a dialogue about my disabilities and I seize every opportunity I can to educate others. Cripple is the word that causes me to shake my head and roll my eyes the most. Most times, it is said as a synonym for any physical disability.
Crip.ple
/kripel/
To cause (someone) to become unable to move or walk properly. By definition, there isn’t any malice in it. It’s true, because of Cerebral Palsy I do not move or walk “properly”. But you see, even using that word is a victory in an of itself. Many individuals with Cerebral Palsy cannot walk and I am blessed to have that ability. Sure, it may present as everyone else, but I beat the odds. I walked even after my family was instructed that I wouldn’t be able to. They believed I wouldn’t be able to sit up, walk, or stand on my own and I can! I did and I will! If you must use the word, let it call attention to the fact that I prevailed and fought. I refuse be ashamed of that!

Lastly, weak. Even typing that word I had a proud smile on my face. That word is used I’m sure to described my physical weaknesses, but those have never and will never be my limitation. My ability to live, thrive and survive in an able-bodied world is not weak. Yes, my lower body isn’t the strongest, however, that only motivated me to become stronger in every other way that mattered. My mind is strong. My heart and passion is unyielding. My conviction knows no bounds and all of this was fostered because I was thought to be weak.

Today, I am breaking the chains on the words that wounded me and set myself free. I have learned that one cannot move forward without first accepting the past. I will be held prisoner no more. I encourage you to confront those demons, those words that cut you deep into your soul and reclaim that power. Someone once said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent,” and today I am revoking the permission to be held captive by these words! I am breaking free of these chains.

IAmMe and this was my challenge!

Photography Credit: Ryze Photography