Hi, My name is Chelsie. I am a 36-year-old with severe Cerebral Palsy. I lived in my own apartment for six years, but now I live in a group home. I am a college graduate, graduating with a GPA of 3.8. I rank graduating with that high of a GPA as one of my most outstanding achievements. My other most outstanding achievement is living totally on my own for three years in Chicago while I went to graduate school.
After graduate school, I moved in with my parents and tried to look for a job. I applied to 200+ jobs. I was not picky! However, I couldn’t get any employers to look past my disability. And honestly, my disability is just too severe for me to be gainfully employed. This was devastating for me. It was the first time in my life I wasn’t able to do something critical to living. Yes, I had to deal with not driving, but that was easy to accept compared to not having a job. Having a job is just so central to one’s identity in a way that driving isn’t.
Eventually, I got my own apartment and was living independently on my own. I had my ups and downs, but I lived independently, something I always wanted to do. However, I never quite got over not being able to work. I always measured my life to my non-disabled peers and siblings. After all, during my childhood, I was always able to keep up with them in all the essential areas. It just crushed me that I wasn’t able to keep up with them as an adult. We have a terrible habit of comparing ourselves to other people in life, even though we know we shouldn’t do it.
Eventually, I developed a drinking habit because it was easier to face life drunk than to face life as someone who can’t work. Maybe that’s too simplistic. Addition has a lot of components to it. I just knew in 2016 I started drinking because it was easier to face life drunk.
For two years, I made horrible decisions. I put myself and others at risk. I drunk 24/7 for the better part of two years until my family “strongly encouraged’ me to move to a group home (Read: forced me into a group home)
I wasn’t too happy with this. I thought group homes were for people with intellectual disabilities, not people like me. Honestly, I looked down on people in group homes. I thought I was better than them. I think it’s common for people to look down on other people. It’s not very nice, and I’m certainly not proud I did it, but it’s part of human nature.
It took me two years before I started to embrace living in the group home. Now, I love it! Or maybe love is a strong word. I like it. I still have plans of someday living on my own, but I’m happy where I’m at right now.
So why am I writing this blog? Honestly, I’m writing this blog because I want to touch people’s lives. I have learned that life gives you obstacles, and you have to deal with those obstacles in an honest, straightforward manner. There are lots of people with disabilities out there who spread a message of hope and optimism. They say things like “There’s no such thing as can’t” or “You just have to choose to be happy.” They want to inspire you.
That’s all well and good. Sometimes we all need to be inspired. However, I’m not interested in inspiring you. I’m interested in showing people that the best way to overcoming obstacles is sometimes just acknowledging them and accepting them. I don’t mean to give up. I mean accepting things for what they are. Be realistic about the situation. A counselor once told me, “Acceptance is the key to happiness.” And I know in my life that has been the case.
I hope to look at issues in this blog with realism that you don’t see most of the time. I don’t know if anyone will read this. I hope you do. I hope to be educational, not inspirational. And I hope to throw in some humor for good measure.