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Dear Cerebral Palsy: a speech by Maddie, 14

October 5 is World Cerebral Palsy Awareness Day, a day to create a powerful voice for people with cerebral palsy, and more inclusive community that understands the everyday challenges they face.

In mid-August, 14-year old Maddie, of Ballarat, won first place in Ballarat’s Royal South Street Society drama and speech competition with her piece, Dear Cerebral Palsy.

‘I wrote this speech to help people understand what it’s like to live with cerebral palsy,’ Maddie, who has been involved with the Murdoch Children's Research Institute Cerebral Palsy Register since she was a child, explains.

‘I wanted people to be more aware that not everyone is able bodied, and that some of us really struggle.’

The speech, which appears below, describes in raw detail Maddie’s relationship with cerebral palsy, revealing the ‘oceans of obstacles, skies of despair and millions of questions’ she has been plagued by over the years.

Maddie explains how she overcame nerves on the day to deliver the ‘deeply personal’ speech, but that the ‘praise and congratulations’ from classmates has made her determined to share her experience with more people.

‘Since giving the speech I’ve noticed classmates at school gracefully letting me pass and not being so pushy,’ Maddie says. ‘They’re more considerate, because they know more about what I’m dealing with.’

‘I feel like there’s nothing holding me back now,’ she says.

Dear Cerebral Palsy,

Isn’t it amazing how one’s life can be so perfect, even if it is for just a moment, even if it is stricken with fantasies and dishonesty, whether that untruthfulness lies in the form of a gorgeous imaginary boyfriend or a well-functioning, able body? Then I remember you, my worst enemy, who runs through my veins and clouds my mind. Then I remember all the rubbish that you’ve put me through, all the rubbish no young girl should even have to think about let alone experience.

We have known each other since I came out of the womb. You have always been there, not a foot step behind me. As a young child I never quite understood what you were, let alone how much you would affect and impact my life. Now I’m an adolescent I can comprehend that you will never be gone and that I will never be able to escape your presence. I can now apprehend that you will always be suffocating me, you will always be intoxicating me with your disease.

You are always on my mind, I can never stop thinking about you. The nights are often the hardest. I lay awake drowning myself in my tears. I imagine the miserable future ahead of me. I listen to you tell me that boys will not love me, that I have no place on this earth, that I would be better off dead. I think back to the countless times I have named myself the sad girl, the mistake, the girl with nothing for her. I think back to all those times you have insulted me, isolated me, constricted me.

I think about all those times you would try to introduce me to depression, try to intertwine us as one, urging me to find the highest ledge or the sharpest blade.

I replay all the cruel things you say to me, informing me with such a despised and disgusted manner, that I am useless, worthless, a waste of space, unlovable.

My life has been bombed with oceans of obstacles, skies of despair and millions of questions at the hands of your mission to make my life a living hell. My life has consisted of your taunts, your orders and your ugliness.

But you, cerebral palsy, you will not defeat me, you will not rule and ridicule my life. I will take your presence as a gift because I know that you are a part of me for a reason. I will take your presence as a gift because you are what has shaped me into the bright, bubbly, determined, caring, compassionate girl I am today. You will not destroy me, you will empower me to be the best person I possibly can be.

Sincerely,

Maddison

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