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July 28, 2014

Mind trumping body

Sometimes a slight physical handicap can cause a lasting mental affect. It took me 68 years to build up the courage to share this and I am doing it for the sake of my own mental therapy and maybe help a young person, or the parent of a young person, to best deal with his or her problem.

My physical problem is minor compared to others. When I was born I had residual cervical palsy, In my case I was born with a pinched nerve in my neck that weakened my whole left side including my eye, arm, wrist, leg and ankle. If we met, chances are you would not notice my handicap. I actively played sports all my life including high school baseball and basketball. I was not bad in baseball as I was a pitcher and therefore needed to primarily rely on my right arm. (I did get hit in the head a couple of times from line drives back to the mound.) In basketball I was terrible but did play on the junior varsity team and was decent. I was better than average in tennis.

I had terrific parents who for the most part treated me no different than my older brother and tried to help me any way they could. As a child, at about eight years old, my mother would take me to doctors praying that one of them would provide a cure. The one I remember most was a chiropractor who would strap me on a machine laying flat on my back with a leather strap under my neck and another tied to my legs. When the machine was turned on it would slowly stretch my body simultaneously pulling on my head and legs in the opposite direction. After that he would grasp my head between his two hands and press on it in an attempt to reshape it. That was weird because my head had a normal shape.

After about four weeks my Mom and I both realized the treatment was doing me no good and we were wasting time and money. Over the years my mom and I would laugh about our weekly trips to the chiropractor. I was blessed with the greatest parents on earth. They treated me like I did not have a physical handicap. As a result, I didn't dwell on the problem much either. However as I got older I became more conscious of it.

In some ways it was a blessing. I grew up in a working class neighborhood on the north end of Flint. I did terrible in high school, hardly ever studying. My Dad worked for G.M., was a World War II veteran, lived during the depression and was a participant in the CC camps in the 1930's, which was a welfare program during the depression of the 1930's. He had eight of his brothers and sisters die from the flu in 1918. He only had a second grade education. My Mom dropped out of high school in the eleventh grade to help her parents raise their younger children.

My parents did not dwell on my handicap nor did they allow me to dwell on it. I became more conscious of it as I discovered girls. It was then that I would try to hide it and pretend there was nothing wrong with my left side and in particular my left arm. Instead of being open about the problem I was hoping no one would notice and all would be fine. Later in life I realized this was a mistake because the most important person was aware of my physical problem and he was hiding from it and trying to hide it from everyone else. That person was me. It was then that I felt socially awkward and as a result did not date much.

After high school I went to Flint Community College, then attended Western Michigan University and had the good fortune of having a roommate for two semesters who stuttered and had a crippled leg. Despite this he was a lady's man. He was good looking, very outgoing and it did not hurt that he drove a Mercedes. The principle reason he attended Western was they had an excellent speech therapy program. He credited the program with changing his life.

The therapy required that every night he go to the student union, talk to at least two guys and three girls and report back to his class the next day. At first he was hesitant and embarrassed. After doing this for about three weeks he realized he did not die and was not harmed in anyway and he gained confidence.

I now realize I should have went through similar therapy for my physical handicap. If I did, I would have realized long ago that the problem was in my mind and not my body. Please pass this on to anyone confronted with a similar problem. You will be doing them a big favor.

1 comment:

  1. I honestly grew up thinking, "Those silly Chinese, why do they just keep buying up all our US treasuries, hand over fist. Do they just not know better?" Now that I'm older and a little wiser, I respect a civilization older than 2200 years. They haven't stuck around by being fools!!

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