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“I hope that people reading my poems will feel like anything’s possible”

My name is Jay, I’m 34 years old, and I’m a poet. I was born prematurely, and I have cerebral palsy (CP) that primarily affects my left side. It causes me stiffness in my legs, as well as issues with using my hands. When getting around, I use a wheelchair. I get a great amount of support from my parents and older brother, and I’m very grateful for them.

Growing up I struggled to express myself, which led to feelings of frustration and depression. The biggest barrier in my life was my own negative thinking. I told myself I wasn’t good at anything; I didn’t want to try doing things independently. I often felt anxious about being able to access venues in my wheelchair when out and about with family and friends. So anxious, in fact, that I’d turn down opportunities to socialise and opt to stay at home alone instead.

When I was younger, I didn’t have an outlet for those negative feelings. I looked up to my older brother a lot, so I mirrored his hobbies as a way of coping. I tried coding and digital drawing, which was difficult because of my coordination issues. I didn’t enjoy these interests as much as I thought I would, and only felt more frustrated when I wasn’t good at them.

I remember a conversation I had with my brother during that time. He expressed a desire for me to find a passion that was purely my own. He told me I should go searching for something to do simply for the love of it. My family encouraged me to take the time to find my own craft, so that’s what I did.

For me, that’s what poetry represents. My poems are a way for me to communicate how I’m feeling; I get all of my joy, frustration, and other big emotions out by writing.

Although my art can be very personal, I don’t just write for myself; I write to educate. I’ve experienced how hurtful negative attitudes can be. I remember one particular example: I was volunteering at a museum when I was approached by two girls in their teens. They asked me why I was in a wheelchair and what was ‘wrong’ with me. Rather than allowing this encounter to make me feel negatively towards my CP, it made me wonder how much these people knew about disability, and whether my poems could change their perception.

My work helps non-disabled people to understand the issues we face. By exploring themes such as overcoming barriers and staying positive, I hope to highlight the talents and triumphs of people in the disability community. I hope that people reading my poems will feel like anything's possible, and that I can help to change hearts and minds around the subject of disability.

I’d like to offer this advice to others like me: Reach out to like-minded people who will understand and support you. Over the years, my family and I have had a lot of support from Scope. I’m now a part of their online community and CP Network, where I share and gain practical advice from disabled people and their allies.

Thanks to poetry, the love and support of my family, and the communities of disabled people I’m a part of, I now have the confidence to try new things; I keep pushing even when things are difficult.

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To join Scope’s cerebral palsy network, you can email the team at networkcp@scope.org.uk.

For support and advice about cerebral palsy, you can visit the support pages on our website.

 

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