Not just physical
Awareness of the challenges that people with disability face is essential to a truly inclusive and supportive community.
People living with cerebral palsy (CP) face not only physical challenges but also mental hurdles.
Michelle Fischer knows this all too well. As someone with CP, for her the biggest challenge was her internal battle.
“Cerebral palsy is the physical condition I deal with, but I think the biggest challenge was the emotional challenges that accompanied it. The challenge for me was figuring out what I was capable of, and then being confident enough to take the steps necessary to accomplish my dream”, Michelle said.
“When I realized that my situation wasn’t working out the way I thought it would, I felt helpless. It was almost like I was grieving the loss of the life that I thought I was going to live, which ended up not being realistic by any means. I had to learn to live realistically and work with what I had, setting goals that would match better with my abilities”, she said.
Making a contribution
What helped her heal was journalism. Through telling her very personal story to others, she overcame her battle.
Michelle has a podcast called A View from My Window, which is helping make a difference to many people with CP.
“Being a journalist opens up a perspective that excites me. I get to be a fly on the wall. I get to weave together the story of what makes this person, organization, or topic. Giving you a perspective that makes you think, cry, or laugh. A perspective that makes you see that you can’t judge a book by its cover”, Michelle said.
“Everyone has a story. I hope that people see that the diagnosis of a disability is not the end of your life, even though it can seem like it. It may mean taking things a little slower as far as goals and dreams, but when you accomplish something the victory is sweet because you didn’t let anything stop you – you made it!” she said.
Growing up, Michelle told everyone who asked that she wanted to be in journalism, however the overwhelming response seem to be, “Oh that’s nice”. There was one person, however, that took the time to listen to her dream and help her with it.
“John Dickerson, former executive director of The Arc of Indiana, was that person. Without John’s vision, I wouldn’t have even imagined that I would be in my dream job today and accomplishing all that I have. John had the idea, I had the dream – put it all together, and a podcast was born!” Michelle said.
Michelle says that everyone is touched by a disability in some way or another, and firmly believes that information is power.
“Whether it’s you, a friend or a family member, everyone can learn and be empowered by listening to the show. Shortly after I started, I heard that a professor from a college outside of Indiana uses the podcast in his classroom, and a local special education teacher in Indianapolis tells families of her students about the podcast. Many others have also said how they benefit and enjoy the show, which always makes me extremely happy!” she said.
For Michelle, coping with her disability is a daily process and a challenge in itself. She also deals with panic attacks and depression, which are both very exhausting to control. But she stays positive and has a strong mindset.
“It always could be worse, and keeping that in mind has always helped me to keep the challenges in perspective. Being able to focus on others and how I can help them helps me to not be selfish. Being grateful for what I have and the people around me always helps me keep the positive-thinking flowing,” Michelle said.
Michelle will keep the smile on her face as she continues raising disability awareness in the way she knows best.