Saturday, February 20, 2016

I'm a Spaz

Grace Carpenter
My Happy Stroke
Saturday, June 8, 2013

When I was in junior high, whenever a friend did something clumsy, awkward, or funny, we would laugh and say,

"Don't be a spaz!"

I think I vaguely knew that the word "spaz" came from "spastic," but I had no idea what spasticity actually meant. Until, of course, I was afflicted with this uncomfortable condition myself.

Looking back, one of the people who probably suffered from spasticity was a kid in my class who had spina bifida, or maybe cerebral palsy. He used crutches and his legs looked like they hadn't grown enough. Other than noticing his awkward gait, I didn't think about him at all. My top--and only--priority in junior high was to fit in.

There was also an adult in our neighborhood who probably had spasticity. He walked into the town center every day with a lopsided gait. I'm guessing that he also had Tourette's syndrome, because he also used to mutter curses, and jerk with uncontrollable tics. "He's harmless," my mother would reassure me, if I encountered him on my walk home.

A few weeks ago when I was walking, I had a good view of my shadow. I was trying to walk fast, which makes my spasticity more noticeable. I was swinging my right arm, and with each step I could see my shadow arm moving in jerky, awkward movements, like a wind-up toy losing steam.

At first I was amused by my spastic shadow. I was even tempted to spew curses, just to see reactions of passers-by.

Then I thought: please god, help me walk normally before my children start junior high.

(For the record: I believe I also have apraxia, which contributes to the awkward look of my movements. Like many stroke survivors, I have a cluster of conditions.)

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