Morgan McCarthy: Beyond My Personal Battle with Cerebral Palsy

This blog post is the first in a series of storytelling pieces, “Beyond My Personal Battle”. The interview-based series is dedicated to sharing an inside view of individual lives working to grow and thrive beyond the diverse challenges of illness or disability. Interviews are conducted by Mary Brimmer.

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What’s your name and where are you from?

My name is Morgan McCarthy and I’m from Saratoga Springs, NY.

What is your diagnosis and how would you explain your relationship with it?

I have a chronic neuromuscular disorder called cerebral palsy, or CP. For me, it’s taught me a lot about life in general and that you’re not promised tomorrow. You only have so many opportunities in life to do the things you want to do and to express gratitude for them. It’s taught me to be strong-willed and fight through things.

For a lot of people, whether it’s terminal or non-progressive, it’s not going away. It’s that little annoying itchy spot in your life that keeps coming back, almost like a pimple. I always think that my CP is like a little pimple and I just have to let it be there and let it be a part of the situation, but it shouldn’t be the entire focus of conversation. That’s how I try to explain it to others. I am who I am, it’s a part of me, but it’s not going to make things anymore difficult. Some people just have never been exposed to it, so you just have to let them be immersed in it.

How does your battle influence those around you?

When it comes to my family, my siblings are very much the ones that are in my corner to see me excel. They can push my buttons sometimes, but really I know they just want me to be successful.

I think when it comes to any parent-child relationship, it’s almost like you have to just let people grow. It’s probably hard for parents because that’s their baby and they want to see them be successful, but children have to do things on their own to learn their capabilities and limitations.

[For my peers,] I think it takes growing up and I think it takes some people a certain amount of time to mature and if you’re not exposed, it can be difficult. There were a handful of kids at my high school who were driving scooters so there were at least three of us that kids saw on a daily basis that used them. I think it takes not only exposure, but it also takes maturity from the other person in the friendship to be there because you don’t always want to show your cards.

How has your relationship with your diagnosis changed over time?

I think my relationship with myself is like, “Okay, I have I have a job, I have a dog, I have a great family, I have great siblings.” Yet, there’s always this part of you that says, “I don’t know...” There is some constant uneasiness about aspects of yourself. There are so many things that go well in your life, but maybe there’s just like that one part of you that could grow. For me, at age twenty-four, there’s a lot of personal growth and introspection, but I do think there’s always that thought in the back of my head of, “Am I doing enough?” That could just be my personality, but the effect that it has because I have CP is different. I have to rely on other people and it wracks my brain because I want to do things.

What is one thing that you wish others knew about you and your condition?

People should know that every human should be capable of different things. Everyone has a story and a unique take on life. Not that there shouldn’t be things like aptitude tests or grades, but there shouldn’t just be one way to do something. I would have done it either way. It might just look different the way I do it because of the effect CP has on my body. I always tell people I modify things or I just improvise them. I still can do them; they’re just done in a way that might be different than Joe Shmoe next door.

Do you have any tools or strategies you recommend for when feeling down or not so strong?

I always try to do things myself at least once because if it’s something I’ve never tried to do before, how am I supposed to know that I’m capable of it? I always try first and then if I really can’t, I go to someone that I trust. You have to surround yourself with people who only want the best for you but aren’t afraid to see you fall because they know it’s a part of the journey.

For me, a way I take care of myself is by not denying the way I’m feeling. I think it’s a lot of self-actualization theory where it’s like, “how am I  really feeling in this moment?” When I’m sad, music helps, but also being in touch with how I really feel about things and being grateful for what I have. If you have to be sad, feel sad, and know that it’s not wrong to feel more than one feeling at once. I think society tells us otherwise.

What's your experience been like with Beyond My Battle?

I don’t think a lot of people realize that there are so many good things in our lives, but being a part of Beyond My Battle allows you to talk through your emotions with people who know the same feeling at the forefront of their hearts. It never feels like it’s a burden on other people in the group. After awhile, it’s hard to focus on the good things all the time, so having a group of people behind you makes you realize that you’re not the only one. You realize it’s okay to experience your feelings, to use the Emotional e-Toolkit, and to have people agree or bond with you over self-care.

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