My Left Foot By Christy Brown

My Left Foot is the life story of Christy Brown, an individual born in 1930s Ireland with Cerebral Palsy. Written as an autobiography the book depicts his memories of his early life, the struggles and breakthroughs he made growing up in a large, healthy family, his eventual realisation and reaction to the fact he was ‘a cripple’, and the impacts this had on his development – both physically, mentally and socially.

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This book is one I have read as part of my university course (hence the library stickers in my photos), but also one that I felt the need to share. It gives such an incredibly in-depth view into the life of someone with a debilitating illness and talks about the impact it has upon well-being, family life and individual relationships.

Christy openly shares his story in this heart-rendingly honest book. Being born with severe cerebral palsy Christy didn’t meet the usual developmental milestones most infants do. After being given the diagnosis Christy’s mother was told not to invest herself in her son as he wouldn’t ever get better. Despite doctors and family reiterating this opinion Mrs. Brown resolutely ignored this and developed a bond with her son despite the fact that even as he grew up he could not communicate, feed or wash and dress himself or even sit up.

Suddenly I wanted desperately to do what my sister was doing. Then – without thinking or knowing exactly what I was doing, I reached out and  took the stick of chalk out of my sister’s hand – with my left foot.

After years of watching his family from the prison of his mind Christy found a way to communicate with the world in which he lived. Through this he was able to actively participate in his life despite his not insignificant limitations. But as he grew up along side his able siblings he began to notice the differences between them. It wasn’t until his boyhood chariot broke, in which his brother’s wheeled him around, that he realised the extent of his differences.

This realisation was a turning point for him. He no longer wanted to participate in playing with his brothers and friends, instead he became self conscious and introverted and turned to painting as a way to release the emotional tension building inside of him. This worked for a while, but as his siblings grew older and made lives for themselves while he was left behind he became despondent.

I sat on the broken bit of board, letting all the calm and peace of the night soak into me. I seemed to be lost in a moon-lit dream, away from all the things that made my every-day world such a hell to live in. For a moment I was happy. Then I remembered. The future yawned like a black pit before me. I felt trapped and chained.

Christy’s story however is a happy one. With the help of the Cerebral Palsy Association and a lot of hard work and dedication Christy learned to speak and gain some control of his body so that he could sit and move unaided, eventually becoming the burgeoning writer so eloquently portrayed in his book.

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This is a book I would recommend to anyone. While difficult to read in parts it is a beautiful representation of the importance of accepting people as a whole and recognising their capability rather than focusing solely on their physical limitations.

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