Hi, I’m Junaid. I’m a qualified personal trainer and have a degree in information technology. It has not been easy for me to reach where I am today. Although I faced many challenges, I was able to overcome them with the support of my family and friends.
In spite of my young age, I am a confident and persistent young person with a lot of maturities. I love training, attending the gym, and giving back to others. Without the support of my brothers, I couldn’t have made it through this complex journey. I received all the support and encouragement I needed from my parents.
I have Cerebellar Ataxia + Spinal Ataxia with degenerative muscle and motor weakness. I have delayed speech and will not be able to do much in life. The greatest accomplishment I had was to be able to attend school, to be around other children, and to try to achieve the same goals as my siblings. It meant I was equal to others and that I was just as normal.
I had a very difficult journey. In-and-out hospital admissions, no diagnosis, no idea what’s next. My immune system was low, and I was sick often. I missed a lot of school due to recurrent chest infections. Each time I contracted an infection, it brought me back to square one. My legs did not have energy, I could not stand up, and walking was difficult. I can fall at any instance. It doesn’t matter where I stack; I have many bruises and scars to prove it. In my early childhood, I was told that I couldn’t walk; I’ve used a ‘K’ walker since about age 4, and I’m still using it today as they don’t make anything similar. When I travel long distances, I use a wheelchair, but I prefer walking. I have difficulty speaking and swallowing. Eating and cutting food is difficult, but I am slowly adjusting.
I learned to adapt. I wanted to do everything that others do, like go to university, get a job, drive a car, make friends, go out, and train. I did it all. It took me twice as long, but I succeeded. I am grateful to my mother for helping me through all this; she took the stress of arranging everything, long phone calls, and letters of communication.
I went to a mainstream school through parental choice, so I was not eligible to transport. My mother took me to school like my siblings. She was the one folding + opening my ‘K’ walker, all the running around my appointments. I did not get carers allowance or really old adaptations at home. I made do with grabbing walls + furniture to get around. I did not have too many friends, but I had my brothers. As I got older, I had more friends. But they didn’t understand what I was going through until later on in life when I became confident. My religion and faith helped me a lot.
I have friends now. My parents used to take me on holidays abroad every year to give me a change and meet other people. Exercise is part of my daily routine. I go to the gym every day. I have training sessions at home and family time. I have three balanced meals, which consist of more protein than carbohydrates. I have been on a rollercoaster of a health journey. Even now, when I get a cold, it affects me more than a normal person. My weakness is my muscles. I cannot stand up.
You have to adapt; there is no other way. You have to enjoy life, or else you will face many other problems. Ataxia is a condition that does not get better. However, it is not life-ending. You just have to learn how to live with it. This can be done by building confidence, which enables you to have good mental health. Your mental well-being motivates your body, which leads to your body’s strengths and weaknesses.
Learn to ask for help, especially from your family and friends. There is always someone out there to help you. Do not ever struggle on your own. Learn to be happy with yourself and your body because this is our norm. Since this is the way we are made, we must motivate our minds to allow our bodies to function this way. Enjoy life and take on everyday challenges as if it were only today. Tomorrow is a new day.