I watched a documentary today featuring TV presenter Jeff Brazier and his 25 year old brother Spencer who has Cerebral Palsy.
The documentary was following Jeff, 31, as he tried to regain an adult relationship with his brother and help Spencer gain independence as he felt that his younger brother let their mother do too much for him as a disabled person.
Spencer has a different CP than I do; he has a normal I.Q, but cannot speak and has limited use of his hands. Jeff commented as he put it (Spencer) “Doesn’t have much of a lifestyle” which I first thought was quite a harsh observation. It later became apparent that both brothers were stubborn and the more Jeff pushed Spencer the more he would become angry and defensive at being forced to grow up and change his whole life effectively.
Spencer seems a lonely guy who wants more friends and to eventually marry and have children, his older brother couldn’t see why he wouldn’t take steps towards these goals and branded him lazy. Eventually, us as viewers and Jeff, could see that Spencer was scared of the change, scared of rejection I suspect.
I can talk (very well!) its mainly just my legs that limit my life but I still felt completely dejected when my first boyfriend dumped me, who else would take pity on me? It took a while to realise that my ex didn’t pity me he’d just moved on and other men wouldn’t look down on me, they would see me as equal just my family and friends do.
For Spencer it’s not as easy; meeting new people romantically or otherwise, he only communicates in Makaton sign language, he tried using communication software on an ipad but quite obviously hated using it and he actually came to say that he didn’t see himself as disabled.
It’s funny because I find that even though I use a wheelchair a lot, am on load of medication and have medical files thicker than a bible that I don’t always see myself as a “proper” disabled person. I can talk, I go clubbing, I have a boyfriend, I can’t possibly be properly incapacitated? But I am, and it’s hard to sometimes keep that in mind that no matter how many pep talks you give yourself or receive from others there are things I can’t do from a medical point of view, so I can completely see where Spencer came from; I can talk there for I’m fine he can walk and doesn’t need a wheelchair so he must be fine. Jeffs underlying message was that Spencer had to make the most of who he is and what he can do and not dwell and the negatives, that I completely agree with.
The documentary really was heartfelt and warming, I could see Jeff desperate to help his brother which would in turn assist his their mother to gain an independence that she had lost being Spencer’s carer, but in the end there was a fine line between being helpful and forceful and Jeff finally saw that he couldn't help Spencer unless Spencer wanted to change and it wasn’t going to happen within the few weeks of the documentaries making.
A genuinely brilliant documentary by Anna Keel and if you can catch it on BBC or on the iplayer please do its well worth the watch.