How Denzel Henderson overcame disability and depression to become a motivational speaker | Chicagoans | Chicago Reader

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How Denzel Henderson overcame disability and depression to become a motivational speaker

“People are not out here living to their full potential,” Henderson says. “I only have the right side of my body and I’m still trying to do better.”


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Chicagoans is a first-person account from off the beaten track, as told to Anne Ford. This week's Chicagoan is Denzel Henderson, 23, motivational speaker and person with cerebral palsy.

Cerebral palsy is kind of like, I can't control my muscles. I've had it since birth. My mother had me at five months. They had to put me in an incubator because one side of my brain wasn't developed yet. Mostly it affects my transportation. I can't go places because we don't have the right equipment. I can't ride a bike. And transportation is limited with Pace. It's tough. It's very tough.

My average day is watching motivational speakers all day on YouTube and on television, and sometimes I watch WWE. I have control of the right-hand side of my body; the left-hand side is not so good. So sometimes I play video games, and sometimes I watch the game play itself.

I became a motivational speaker after I was going through a deep depression. I wanted to give up. I was watching some motivational speakers who brought me back, so I wanted to do what they were doing. Nick Vujicic is one of the speakers I watch a lot. He's the guy who has no arms and no legs.

Basically, if my family goes somewhere, I want to go, so I won't feel left out. That's why I have a GoFundMe for a wheelchair van. I want to go to different schools and events to tell my story to people. I want to visit Saint Jude Children's Hospital to give them hope. I always stress that people are not out here living to their full potential. I only have the right side of my body and I'm still trying to do better, so most people should do better since they have control of all their limbs.

I want people to know that when you have a disability, it doesn't mean you can't do anything. You can do what God created you to do. God created me to motivate people. People have been talking to me on Facebook, and I've been bringing them out of their depression too. Sometimes they cry on the phone with me. Because I gave them hope.

I want to travel the world. It's possible.   v

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