PWH Ambassador: WHY SO SERIOUS?
Having a spinal cord injury was the toughest situation I have ever had to deal with in my life. I had never had to face any situation with this level of adversity before. After all, I was only 22 years old when it happened -- enjoying my last year of college and had always been financially supported by my parents. Then my accident happened, and life got really hard.
I was upset for a long time that this situation had been bestowed upon me. I would find myself frustrated that I had to essentially do everything in my life differently. I was practically re-learning how to do my daily activities in this newfound predicament, and my wheelchair also came with unavoidable perception from others. Every aspect of my life had changed, and I had to somehow figure out how to live life like this now.
For three years, I was continuously upset with my situation. But, life is funny in that no matter what happens to you, it keeps going. Time doesn't stop to think about your feelings. The seconds continue to tick regardless of whatever happens. It was when I hit a low point emotionally that I found I needed to change. I was tired of being upset and that I allowed myself to be full of sadness and anger for too long. This catalyst opened my eyes to see life in a greater perspective.
Up until this point, I couldn't accept this "new" life after my accident. It was too overwhelming for me to bear. However, after this period of sulking, I started to think about my place in the world in relation to my injury. I thought that though my injury devastatingly affected me and my family, in the grand scheme of things, we are only a few people out of over seven billion people that live on this planet. This thought made me realize how small my situation actually was in relation to how many people and all the issues that exist in the world. And also there is a large population of people out there in worse situations than me.
Some are in physical and financial situations worse than me. Some live in impoverished conditions. I still had the benefit of living in a nice house and had my parents support me emotionally and financially. In addition, I had actually adapted well enough to my injury at this point that I was functionally independent, which is not as possible for some people. The more I thought like this, the more I was able to identify additional positive aspects to my situation. Eventually, this brand of thinking led me to develop the courage to accept my situation and finally move forward in my life.
In 2010, four years after my injury, I decided to go back to school. I moved out of my parents' house to live on campus, in an attempt to see if I could live independently as a paraplegic. It was scary at first, but once I took the plunge I realized that I was more resilient than I thought I was.
Sure -- I had challenges along the way, but what I came to understand was that no challenge I faced was even close to as difficult as it was when I first got injured. Most of the challenges were only challenges because I feared it in my mind. Once I fought the fears and overcame the perceived challenge, then the next time I came across it, it would no longer be a challenge. It would become something I knew I could do.
The initial challenges I felt I had to overcome were things like how to deal with being the only person in a wheelchair in social situations, getting back into my wheelchair if I fell, getting a job, playing wheelchair basketball, going grocery shopping, doing laundry and other chores, and so on. As I kept evolving past my fears, it felt so rewarding that all of these things were possible now, and that I could truly live independently. This evolution wouldn't have been possible if I didn't decide to move past my fears. And I only was able to make these decisions once I was able to take my life less seriously.
As I have continued to move forward in this life I have met with greater and greater challenges. Over the years, I have faced health challenges with pressure sores that have made me bedridden for months. I have faced emotional challenges where I have had to let go and forgive myself and others for emotional traumas I have experienced in the past.
I am committed to developing myself into the best version of myself, and that can be quite challenging at times because it takes will and effort to let go of parts of yourself you don't want to be anymore, and substituting positive thoughts and behaviors you want to bring into your future.
Life is what you make of it. No matter what challenge I have to face, I have overcome so much that I truly believe I can overcome anything. I have accepted that challenges are a part of life no matter how big or small it is. And if it wasn't for this spinal cord injury, I don't think I would have ever come to this level of thinking.
I appreciate every single event I have experienced in my life because they have all shaped me to become who I am in this moment. And I know wholeheartedly that it was only possible to get here because I stopped taking my life so seriously.