Society seems to drastically influence our actions determining socially acceptable or unacceptable behavior. Yet, these societal expectations can be heavy emotional boulders preventing you from expressing your true identity. Growing up without a disability, I always seemed to fit in, have friends and be at least on the fringes of the popular crowd. Typically, I followed enough of society’s unwritten rules to get by in life.
As an able bodied college student, I seemingly followed a path that society expected…whatever that means. Then one Saturday while playing rugby for my college team, I suffered a spinal cord injury resulting in paralysis of the majority of my body. As a quadriplegic, my new life in a different body began with almost 3 months as an inpatient in Jackson Memorial Hospital.
Emotional and physical challenges have ensued every day since my injury. Simple tasks like picking up a pen to write seemed more difficult than climbing Mount Everest. Early in my recovery, I wanted to believe that I could push myself in physical therapy to regain any movement, sensation or bodily function that I had for 22 years. Even though my rehabilitation doctor explicitly told me that any functional recovery was a long shot, I held out hope expecting to get much better. I did improve over time but not regaining my bodily functions as I expected. Mainly, I figured out how to do things differently as I failed over and over attempting to solve an issue like picking up a cup to drink water without spilling that previously I did without thought.
My life was forever altered in a split second rugby tackle. I have come to the realization that physically my body will never be comparable to what it was. Emotionally, I have tried to be at peace about my physical shortcomings. I have not quite accepted my physical challenges because I stay hopeful for a miraculous cure. Yet, I move forward overcoming many challenges and obstacles that most people cannot relate to and I expect to continue to do so. Sometimes, it seems like people expect me to not be able to accomplish anything because I use a wheelchair. I don’t worry about everyone else. I concern myself with my actions and what I can control. This attitude and mentality has significantly improved my life. Now, I would not know any other way to approach life!