I know I’m bringing this up at the last possible moment, but September is spinal cord injury awareness month! With that in mind, I wanted to share with you all that I’ve gained from living with a spinal cord injury.
7. Patience and humility
These 2 things have been the toughest to grasp and I still fight with them every day, but I am thankful that I’m much closer than I was pre-injury. Patience has always been a weak spot for me and I’ve never been one to ask for help (I’m still not, but I’m at least much more willing!). I’ve had to be patient with learning new ways to do many things and coming to terms with them not happening overnight. Living with a spinal cord injury, I also often need help with things that I was independent with before, like hanging pictures on my wall or picking heavy things off the floor (I had a watermelon in my living room for days…).
6. Wonderful friendships
I’ve been so lucky to meet a ton of great people who I probably wouldn’t have crossed paths with before. I have made many lifelong friendships with nurses, PTs, recreational therapists, volunteers, and so many wheelchair users! I used to have no pals in wheelchairs, which is so sad to say! The wheelchair users I’ve met have all been kind, hilarious, adventurous, and so incredibly genuine!
On one hand, being in a wheelchair has taken away time. I saw a blog post reflecting on this concept once, and it really resonated with me. So many things in my day-to-day life take longer than they used to, taking away precious time. On the other hand, I’ve had so much more time for the important things. Before Bike & Build, I was working two jobs, losing sleep, and sacrificing moments with family and friends. I had no time for the important things. I believe that my spinal cord injury was God’s way of telling me to slow down. Relax. Make time for what’s important.
4. Some good laughs!
I have always been one to make light of the situations I’m in and my spinal cord injury has put me in some great situations! I especially love getting together with other wheelchair users, and laughing at situations we’ve been put in and conversations we’ve had. People sometimes don’t know how to react when they see a wheelchair user and that makes them say some really strange things. Let’s laugh about it sometime!
3. New opportunities
I’ve done so many things in the past couple years that I would’ve never done before my injury. Time and money were always limiting factors but so was fear. Fear of not doing well, looking silly, or failing. I’ve come to realize that life is way too short to let those things get in the way. Setting those fears aside allowed me to open myself up to new opportunities. I’ve been skiing, luging, mountain biking, and kayaking, and I discovered that I love them all! The clinics I’ve been to for adaptive sports have had such a positive impact in my life, and wouldn’t have been available to me prior to my injury.
2. New perspective
As you can probably imagine, being in a wheelchair has given me a whole new perspective on life. Before my SCI, I was a nursing assistant. I was no stranger to wheelchairs, accessibility, and the health issues associated with SCIs- or so I thought. When I became a wheelchair user, I realized that I knew nothing. Ramps, doorway width, parking, accessible stores… This was a whole new world I had to figure out! Unsurprisingly, I now see and can predict issues before they arise. The best part though? So can my friends and family! The able bodied people in my life often see issues from my perspective and they tend to get more upset about them than I do. I took one for the team, and we’re all more aware because of it!
Surviving the collision that left me paralyzed has given me an immense appreciation for the life God has given to me. Before my injury, I looked at life a little differently. I knew that death was very real and life was very short, but I never appreciated the life I was living. The boring, mundane day-to-day is still life worth living. It’s a gift to be appreciated! God has blessed us with the time we have, and I’m so thankful to be living it on wheels now.
When you see someone living with a spinal cord injury, please remember these things and don’t look down on us with pity. Yeah, sometimes life is hard, but it can also be really good.