One Year Later

It’s always fun as a child to think about where you might be in life years down the road. Whether it’s 21, 45, or 80, our fascination for where life might take us never seems to end. Driven by our hopes and dreams we create goals and life milestones in hopes reaching that wonderful point in life that we couldn’t stop thinking about as a child. It’s not until the candles are blown out on the special day that we realize how far removed our lives have become from what we imagined years ago.

This realization is inevitable each and every time we reach one of the milestones we’ve set out before ourselves. By no means is this realization a bad thing, it’s an expected outcome due to the natural, unpredictable progress of our lives. So much happens in the years leading up to each significant milestone that if any of your life resembles what you hoped it would be as a child, you ought to be impressed with yourself.

Understanding that life will never truly work out exactly how you want it to is the first step in gaining control of it. Accepting the wild and sporadic changes as beneficial, reacting appropriately to them, and ultimately rising above whatever adverse moments you may encounter determines who you are each day of your life. Every event adds to your character and dictates the person you see in the mirror when you wake up the next morning. The important thing is to love what you see.

When you are nearing the end of your life and you decide to reflect on your past years you have to choose the correct perspective to observe from. It’s completely irrational to reflect on life with the notion that you didn’t achieve what you had dreamed of as a child. You have to look at your past knowing that you made it; that you’re still alive. Through the hundreds of events you’ve struggled to overcome, the emotional turmoil you endured for years, and the tragedies you’ve survived. You’ve hit rock bottom over and over again, spent days weeping, and decided to just give up countless times, but here you are.  At the lowest points in life, when all seemed lost, the innate drive to survive within you looked despair in the face, grinned, and pushed forward. Each and every time. There will never be anything more valuable in life than the years that make up your own.

The important thing to do today isn’t to look forward and worry about where you might be in a year or two or ten, but to look back and see where you are after all of the years you’ve already survived. If you made it this far, nothing in the next year or ten can stop you.

That’s the best part about the human body; it doesn’t let you give up. No matter how bad it gets your body will never stop fighting to survive. It’s the most powerful organism in the world yet some live their life never fully understanding how they’re even alive. It was difficult for me to fully understand the total scope of complex biological processes at play, even with just living day to day, until I lost so much of it and have to spend each day observing those who still have it.

It never occurs to anyone that there would be a definition for the basic, mundane activities you carry out each day or how much is in place to provide for those that can’t fulfill that definition. ADL stands for activities of daily living which encompasses the things we normally do on a day to day basis including any activity we perform for self-care such as feeding ourselves, bathing, dressing, grooming, work, homemaking, and leisure. For your entire life to this point and hopefully for the rest of it you’ve never given those activities a second thought. They are innate and simple, they are done daily and some to such a routine you could do them half asleep and probably have. It’s not until you wake up one morning lacking the ability to easily complete said activities that you truly understand how amazing the processes are that give you the ability to survive at the most basic level.

As someone who has had the unfortunate opportunity to experience that misfortune firsthand and gain that understanding over the past year, the new perspective that you generate is truly remarkable. When I look at people my eyes spend little time on their face. I instead spend my time observing the intricate functioning of the human body. I pay close attention to the amazing dexterity of their hands, I watch the muscles and tendons move under their skin, how they sit, move, and control the amazing piece of biological machinery with the most basic understanding.

From the beginning of my injury I made it a priority to regain my independence. Experiencing life with total loss of control over your ADL really brings you to a new low. When you’re in a position where someone has to roll you side to side and wash you with a cloth and soapy water you truly see how far removed you are from normal life. Lying in bed stuck in one position due to the inability to move your body at all really hits hard. Getting from place to place in a chair, moving no part of your body but wrist and arm on a joystick, having to be lifted with a net from chair to bed and back, the only two places you can be, is awful. There’s no other way to put it. Having to live through and experience this pushed me each day of my new life to get better. I knew my life was forever changed and it would never be the same as before but I also knew that there was no way in hell that it would stay like this. It’s was going take time, energy, and a lot of devotion but I knew I could take my life back.

One year later I can proudly say that I’ve made tremendous progress in reaching that goal. Just my ability to move around in bed is staggering compared to 9 months ago. I can get in bed, lie down, roll to my sides and stomach, sit up and get back into my chair with zero assistance or assistive devices. I can hop from my chair to a shower bench, fully shower, get out, dry off and get completely dressed. I can even put on tight long socks.

Now although this is all really basic, and I’m sure you’re trying your best to put yourself in my position, so just as a reminder, I’m working with only 5 muscle groups, and I can’t use my hands. No hands, no finger movement, no pinch, no grip, no hook and pull, nothing. It does not make anything  an easy process. But I found a way. I’ve figured out how to do so much with so little. I’ve cooked pasta, made egg fried rice, I can write, draw, and sign my name. Whatever task I encounter that I used to do with complete ease, I now struggle to complete. But I try, before I ask for help or let anyone help me, I try to do it on my own. There were tasks someone else would always complete for me; I figured I just couldn’t do it. Instead I was thinking up things to build to assist in many tasks. Then one day I just tried. And to my surprise I did it. No need for some device or someone else to help. I found that I couldn’t look at things from the perspective of before my injury. I had to take each task as a brand new one and figure out how to do it. More and more I impress myself with how much I can do with how little I have.

After this first year I got to say I feel pretty good. I’ve hit a lot of road blocks along the way but I kept going. I pushed hard and tried to make the most of each day and I’m happy to say it paid off. As I said before I still have a lot yet to overcome but looking at how much I’ve done so far just energizes me to keep going. So much has happened; I’ve done so much and met so many amazing people, I can’t wait to see where things go next. It just goes to show that nothing can stop you from living life except for yourself. The only hindrance, opposition, or disability anyone truly has is their mindset. The human body and consciousness are beautiful things that can complete amazing feats and overcome anything.  Never take that for granted.