What I Have Learned From My Disability
I was in my thirties with three young children and a holistic therapy career I loved when I found myself in the middle of a line of crashed cars. In seconds everything in my life changed. I sustained some spinal injuries, which exacerbated a pre-existing health condition and suddenly I didn’t know who I was anymore.
What do you say when people ask, "Who are you?" I used to say that I was a Kinesiologist, runner, active mom, avid dog walker, but that all seemed to be stripped away after my accident. I didn’t know how to respond to that question. Was I disabled? A wheelchair user? Unemployed? I had happily labelled myself before the accident with words I felt were positive descriptions, but struggled with these new labels I didn't identify with.
I had a classic case of what I had once referred to as ‘what if’ syndrome. Before my accident I had wondered:
“What if I don’t get any more clients?"
“What if my boyfriend doesn’t love me anymore?"
“What if my children are bullied at school”?
I had spent a huge proportion of my life anxiously obsessing about things that could go wrong in the future and actually, somewhere along the line, I had forgotten to fully live. The car accident, ironically, was something I hadn’t spent any time worrying about, but somehow it had changed my entire life. The question became: "How do I deal with this?"
My body had changed and my pain level was high, but I knew enough about the mind/body connection to realise I had a choice. I could choose to re-label myself in some derogatory way, thereby giving up on myself. Or I could work on my emotional health knowing that, ultimately, it would impact on my physical symptoms. I thought how I would react if it was a friend or a family member in my position. I knew I would be caring, compassionate, patient and understanding.
I decided that the little voice in my head telling me I was useless, a burden and had no purpose had to go. I needed to be as loving towards myself as I was towards others. This idea was easy to say, but much harder to put into practice. I spent hours meditating, exploring my own consciousness and learning to just 'be'. Little by little I began to feel stronger and positive about the future. The essence of me still remained, the packaging now was just a little different.
When I was at my lowest I came across the story of The Starfish Thrower, which was a pivotal turning point for me. For those of you who don’t know it: A boy is walking along the beach when he stumbles across thousands of starfish that have been washed up. He starts to pick them up and throw them back in. A man approaches him and says, “Son don’t bother, there are too many, you won’t make a difference.” The boy picks up another, throws it back in and says, “I made a difference to that one.”
This story made me see that actually the smallest of things can make a change; nothing is insignificant and maybe, just maybe, I could make a difference too.
The tips below got me through a really tough time, live by them and you too will see that you really can cope with whatever is thrown at you. 1) Love yourself like you love others.
2) You can’t change things that have happened to you but you can choose the way you feel about them.
3) You really can survive anything. We are all stronger than we think.
4) There is absolutely no point worrying about the future at all. Think back to situations you have envisaged and fretted over. Did they actually happen? No, probably not. We can’t predict forthcoming events and it is a waste of energy to even try.
5) Don’t label things ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ Although my accident seemed unfair and tragic at the time I have grown so much as a person, have a new business and have found love. Light always follows darkness. Trust me on that.
6) Stay in the present moment and live life fully. You never know when, if, or how drastically things can change in a heartbeat. Appreciate what you have right now.
7) Life is an adventure, don't fear it; live it.