Today is the third anniversary of when I became paralyzed. This really isn’t a day that you mark on your calendar to celebrate but it is definitely a date that you never forget. At least, I haven’t remembered how to forget yet. I knew I would post on this day and have been thinking about what I wanted to say to define where I think I am at this point of life in relation to my paralysis. Since it is the third anniversary, I decided to stick with the “three” theme and focus on the three areas of my life that paralysis has affected.
I sit in a wheelchair and so I obviously have been affected physically. I have shared in this article how that paralysis affects so much more than just your legs not moving. I won’t go into all the details in this post as you can read the article if you are curious. In regards to how I feel physically at this point of the game, well, that is a toss-up depending on the day you ask me. Apart from all the paralysis drama, I think the thing that I have learned in the past 3 years, is that I have had to learn a new language called “listen to your body”. Our bodies truly are fearfully and wonderfully made and if you learn to listen to it, you can learn a lot. I know that my bladder needs attention when I get goosebumps and hot flashes at the same time. I know that I need to lay down and rest when the crushed glass I constantly feel like I’m sitting on, becomes shards of glass. I know that I need to stretch out when my legs get jumpy. I know that I can give 200% one day, but will then need the next couple days to take it easy. I have learned all of these things about my physical body in the last 3 years. It has probably only been in this last year, that I have really learned what my new normal is. It is not normal like it used to be, where you only felt bad if you caught a bug, and that is where the frustration can lie. But, I have learned so much about this new body and that makes my health seem a little more predictable and “normal” to me. Time is a patient teacher.
The emotions are definitely the hidden side of paralysis…or any disability. Many times, so much focus is given on the physical attentions, that the emotions kind of keep getting swept around but never really cleaned up. I don’t know that there is ever a time when you will not feel any emotion about it. A great loss has occurred and every single nerve pain I feel or the 3 inch step I can’t get up or the shoe I can’t reach under the bed is a reminder of that loss. However, emotions can and should be managed. It is a day like today, that makes me think about this loss. I can’t help it. I don’t know that I want to help it. I think it is probably good to have my moment, and then to move on again and face the next day. Sometimes, there are things we do as a family that can make me feel a little melancholy about it all. A trip to a park where we can no longer hike together or a beautiful historic home I would love to see but has no access can trigger these emotions. I have my moment about it and then we go on with our day and enjoy ourselves. I know life will continue to remind me of these things but I refuse to let life keep me emotional.
As I look backwards, I think that my hardest emotions hit me at year 2. The first year, I was pregnant and just wanted the baby to be okay. I kind of kept in the back of my head, that maybe – just maybe, when I had him things would improve. Then, I had complications from his delivery and was just trying to recover from surgery. Things didn’t improve after I had him so I then moved on that once I got some real therapy things might improve. The next year I poured my heart and soul into therapy. I worked so hard not only at the PT gym but also at home. I did see small improvements but it hit me that we weren’t going very far. After my therapist and I had a heart to heart talk about defining what walking would look like for me (braces, walker, unbelievable amount of energy), the word permanent really started sinking in. I dealt more with my emotions at that point, than at any other time. I really had to face some feelings that I had not dealt with before. Permanent is a really hard word to swallow when it hits you and so my whole thought processes turned another corner in my life.
I stopped therapy after a year and my life became very busy! Opportunities opened up for me and our family like never before and it was then I realized that life was really, really going to be okay. Permanently okay. When I watched Courageous and when the family is sitting around the table and the dad says, “We are going to be okay. We are going to make it.” That really sums it all up. I cried at that spot because Jimmy and I have had the same conversation. We are going to make it. We are going to be okay. There were times we doubted that, but we have made it this far and we will make it!
Emotions are tricky little things. You must stay in control of them or they will soon run your life. I can’t afford that to happen in my life so I allow myself the luxury of certain frustrations, but then I typically find a way to laugh it off to counteract the opposite effect! It works and I am soon on my way to my happy spot – which is my favorite place to be!
There is one thing that I want to make clear in concluding about my emotions. I am so thankful that I have been given the chance by precious people all over to share my testimony. After those events, so many people tell me how wonderful I am, how inspiring I am, how they could never handle this like I do and I very much appreciate there wonderfully encouraging words. However, I am just a human. I do have to fight against not wanting to smile, of wanting to be hateful when I feel bad, of wanting to get in my little dungeon of self-pity and put a blanket over my head, of being spiteful about the injustices against the disabled, of wanting to smack people when they say hurtful and stupid things and on and on. However, I have realized that I do have an obligation to other people. I know I am being watched. I am so very thankful for that accountability in my life. Life is never happy when it is all about ourselves. I have come to the conclusion that an inspirational speaker is just a normal person that has to keep themselves inspired so that they can continue to inspire others! Which leads me to my next point.
I don’t think I can ever do this category justice. It is very hard for me to describe the work that God has done in my heart and life, in the heart and life of my husband and in my children. I see it the most dramatically in me because I live with myself and I really know what I am thinking. I do not say this flippantly, but I would not go back. I mean it. I would enjoy not being paralyzed, but I would not trade what I have learned through this life-long valley. And that is one thing I had to accept with this whole “permanent” thing – it really is a valley that will not get better. But, the Lord helped me to come to place that it is really okay. If that is what He wants, I am 100% okay with that.
It is amazing the things that God can show you in that valley. While others are skipping above you on their mountain tops, you have learned how to find the sparkling water that runs to soothe your weary soul. You have learned to pause and take in the fragrance of the flowers that are scattered so beautifully across your path. You have learned that the shadow you assumed was a place of darkness, was truly a place of shelter to keep you protected. All of these things are learned in the valley. The valley is where the lush greenery grows in abundance and such beauty can be found in these valleys. But, you have to be willing to be there and look. Not frantically trying to find your way out.
Sometimes I think my heart may just bust wide open when I think about God’s unconditional love for me and that He desires to bring me to a place of fellowship with Him that I have never had before. He has not thrown away the broken one. He has picked her up, comforted her, and promised to heal her in a way completely not defined by man. If she would trust Him to do this, she would walk with Him far better than she ever did before.
After a long night of vivid dreams where I am running and playing with my children, I wake up and see my wheelchair sitting there right by my bed. A little sinking feeling kind of hits me in the gut for a minute but then I remind myself of these things. Physically, I am awake which means I am alive. All is well. Emotionally, the dreams were vivid, but they were dreams. It was a great dream while it lasted but my life with my gang is just as fun in a chair. Different fun, but still very fun. All is well. Spiritually, if God will use me, then I am okay in that chair. I just want Him to use me and not to waste one single day of my life. All is well. Then I get my morning routine going and at the end of the day when I transfer back into that bed and put my chair where it goes to greet me the next morning, I am happy. All is well.
Thank you for sharing this journey with me. Thank you for letting me vent. Thank you for the support system you all are to me. Thank you for allowing me to share my testimony in your lives. Thank you for reading and I know, for praying for me, on this day – year 3 of paralysis.
Other anniversary posts you might enjoy:
6 month anniversary (A humorous, culture-shock view of my new world as I saw it.)
1 year anniversary (I learned so much that first year!)
2 year anniversary (This was the post that inspired my sister to write a beautiful song that will soon be released on our Reunion Trio CD. I can’t wait for you to hear it!)