It has been seven years since my accident, and while I’ve accomplished a great deal, I can’t say that I’ve overcome my injury. Hell, I can’t even tell you what it means to overcome a spinal cord injury. Thinking about it now, I don’t think it’s actually possible. Life is never going to be the same as it was before my injury, so the best I can probably do is to redefine what it is that makes me feel valued, loved, productive and happy.
In the days, weeks and months following my accident I thought that physically overcoming the loss of my legs would solve my problems. In the hospital, my physical accomplishments involved learning to sit up and not faint, or being able to push around the flat and smooth halls of the hospital for 10 minutes at a time. This was progress back then. But how could I stretch myself? How could I do something better, longer, faster? Those questions, and the need to prove to myself and to the world that “I’m okay,” drove me to complete my first Ironman triathlon in 2013. Less than 5 years after breaking my back, I did what I thought just might be impossible, with only my arms. 226kms of swimming, biking and running in 12 hours and 32 minutes. All those little victories and accomplishments along the way to making this happen culminated in the ultimate day of physical and mental triumph. Being an Ironman is something that I’m incredibly proud of, but does it mean that I’ve overcome paraplegia?
Unfortunately no. There’s just so much more to it. Lots under the surface that people don’t see. That I don’t let people see. But, things that I believe I need to share so that I can move a little closer to maybe not overcoming paraplegia, but at least finding balance in my life that will bring a sense of comfort or contentment. I should point out that I’m not just out-of-sorts because of my accident. From an early age I’ve always put a lot of pressure on myself to make the most of every day and opportunity. It’s just that now I have a few more things that make life challenging that I need to deal with, and these are unexpected challenges that are totally foreign to me. Before my accident, I had no experience or exposure to people with spinal cord injuries. And I certainly never took it upon myself to learn what it might mean to someone dealing with these challenges – I was in my own able-bodied bubble. I now know that these challenges are very personal and unique. No one can truly understand how I experience them, but my hope is that over time, if I can clearly express what some of these challenges are, that those close to me can better appreciate what it means to live with a spinal cord injury on a daily basis.
And so, in this 8th year of my injury, I’m going to put out to the world what’s going on in my head, to see if it helps make tomorrow a little brighter. Don’t feel any obligation to read, or respond, but if understanding my drama helps you deal with some of yours, then I guess we both benefit, and that will make me happy.