Moving Mountains Paralyzed: An Insurance Battle to Remember!

When I think of Moving Mountains Paralyzed Insurance Companies the analogy of a Goat herder comes to mind. The Goatherder will watch out for its flock as long as it produces enough fur for the season for the goat herder to line his financial pockets. The moment the goat gets out of line or stops growing fur, the herder will slaughter the goat, and eat it for dinner.

Similarly to insurance companies … As long as you pay your premium and don’t step out of line an insurance company will offer you basic protection. However, if you start creating a commotion, appealing everything, and asking for more — insurance companies will find some way to slap you with financial bills that seem unimaginable.
Since my accident 7 ½ years ago I’ve been a goat that has been slaughtered by insurance companies and I have also been a goat that has managed to break free. Navigating the waters of insurance companies to get what you need, especially when you are paralyzed, requires voracious tenacity, extreme dedication, a lot of hard work, patience, and knowledge of how to work within grey areas.

Read the rest on Push living magazine at:

https://pushliving.com/moving-mountains-paralyzed-quirky-quad-guide-winning-w-insurance/

SEX & MEDITATION

I will preface this blog by saying for family and friends who do not want to know too much about my intimate sexual life you may want to skip the second half of this blog 😉

However, considering my blog is about Sex, sass and Spinal Cord Injury Adventures … I would be remiss not stay true to topic!

A majority of folks who sustain a spinal cord injury suffer from extreme chronic pain in many forms after their accident. Before I broke my neck I would look at somebody in a wheelchair and wonder what they felt? … I thought they couldn’t feel their legs or their stomach, etc. Boy was I wrong on so many accounts!

Many of us suffer from something called Neuropathic Pain. Essentially, it is nerve pain that manifests itself in different ways throughout the body 24/7. It’s almost like a cruel joke to be paralyzed and feel pain from the inside out. Regardless, this pain can result in feelings of pins and needles, burning fire, glass cutting you from the inside out, etc. It is different for every person.

Regardless, this chronic pain never goes away and can affect our daily lives with respect to productivity, quality of life, focus, and so much more. I find being paralyzed quite easy at this point in my SCI career, but you never quite get used to the chronic pain.

Personally, I suffer from 4 serious chronic pains at the same time, which can completely throw me off my game on certain days.

  1. Neuropathic Pain from the chest down and in my arms – feels like burning pins and needles day and night
  2. Hypersensitivity on my hands and forearms – feels like little shards of glass cutting me at all times
  3. Neck Pain – from multiple surgeries I have scar tissue damage that prevents me from sitting up in my chair too long, and feels like someone is slowly cutting me with a butter knife on the back of my neck
  4. Shoulder Pain – I suppose due to overuse it is a combination of nerve damage, musculoskeletal damage, myofascial pain, and soft tissue damage

Since my accident 7 ½ years ago I have always been on the mission to reduce my pain as opposed to finding a cure with respect to stem cell therapy for walking. I have tried so many techniques, of which two I find to be the most successful. However, the pain is always with me no matter what I do – although pain is just a signal from the brain, so I am convinced that if I keep trying I will be able to reduce it greatly on a permanent level one day!

I have tried:

  1. Opioids – definitely not recommended as opioids just make you drown out life and they don’t actually work on the right receptors in the brain for nerve pain
  2. Acupuncture
  3. Electrical Stimulation Acupuncture
  4. Neural Muscular Massage
  5. Meditation/Hypnosis
  6. Physical Therapy
  7. Lithium Protocol – this one nearly killed me as it can be very dangerous
  8. Sex
  9. Distraction
  10. Cold Laser Therapy

I’m sure there are few more I am forgetting, but I’m constantly trying to find new ways to reduce pain. The two most successful methods I’ve found in my life are Meditation/Hypnosis and Sex. I will dive into these two a little bit further.

 

MEDITATION / HYPNOSIS

Considering pain is just a signal from the brain hypnosis and meditation can be very effective, but only if you practice regularly, and are disciplined in your efforts.

I worked with a hypnosis instructor who helped me for over a year creating guided visualizations for me to listen to at 30 minute increments. Meditation is more challenging for me because when I sit quietly all of the feelings of pain are in the forefront of my mind. With hypnosis I find with gentle music in the background and guided instructions I use my mind to enter a world I created to reduce pain. It is kind of like a special room where enter through a red door and inside that room is a beautiful lake and ocean with clouds, beaches, and floaty toys.  I’ve taught myself to look down at my body and leave my pain floating above. I know it sounds peculiar, but with years of practice it really helps reduce the pain on the days where the pain just seems unbearable.

Admittedly, I should practice every day, which I don’t do religiously anymore, but it is one of my 2018 resolutions to continue to rigorously get back into it.

I go into a dark closet, tilt my chair back, and listen to the recording. The burning feeling of pins and needles changes to a cool and relaxing feeling. It is hard to describe unless you practice this on your own, and it may be hard to believe that this actually works.

In the beginning I could barely sit still for five minutes, but that’s how you have to start. Try meditation or hypnosis for one minute, then work up to two, then three, etc. There are so many recordings online that you can download for free, and you have to find a voice that is soothing to you, which can relax you.

 

SEXUAL INTERCOURSE

The second most effective technique for reducing my pain, if you can believe it, is
SEX.  Sex is a natural pain reliever — Sex causes increased production of oxytocin, which is often referred to as the “love hormone.” Before orgasm, oxytocin, released from the brain, surges and is accompanied by the release of endorphins, our natural pain-killing hormones.

When you are paralyzed from the chest down the feeling of sex is quite different than what used to be … It is not “Normal” in the sense of the way things feel. While I cannot orgasm in the traditional sense I still have my own type of feeling from sexual intercourse.

As I mentioned above I suffer from neuropathic pain from the chest down and in my arms, which manifests itself in sharp pins and needles feelings throughout my entire body.  Generally, this is a very uncomfortable & painful feeling that feels like someone is burning me from the inside out 24/7.

When I have sex these pins and needles change in there, from the best I can describe, density of feeling.  The feeling goes from a sharp burning to a heightened pleasurable tingling sensation throughout my body. It is kind of like I am on the brink of orgasm the entire time during sex, which I’m not sure can be attributed to the chemical release of hormones from my brain or the emotional connection I feel with my partner when having sex.

Picture this (yes this may be a little bit graphic;)): 

I’m lying in my bed naked with these burning sensations throughout my body, but my partner comes over and starts kissing my neck, my ears, and whispering intimate details about what he wants to do to me. The visual image starts to change the sensation of these pins and needles in my body along with the tremendous love & safety I feel from him being on top of me.  After a lot of mental and physical foreplay it is easy to get lost in one another and truly live in the moment of being naked, sensual, and stimulated.

Being aroused, as many of us know, changes the way we act and feel in that moment. Once my partner starts engaging in sexual intercourse with me I look into his eyes and see his arousal, which, in turn, starts to make it even more pleasurable for me. I forget all about the burning sensation throughout my body and I create a mental image in my mind of what sex used to feel like before my accident when I was on the brink of orgasm. There must be some sort of mental connection I feel with my partner because my body starts becoming warm and tingling in the best way possible.

Once I see my partner start to reach the brink of his orgasm my body goes nuts. When you really love someone and care about them, and you see them receiving pleasure because of you the feelings become even more heightened. Interestingly, once my partner orgasms the tingling sensation in my body reaches a maximum level of passion where I feel like I am experiencing the orgasm with him in that moment. Giving pleasure is equally as satisfying for me as receiving it. Sex today is unlike anything I have felt with respect to pain relief over the last seven years. No amount of drugs, opioids, meditation, acupuncture etc. can bring me to that feeling.

Before dating my boyfriend, even before the accident, I had never felt that level of connection with another man or woman. There must be some sort of mental interconnectivity we share when we are intimate with one another. The only other time in my life I can recall such connection in regards to the feeling of pleasure was probably in my young 20s on a copious amount of drugs. Naturally, not the healthiest way to feel something, but it was my “go to” default setting.

Having said all of that, the concept of pain and pleasure is quite a well-known phenomenon for those who have full sensation. What is it about pain and pleasure that create such erotic feelings, which results in leaving us constantly wanting more? I have no idea, but I can say it is the most wonderful pain reduction technique for me above all else!

Moral of this blog:  Have more sex!

Even the sensual act of talking about sex with your partner can result in arousal, change your brain signals, and create the most intimate of feelings. I suppose that is why 1-800 sex lines do so well 😉 Sex is primal instinct that can change the way many of us with different levels of sensation reduce our pain.

“SCI” SUPER MOM’S – An Endangered Species!

1

 

A little over 10 years ago BBC produced a television mini-series called “Planet Earth.” They spent five years filming unique exotic environments, plants, and animals all over the world. There was one episode where the film crew spent months in subzero Himalayan temperatures trying to film the endangered snow leopard. After many failed attempts they finally caught the snow leopard on camera for the first time. These leopards are so unique and not many exist, that we know of, in the world today.

An “SCI” (Spinal Cord Injury) Mom is an endangered species of human being, like that of the snow leopard, that are far and few between throughout the world. In general, the bond between a mother and child is so unique and unbreakable. When a child has a severe injury, such as breaking their neck, a mom goes into protection mode in order to provide the safest, best, and happiest environment for their child. However, not all moms are cut out to be SCI moms.

An SCI mom goes above and beyond, dedicates her life to her child, puts their needs above their own life, and puts up with more heartache than perhaps even the child going through the injury themselves. Generally a child starts fleeing the nest in their 20’s, starts their own life, and the parents move on to other adventures in their life because while their job is never done, the daily nitty-gritty caring aspect for their child is complete. With a spinal cord injury the reverse happens.

   

A dedicated and loving family member puts their life on hold once again to care for their injured child as if they were a baby, but it never ends. Continue reading

A Day in a Life of this Quadriplegic – Managing Expectations

2

I’ve often been asked what a typical day looks like for me as a quadriplegic (quad). While every quad is different I can confidently generalize that with being paralyzed and fully dependent one has to spend a minimum of several hours a day dealing with general spinal cord injury care. I can only speak to my personal experience, but over the last 7 years I’ve had to widely adjust my expectations about how much I can get accomplished in a day.

Regardless if you suffer from a spinal cord injury or not, one has to manage their expectations on a daily basis. If you are a mother of four small children or a high-powered attorney who has a full docket of cases to review with a family at home, how you manage your time is essential.

I am the type of person who likes to be extremely productive and utilize every moment of every day in order to learn something new, enjoy life, trying to things, and get things done. I have a full-time job, which requires immense attention on a regular basis. This does prevent me from getting out and about as I would like during the weekdays. However, this is my choice and professional productivity is very important to me. The challenge with being paralyzed is that you have to devote so many hours a day to general survival for your healthcare.

I was calculating out the amount of hours I spend on essential spinal cord injury care each day, how much exercise I engage in, how many hours I need to work, and most importantly, how this all fits in with my constant chronic nerve pain that feels like pins and needles piercing my body every moment of every day. Needless-to-say this can be challenging.

It turns out that I need about 4 hours at minimum to complete my bowel and bladder care, shower, getting in and out of bed, and general caregiving activities each day. I then exercise for about 1.5 hours a day. These are the essentials I need just to survive on a daily basis. The particular challenge with respect to my situation is with the chronic nerve pain that plagues me on a daily basis because my productivity goes way down mid-afternoon. This means I need to get in bed early, relax, meditate, and try to re-direct my pain in order to sleep well to be productive the next day.

I generally get most of my busy work done in the morning, work quietly until mid-afternoon, and then get in bed early.  Over the years I’ve pushed myself to the brink of exhaustion, pain breakouts, and complete misery with trying to get too much done in a day. I’m not including the periods in life where anxiety or depression can take over, which can further drastically reduce one’s productivity in a day due to emotional up’s and down’s.

What a typical able-bodied person gets done in a workday of approximately 8-10 hours I have to get complete in no more than 4 to 5 hours. Continue reading

CAREGIVING – Living in Fear or Trust

The topic of caregiving is a very tricky one to navigate. This is an extremely sensitive topic for me and can be challenging for me to even write about.

I preface this blog by stating it is written from my personal and dozens of other spinal cord injury folk’s perspectives with respect to our experiences. As a quadriplegic, paralyzed from the chest down, I am fully dependent on another human being for my daily care from bathing, bowel program, catheter changing, dressing, cooking, etc. It can be tremendously challenging to have to rely on another human being to take care of you on a daily basis. But unbelievably heartening to know that there are people out there who dedicate their lives to wanting to help others.

The read the rest on Push living magazine at: http://pushliving.com/caregiving-quadriplegic-living-fear-trust/

My Experience with Dating a Woman in a Wheelchair (Written by my Boyfriend)

1

Recently Aaron, my boyfriend, wrote an awesome article on Push Living Magazine talking about what it is like to date a woman in a wheelchair. It’s a pretty cool article, which you can read on: http://pushliving.com/dating-disabled-woman/

…  The real question at the time was, did the chair bother me? Clearly, I am in love with the women, so, no it did not deter me from dating her. I suppose most guys have a million questions running through their head when starting to date a woman in a wheelchair, but when I met her, I didn’t see the wheelchair …I saw her…

 

 

 

DEVOTEES – People who are ATTRACTED to Folks in WHEELCHAIRS

Six months after breaking my neck in 2010 a gentleman sent me a Facebook message telling me that he thought I was very cute and he wanted to suck my toes. He informed me he was a Devotee. Of course I had no idea what this meant at the time, so I asked around to some of my other friends who had been injured longer than I had. They told me that a Devotee is a person who is attracted to folks in wheelchairs. I was then advised to stay away from them at all costs because they were very creepy and that it was unnatural for people to be attracted to just the wheelchair.

This got me thinking. There are so many people out there in the world with all kinds of fetishes from being tied up, whipped, electrocuted, swingers, etc. I was curious as to why someone who is attracted to people in wheelchairs is any different?

Can we really help who we are attracted to?

Some guys like big breasts, overweight women, blonde hair, blue eyes, etc. Just because you don’t frequently hear about people attracted to other people in wheelchairs does not make it, in my opinion, creepy right off the bat. Of course there is always a small segment of the population in any group who give the rest of the group a bad name.

Think about it … That macho guy who slaps women on the ass, calls them “sweetie,” and may tell them that he likes their big breasts. This type of guy gives other guys who like women with big breasts a bad name. There are plenty of men who like women with big breasts, but they don’t necessarily advertise this publicly at first. They may go up to a woman, start a conversation, get to know them, and later on in the relationship it may come out that they were initially attracted to that specific woman because of their breasts.

I think one of the challenges with folks who are Devotees is that it is such an unspoken attraction that no one talks about. First of all, from a number’s perspective, there just simply aren’t as many people in wheelchairs in the world as there are women with big breasts. Secondly, there are many Devotees out there who don’t put their picture on Facebook and then write you a creepy message. Clearly, this is not the best way to initially garner positive attention from a person in a wheelchair. Devotees should probably strike up a conversation and get to know them before announcing they are attracted to women in wheelchairs.  This has personally happened to me countless times.

Several years ago when I was living in China I was approached by a “Devotee.” He messaged me on Facebook to tell me that he thought I was attractive and that he was a Devotee. I decided to take that particular opportunity and dive into really understanding what it was about women in wheelchairs this guy was attracted to.

He was from Switzerland, physics was his passion, good looking, and he had a very well-to-do job in the gaming world. We struck up a series of conversations, which I’ve saved over the years, and I learned that he was specifically attracted to quadriplegic women in power wheelchairs. He seemed to like paralyzed feet quite a lot, massaging them, and the idea of helping women cut, and eat their food. At first I thought this was a little odd, but I tried to remain open-minded as I probed further. Fortunately, he was very polite and only asked progressive questions when I permitted them. He told me that he saw a woman in a wheelchair in a magazine when he was a teenager and there was an unbelievably strong attraction right off the bat. From then on he was fascinated and drawn to women in wheelchairs.

Once we got past all of his questions about what I had to deal with on a daily basis in a wheelchair I finally got to know him as a person. I think he was just so curious because he said no other women in wheelchairs would give him the time of day. I asked him, as I have asked dozens of Devotees over the years, if he leads with telling women he is a Devotee? He said yes as many others did as well. I did tell him this probably was not the best way to get the attention of any woman. I planted the idea in his head that if he was attracted to a woman with big breasts would he Facebook message them to tell them he thought they were attractive because of their big breasts? He said he certainly would not do that … Well, I told him it was the same concept with a person in a wheelchair.

While there are always exceptions to the rule, many women want to find a guy who sees them and not just the wheelchair. Of course with guys who are not Devotees many of them only see the wheelchair, decide it is too much for them to handle, and do not get to know the person or even give them a chance. Continue reading

How Negativity Creates Chronic Inflammation – 2 Outlooks on Life

Check out my new Quirky Quad Column on Push Living Magazine: http://pushliving.com/danger-how-negativity-about-disability-can-create-chronic-inflammation/

…. One of my favorite songs is by Bobby McFerrin called “Don’t worry, Be Happy.” This song makes me giggle every time I hear it… Go ahead and have a listen before you read the article because I bet you will have slight wrinkles turning upwards on your mouth that resemble something like a smile!

When things go wrong I always play this song, which, admittedly, many ICU nurses may never want to hear again with the amount of times I had it on repeat over the years. Such a simple motto, yet very hard to execute at times …

… We are only human. Negativity, depression, anxiety, and the stresses of daily life are part of the human condition. With that said, this column is not meant to be a guide for how to promote positivity per se, but make folks aware of how negativity in your life can create chronic inflammation, and make you sicker than you need to be. How can you fix a problem if you are unaware of it? Just like an alcoholic cannot proceed down the road of healing unless they are aware they are an alcoholic to begin with …

…. A negative frame of mind can create a self-perpetuating downward spiral of agony that may seem impossible to get out of. Those of us with spinal cord injuries deal with more challenges than seem fair on a daily basis. There are always those who have a situation worse than yours and better than yours. This is life …

Read the rest: http://pushliving.com/danger-how-negativity-about-disability-can-create-chronic-inflammation/

 

“HOW I (Unexpectedly) FELL in LOVE — The REAL VERSION”

 
My Online Dating Mission:

… Sleep with as many guys as I could in order to explore my spinal cord injury sexuality before it might be too late. A simple mission you may say … A ridiculously irresponsible mission others may comment … A wildly insane mission yet others may respond. To me, it was the most fun, wild and exciting thing I could think to do before I went under the knife once again for a seventh time in six years….

… My now boyfriend was one of these gentlemen callers. I really did like him and thought he had a lot to offer, but I certainly wasn’t going to ask a guy I met 4 to 6 weeks prior to hang around with a C6 quadriplegic who was going in for major surgery, who was going to be laid up in bed for God knows how long, and with hundreds and hundreds of staples in my ass. I simply didn’t think this was fair to ask, nor did I want any man I had been sexual with to see me in the ICU….

… As the months rolled on we really started to build a bond with one another and it was a completely new and unexpected feeling for me in life. Forget the wheelchair for a second … Apparently I had never learned how to be in a proper relationship. I had dated guys for years in the past, but I always made sure I had 1 foot out the door as a defense mechanism. My boyfriend completely turn this around for me, and, essentially, taught me how to love….

Read my new column on Push Living Magazine: http://pushliving.com/spinal-cord-injury-sexuality-how-i-unexpectedly-fell-in-love/

Forget About Setting Goals – Reducing Psychological Paralysis

4

A few weeks ago I had a psychological epiphany with respect to my life over the last 7 years since my accident, and probably way before that too. I was reading an article by one of my favorite authors who focuses on writing about behavioral psychology, James Clear (www.jamesclear.com). He writes on subjects such as habits, performance, and just generally on topics regarding self-improvement based on proven scientific research. He had a very interesting article on letting go of your goals and focusing on process instead.

When I first started reading this article I thought to myself “I’ve always lived my life by setting specific goals and trying to achieve them.” However, what I did not realize throughout the course of my life, and especially since my accident, is that goals have actually been hindering my progress and reducing my current happiness.

Don’t misunderstand me, having  general goals are important as they keep you focused towards trying to achieve something very specific. What I did not think critically about was that when you are working towards a specific goal you are essentially saying “I’m not good enough yet, but I will be when I reach my goal.” The problem with this mindset is that you’re teaching yourself to always put happiness and success off until the next milestone is achieved. “Once I reach my goal, then I’ll be happy. Once I achieve my goal, then I’ll be successful.”

The wheels in my head started turning to where I took a day off work to think critically about what he meant. Throughout my life I’ve always been taught to work hard, think critically, create a specific goal, work my ass off until I achieve that goal, and success will follow. So, clearly I had defined success to equal happiness in my life. Interestingly the exact opposite has happened to me over the last 7 years of my life since I broke my neck.

Continue reading