Writing is a therapeutic activity for me as it helps calm my mind, reduces my pain levels, and allows me to try and help others from afar.  Over the last two weeks I repeatedly opened a new word document to write my next article only to find myself closing the program down after a few sentences.  This process repeated over and over again, and I chalked it up to writers block.

The other day as I was sitting on my computer thinking more critically about why I could not put words on paper as I kept fidgeting in every direction in my wheelchair unable to find a comfortable position.  I started to notice the pain in my neck has slowly been increasing over the last several weeks for no immediately obvious reason.  I had not changed anything in my routine, my diet, my exercise program, etc., but the piercing feeling of knives running down the scar on the back of my neck from one of my surgeries continued to persist.  This new pain has prevented me from maintaining my laser focus as I am usually accustomed to.

This prompted me to think about chronic pain more critically.  I scrolled back through many of my articles over the last several years and realized I have never taken the time to describe what chronic pain means to me and likely for the millions who suffer from it too.

Pain stems from inflammation in the body because inflammation is part of the immune system’s response to danger.  It’s a hugely complicated process to prepare our body to fight off hostile forces.  There are two main types of pain in our body – Acute Pain and Chronic Pain.

Acute pain usually comes on suddenly and is caused by something specific.  Acute pain does not last longer than six months and goes away when there’s no longer an underlying cause for the pain such as surgery, broken bones, dental work, burns or cuts, etc.

Chronic pain is ongoing and usually last longer than six months.  This type of pain can continue even after the injury or illness that caused it has healed or gone away.  Pain signals remain active in the nervous system for weeks, months, or years.  Chronic pain can include headaches, nerve pain, cancer, arthritis, fibromyalgia, etc.

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. I was epically wrong!

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, and glass cutting you from the inside out. It is different for every person.

Chronic pain usually does not resolve itself on its own 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.

As for me, I suffer from 4 serious chronic pains at the same time.  On any given day I am psychologically equipped to handle 2-3 of these pains at the same time when they reach critical levels, but when I have all 4 pains at the same time I’m generally out for the count for the rest of the day.

These pains include:

  1. Neuropathic Pain – from the chest down and in my arms – feels like burning pins and needles day and night. I usually wake up with a 7/10 pain level in the morning and it proceeds to increase to 9/10 at nighttime on a regular basis.

  1. Hypersensitivity – on my hands and forearms – feels like little shards of glass cutting me at all times. I have internal neuropathic pain on my hands, but also suffer from peripheral nerve damage on my hands called allodynia.  What this means is I have partial feeling on my hands, which may sound great, but just the slightest touch of my hands combined with the nerve pain inside creates  hypersensitivity on my skin, which gets activated to create an excruciating feeling.

I combat this by wearing these little winter stretchy gloves of my hands to produce a compression type therapy.  Many folks who have hypersensitivity from scars or burns find that wearing tight restrictive clothing such as compression arm sleeves, tight shirts, etc. helps to reduce the external stimuli on the skin.

  1. Neck Pain – as a result of multiple surgeries I have scar tissue and nerve 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. After my second spinal surgery on the ventral (backside) of my neck I was left with further nerve damage from C5 to C7.  This results in an electrifying type feeling that goes down my neck over my right shoulder, and down my right arm.

  1. Shoulder Pain – over the years I have developed an overuse injury resulting in a combination of nerve damage, musculoskeletal damage, myofascial pain, and soft tissue damage on the right side of my shoulder under the scapular area. It feels like someone is twisting a potato peeler back-and-forth under my shoulder blade every day.

Solutions to Chronic Pain

After spending some time thinking about what I wrote above and all the different type of pains I endure on a daily basis I must admit I also wondered how I make it through each day sometimes.

Sadly, there is no miracle medication to “cure” chronic pain because we can’t actually see chronic pain.  If we cannot see chronic pain and define it specifically how are scientists supposed to come up with a viable therapy?

Chronic pain is a signal from the brain and the brain is caught in a “Groundhog Day” type loop.  The brain just keeps replaying the same pain feelings over and over and over again.

There are, fortunately, a multitude of different therapies you can try to lessen the pain in order to live your life.  These are not magic bullet solutions, but after speaking with countless fellow spinal cord injury folks and others who suffer from other types of chronic pain; a combination of some of these therapies usually help lessen the worst of the symptoms.

  1. Acupuncture
  2. Massage
  3. Marijuana
  4. Meditation
  5. CBD oil & CBD products
  6. Hypnosis
  7. Physical therapy
  8. Sex
  9. Distraction
  10. Cold laser therapy
  1. Stretching
  2. Compression therapy
  3. Exercise

I’m sure there are countless more out there, but these are a few employed by many.  I am a personal believer in meditation, sex, massage, physical therapy, acupuncture, distraction, and exercise.  I would be interested in trying marijuana with a very low THC and high CBD ratio, but it’s still not legal in my state.  So, I’ll have to wait on that one.  I have recently started taking a high grade CBD oil sublingually and CBD cream topically for the back my neck.  The jury is still out, but I’m hopeful.

There are also those who turn to opioids.  The challenge with opioids is that they do not work on the same pain receptors as chronic pain.  Opioids naturally help lessen the pain in the acute phase of an injury, but over time they just dull the senses, become addictive, and usually end up ruining many people’s lives because they just don’t pack as much punch as they did in the beginning.  However, many people hold onto the hope that they will work all the while becoming highly addicted.

The opioid epidemic in this country has gotten out of control because chronic pain is ruining so many people’s lives.  To live with chronic pain day in and day out can take a massive toll on one’s mental health.  It can be hard to get out of bed (I can personally attest to this), find joy in the simplest of things, and simply find anything positive to be happy about.

The thing about chronic pain is that it is in the brain and that means that we do have an element of control over how we frame our perspective on life.  If we truly believe pain is going to envelop your entire being or ruin every day, then it probably will.

If we know we have to live with this little monster inside of us and we don’t have an immediate solution to kick her out of our brain, then we can change our internal conversation about the relationship we have with pain.

The Little Lady Within

Okay, now this may sound silly, but I’ve actually created an alternate identity for my chronic nerve pain, which engulfs nearly 80% of my body.  I haven’t actually given her a name yet, but I am certainly open to suggestions 🙂

Several years back the pain was so intense after multiple surgeries living in China that I could barely make a sentence.  I could not focus.  I worked with a hypnotherapist who helped me detach myself from my body in our sessions.  In my mind I would be laying on the beach soaking up the rays on the sand and my pain would be floating above me like a separate entity.

Over time, and I’m still not brilliant at it, I came to love the idea of having two separate identities.  There is me and there’s my pain.  When she starts to throw a tantrum and turn up the volume of pain in my body, I graciously give her the day.  I literally stop what I’m doing, get in bed, put a heating pad on, and watch a movie.  I spent years fighting her and the more I fought her – the more she won.

She currently seems content with our custody arrangement.  On a daily basis she usually allows me 8 hours during the day to get on with what I need to accomplish and around 4 PM every day she knocks on my door to take my body back.  On the weekends she even gives me more hours to go play at night if I feed her a vodka or two 😉

My life is generally structured around pain.  I know that sounds sad, but we all have to make compromises in life for an assortment of reasons, and this is just one I have to make.  I wake up at 5:30 AM each morning, promptly get to work or exercise or doctors’ appointments, and then at around 3 PM or 4 PM I head to bed for electrical stimulation, stretching or shower.  I’m usually done with my day around 6 PM and this is the time where she really gets to shine.  She gets to lounge around with my body while I check out for the day.

We all have our different coping techniques for chronic pain and these are some of mine.  I don’t wish chronic pain on my worst enemy, but if you do live with it, you are not alone by a long shot.  It is manageable, but it takes work, determination, intention, and sometimes sheer grit.

Throughout human history people have endured the harshest of conditions and are still here.  We are more resilient as a species than you may give yourself as an individual.  I find it breathtaking and comforting when I read history books of how so many people from all walks of life were able to continue to push through the harshest of circumstances.




Adaptive Technology Life Hacks

One of the first things we tend do in the morning is head to the computer to check emails, read the news, browse social media, etc. Many of these tasks are automatic, as we push the power button on our computer, move our mouse to the right icon to open the internet, and use the dexterity in our fingers to type the keys so seamlessly. Fortunately, touchscreen technology has made these things much more convenient. However, while some people are able to do everything on their touchscreen, some need complex software to be able to go about their daily lives at work.

A challenge faced by many who are quadriplegic and don’t have the use of our hands or arms, is how to automate many of these processes to make technology less intimidating, since many of us depend on “devices” in this day and age.

I need the full computing power of a laptop every day to work as a day trader, editor, writer, and to interact with the world, as I am home most of the time throughout the week. While I have a caregiver to help with my physical needs, the one area of privacy I need in my life is when I enter the digital world. I want to be as independent as possible.

Over the years, I’ve experimented with different adaptive technology equipment and software.  I’ve gathered input from many of my fellow spinal cord injury friends on what they use to interact in the digital world.  For many whose jobs don’t require constant use of a laptop or desktop, a tablet is sufficient for them, and they can use their paralyzed fingers to do all of their typing.  However, my needs are different and I’ve put together a list of adapted technologies with videos and links to show you how I work around some of the physical challenges I face.


Read the rest on Push Living Magazine:




“Inspiration Porn” is a term I have been reading about lately in many articles across different forums.  At first I was confused as to what was behind the meaning, but from my understanding, it’s when people who don’t know you see you in a wheelchair, approach you, and tell you what an inspiration you are.  Mind you they don’t have any back story on who you may be except that they see a person in a wheelchair or with a disability.  They then proceed to tell you what an inspiration you and I assume it is meant for simply being in a wheelchair.

There appears to be much controversy over this as many folks, whom I have spoken with, are not necessarily offended, but frustrated at the fact that able-bodied people see them as an inspiration for just having a disability.  You may be a lazy person with no ambition, but simply because you are in a wheelchair you are an inspiration to them.  I can certainly understand why this would aggravate many because people with disabilities since they just want to be seen as “normal” people who are complemented on being inspiration for what they do; not just for the fact that they are in a wheelchair.

However, I have a slightly different outlook and perhaps my dark sense of humor might contribute to this, but when someone calls me an inspiration even when I am just sitting quietly in a corner I always seem to find myself chuckling in amusement.  Also, I love to be different and my wheelchair is just one part of my life that sets me apart from many others.

The way I look at it is this – Continue reading


Aaron and I just got back from our honeymoon the other week where we drove several hours from Raleigh, North Carolina to Asheville, North Carolina. I had been wanting to see Asheville for the past 15 years and Aaron had attended University in that neck of the woods. People fly all over the world to visit this lush and scenic city, and I can’t believe I had lived in Raleigh for the last several years and not made a trip over there. We decided to forgo an international honeymoon to save on plane tickets in order to have a five-star honeymoon in Asheville.

We embarked on so many adventures, stayed in extravagant resort hotels, explored several of the hundreds of breweries, went on a waterfall adventure, partook in some hand glassblowing, joined in on the Friday night drum circles in the heart of downtown Ashville, and so much more. At the end of this blog you’ll see a myriad of fun photos from our adventures.

While we were having a lazy morning in bed one day a topic of conversation arose with respect to all of the circumstances in life that had to play out accordingly in order for us to be where we are today. There are folks in life where the puzzle pieces just seem to fall where they may and life works out smoothly. For most of us, this is not really the case. We have to work hard, throw in some blood sweat and tears, push through challenging hardships, and go through our personal journeys in order to achieve where we are in life today.

This is no exception for the two of us. I cannot speak for Aaron, but as for myself, there are so many factors being paralyzed I had to overcome to have that lazy morning with my husband on the most romantic honeymoon. Continue reading

BEHIND THE SCENES: From the ICU to the Walking Down the Aisle


They say it takes a village to raise a well-rounded child. While this may not be the case in the modern times we live in, in the past, an entire community would watch out for a child while their parents went out to work to provide for their children.

I think similar parallels can be drawn today when a person has a traumatic injury, disease, or disability. If you are on your own with no support or help when you break your neck, for example, life can be infinitely more challenging with an extremely bleak outlook for life without the support of family, friends or community.

I can personally attest that I would not be where I am today without a Herculean effort from my family and closest friends. This article is dedicated to more people than I will be able to thank personally in helping me survive the ICU in the early days 9 years ago to walking down the aisle just a few weeks ago.

Read the rest on PUSH LIVING MAGAZINE:…/




When I moved from China to Raleigh back in 2015 I could not have imagined ever getting married, let alone getting married to my “Partner in Crime” and best friend.  I married Aaron Watkins on Saturday, May 18 and it was one of the happiest days of my life!

I would be remiss not to clearly thank my family and Aaron’s family for everything they did to make this wedding possible.  My parents have been there every step of the way for me, unwavering in support and love, which is why I truly believe I am where I am today.  Sometimes they say it takes a village to raise a baby, but in my case it took a clan of Ingersoll’s to raise me after the accident.

I was so certain when I was first injured 9 years ago that I would have a fulfilling life, but a life without love and a partner.  I had come to terms with this and made peace in my mind.  What I did not realize is how much love can literally transform one’s outlook on life.  I used only live from one challenge to another – now I look forward to future adventures, and when those challenges do arise I know will have someone by my side every step of the way.

Originally we wanted to have a very small ceremony with immediate family only, but my father thankfully convinced me this was an occasion we would not want to forget.  He was right in more ways than one.

We had family and friends from Raleigh, around the United States, London, Germany, France, and China join us for four days of round-the-clock festivities.  It was a world wind weekend and I prepared for months to make sure everything went smoothly – and it was over so quickly.  Everyone always told me to make sure to take a moment and enjoy everything around you when you’re getting married, which is exactly what I did.  I neurotically planned everything down to a T and the week before the wedding I was relaxed, present, and able to connect with people who I had not seen in over 10 years.

I didn’t even realize how much love Aaron and I have in our life and support around the globe.  Living life is about people, relationships, and quality time in my opinion.  I know at the end of my life I will not look back at how hard I worked, but rather the people who have influenced my life, and I theirs.

While I meticulously planned the wedding there are just certain factors you cannot control.  I ended up getting severe bronchitis three weeks prior to the wedding.  I did everything in my power and by some universal grace I stopped coughing four days before the wedding.

Unfortunately, I also developed a pressure sore that Thursday before the wedding.  I was very careful, leaned back in my chair a lot to shift the weight off my bum, and I don’t know why or how, but I got really really lucky!

Now, onto the Wedding Celebration Festivities:

Continue reading


Aaron and I are getting married next Saturday, May 18.  We’ve invited 70 of our close friends and family.  Originally we started with only 30 guests, but somehow we’ve ended up with 70 guests 🙂 It’s going to be such a magical day as there are so many family friends I have not seen in over a decade.  We have a weekend full of events to celebrate. We are very excited and scrambling to finalize last-minute details.

Unfortunately, I’ve developed bronchitis at the most inopportune time and have been battling it for the last several weeks.  I have one week to go before the wedding and I am doing everything in my power to get well quickly.

It’s been a challenging several weeks as bronchitis for quadriplegics can be immensely difficult since we do not have abdominal muscles to help us cough up that nasty phlegm associated with bronchitis.  It’s not a pretty sight!  However, dealing with any kind of illness as a quadriplegic requires help from caregivers, family members, and loved ones.  I’ve had a team of people helping me over the last several weeks for which I am extremely grateful.

I have locked myself down in my house for the last 3 weeks and have had many hours to rest, read, and recuperate.  I came across this article written by the New Yorker on the topic of “What Romance really means after 10 years of Marriage.”  The basic premise of the article addressed how the definition of a romance and sexiness changes after a decade of marriage.  This really resonated with me because from the perspective of dating a person with a disability I find that Aaron and I have transformed our definition of romance in just a few short years, which I suspect takes many couples a decade to achieve.

Let me explain. Continue reading

Home Exercise Program for people with Spinal Cord Injury (SCI)

Since I was 13 years old exercise, working out, and sports have always been a centerpiece in my life.  Whether I was having a bad day, stressed out, simply wanted to stay in shape to fit in a bikini or just generally tried to be healthy I was always able to exercise.

When I was exercising I would enter this Zen like state where I was in my own space and no one else could bother me.  After my accident I simply didn’t know how I was going to continue to exercise as a C6 quadriplegic, paralyzed from the chest down with some arm movement, and no hand function.


  1. How could I create a workout routine at home that would require minimal help from caregivers other than helping to set me up?
  2. What kind of equipment could I use that was not outrageously expensive so I could share it with fellow quadriplegics?
  3. How could I create a program that was sustainable in the long run just like going to the gym or working out to a DVD at home when you’re able-bodied?

Over the years I’ve perfected my own exercise routine based on my needs and what I can physically do.  Many of the suggestions and equipment I mention below apply to all spinal cord injury folks, but more specifically to quadriplegics who have limited use of their hands and arms.  Exercise is even more important for those of us who have very limited mobility, but it is possible, doable, and I can prove it

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I was lying awake last night battling my arch nemesis “Ms. Insomnia” and she engaged me in a fight of a lifetime.  I couldn’t move, but my mind was running through a jungle fighting for my life as she tried to attack every fiber of my positivity.  She ran me up a tree at an alarmingly pace and as I clung to the tree branches for dear life, and tried not to let her get the best of me, she managed to claw me back down to the ground.  While I was being mauled by this insidious monster I laid there completely paralyzed unable to move as she had had her way with me.  By the time she had had her fill she left me battled and bruised.  As I was lying on my back gasping to breathe I decided to give in and just sit with my swirling thoughts.

I was trapped in my bed wide awake, angry, and frustrated that she had gotten the best of me as she so often does.  Many folks with spinal cord injury share the same fate night after night as I do whether that be from stress, anxiety, intense nerve pain, involuntary muscle spasms, etc.  I couldn’t help but think about the concept of happiness in life as I laid awake for two hours struggling to desperately get myself back to sleep.

I kept pondering what is this idea of happiness anyway?  I feel like it’s always wanting more, which makes me lose perspective and mentally spiral out of control on a regular basis.  This idea of happiness coupled with creating hopes, goals, and dreams — when not fulfilled — can end up leading to endless suffering for many folks from all walks of life.

The question I kept asking myself is “Am I happy?”  Continue reading

“Dear Cat Island, My Home – A Story of a Broken Heart & Forgiveness”

“Fernandez Bay Village (Home) – Half the homes are part of a resort and half the homes are private homes”


Several years ago I reached a point where I finally made the best peace one could make with breaking my neck and having my life change forever.  I spent so much time constantly pushing forward and not thinking about my accident through sheer determination of will.  This worked for a time, but eventually I had to find a way to dig deep in order to find some resemblance of happiness in my life and search for the best way I knew how to live a full life despite my circumstances.

Through quite a fair bit of soul-searching I arrived to where I am presently living the most fulfilled life I know how with work, finding love, getting married, spending time with friends & family, and traveling when able.

For the last six months Cat Island, Bahamas (my home) has been on my mind.  My family has had a home in the Bahamas for the last 40 or so years and it is a place so magical words simply cannot do it justice.  It is a beautiful out Island in the Eastern Bahamas spanning 60 miles long and 2 miles wide with a population of roughly 2,000 people.

The airport runway to the island is so short that no large commercial airlines are able land on the runway giving it its unique, and rustic charm because only those who know about it know how to get there.

I grew up on this island and made my first trip down when I was only several months’ old back in 1983.  I have lived in so many countries around the world that Cat Island has always been my home base, my center, my world, my escape, and my favorite place in the entire world.

I spent my time on the island with family and friends spearfishing, scuba diving, exploring caves in the middle of the island, taking Robinson Caruso style boat trips with my family to unnamed deserted islands, jumping off rocks into the ocean, picnicking on deserted beaches, kayaking through crystal clear lagoon waters, taking long walks on the beach, building bonfires with family, and countless other surreal adventures. Continue reading