Pain. Chronic pain. It’s no joke. It’s debilitating. It can lead to death. It can be physically and psychologically crushing to your soul. Living with physical paralysis, for me, pales in comparison to pain. If asked that “What If” question whether I would prefer to live in chronic pain or be paralyzed, at this moment as I write this article – I choose paralysis. This is a pretty powerful statement if you think about it. I am essentially choosing to practically go broke, have people’s hands in my body all day long, have someone dress me, use catheters and suppositories, etc. Think about what I am saying.
This is how debilitating my chronic pain is. For anyone who lives in chronic pain, your life has been undoubtedly changed forever. I know mine has.
When I was living in the ICU after breaking my neck in 2010, I was one of the unlucky ones who also simultaneously suffered a very deep pressure sore on my behind, pulmonary embolisms, and died a few times. I thought “this was the worst of it” to myself. Wow, was I in for a rude awakening 3 weeks after my accident!
I’ve written numerous articles on the importance of mental health and expressing the fact that “It’s okay, to not be okay.” I believe this wholeheartedly, but often times when I find myself writing articles and reflecting back on a challenging moment or week that I had had – I do it while I am in a better mental state analyzing my past feelings. Today I’m flipping this article on its head because as I write this I am definitely not okay in the feelings I have about my mental well-being at present, which feel wildly different than feelings expressed in hindsight. I think both perspectives are valuable and I offer you today a glimpse into what’s really going on in life and how I am attempting to handle it.
I find great comfort in knowing that I am not alone in my feelings because I get dozens of messages a day from folks expressing thanks for being extremely open with what I go through as a C6 quadriplegic who is dependent on other human beings to take care of me on a daily basis.
What prompted me to write this article was Naomi Osaka. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with this young lady, but she is a professional Japanese tennis player and has been ranked number one in the Women’s Tennis Association. She is dealing with a lot of the mental stresses that undoubtedly come along with being a top professional athlete in her field. Just the other day she did not want to partake in a press conference for her own mental well-being and was penalized with a $15,000 fine for not talking to the media after a match. There was an enormous amount of support around the globe acknowledging the importance of mental health from the public, sponsors, and corporations due to the fact that she was honest with yourself, and the world.
I’ve spent the better part of a decade learning to adapt, train, push forward, and fight for survival on a daily basis to, not only accept this life of spinal cord injury, but to thrive in it. For the most part, I believe I’ve done pretty well and professionally I seem to have the ability to seamlessly keep striving for greatness even when I am faced with strikingly devastating defeats.
In my personal life, especially the last few weeks, it feels as though life has been crumbling around me. It doesn’t matter if you have a disability as I am sure many of us feel this way, like failures, whether you’re a single parent trying to handle multiple children on your own, a high-powered CEO trying to meet quarterly profits, or a starving artist trying to make ends meet – we all have the ability to crumble as human beings. Now, it’s how we get back up that of course defines us.