What I Now Know: Kristin Beale

Posted by Reeve Staff in Daily Dose on September 12, 2019 # What I Now Know, SCI Awareness

Dear Kristin,

I know what the doctors told you: you will never be able to walk or feel below your belly button again. They said your life will never look the same, but they didn’t give you the complete picture. Paralysis is not your end game and there is hope for your healing. This disability is as much mental as it is physical, though, so you have to believe in both your body and mind to heal themselves.

Things will never be the same, they were right about that, but that doesn’t mean this can’t be very good. There is going to be struggle, broken friendships, and lots of inequality, but that’s something you’ll learn to overcome. Our world is inaccessible, and accommodation is only occasional but, as long as you’re willing to problem solve through those obstacles, you’ll find a workaround. There’s always a workaround.

Your family and the community around you are almost as damaged as you are. Appreciate them and the help they will give you, but also climb back on your own feet. The quicker you step up and learn to care for yourself, the easier this will be. It’s okay to need and ask for help, but also push yourself to do as much as you can. People will inevitably leave or not be able to help you in the way you need, so it’s important to charge toward independence.

I know how much your heart broke when you thought your paralysis was taking sports away from you, but hear me out: this, too, has a workaround. There’s an adaptive version of almost every sport out there, and you’re going to be more active and involved in them than you’ve ever been. You don’t have to give up anything. Adaptive sports are even more fun than able-bodied sports, but you’ll see that.

There are going to be a lot of good things that will come out of this. Sure, you lost ease of mobility throughout the world and you’re going to struggle with some skin breakdown, but the people you’re going to meet, places you’ll travel, and opportunities that will open will make the setbacks that come with your disability worth the trouble. You still have your mind and you still have the means to find the positive parts in this, so take the time to find that perspective. If you don’t prioritize your peace of mind, trust me when I say you’re not going to cross Finish. There are so many other things that are worse than this; physical setbacks are surmountable.

Another inescapable reality is people walking out of your life. Don’t despair over friendships lost, because there undoubtedly will be some. Not everyone will be able to handle or accommodate your disability, and that’s okay. People will come and go in seasons, but you will find other friendships to surround you and support you in your journey. It’s important to root your identity and faith in something outside of yourself, something consistent, and something that will give you hope. If you don’t have God, seek out something greater than yourself. Without this foundation, you are going to lose this fight.

Most importantly, don’t give up on yourself. Your doctors are going to tell you there isn’t any hope and that you must accept your definition of a paralyzed person as permanent, but they’re wrong. Nothing about the human body is permanent and there’s no reason you can’t overcome this, both mentally and physically. You’re going to have to relearn and reprioritize every aspect of your life, but that’s what it takes to fight this fight. Arm yourself with a positive attitude and a stubborn head and go get ‘em.

In a lot of ways, life is going to kick your butt and you’re going to want to cry “Uncle”. But you can’t do that, you can’t give up. Remember to lean on your family, people who love you, and your faith, and you can get through it. There are a lot of people who love you. You can do this, girl.

I love you,

Kristin Beale