4 year anniversary

Posted by Elizabeth Forst in Life After Paralysis on August 16, 2018 # Health

Four years ago, I didn't have a care in the world. I was 36 years old, in love and happier than I had been in a very long time. I was about to move to North Carolina to pursue a new personal relationship and launch a new professional life of being a yoga instructor and craniosacral therapist. The Asheville School of Massage had accepted me into their highly competitive yearlong Ayurvedic fellowship program, a dream of mine for some time. My physical body was in fantastic shape and my spiritual side was clean and clear after having spent the summer in intense daily meditation and physically challenging yoga training in Bali. My life was vibrant, light and full of wonderful new perspective after spending months abroad in Southeast Asia following a completely different lifestyle that served me in such a positive manner. I had never been so optimistic about my future, the outlook held such great opportunity with love, life, and endless possibilities. I was so happy and butterflies fluttering in my chest constantly. Four years ago. It seems like a lifetime ago.

And then one night soon after my travels, I lost my newly found perspective on life. I strayed away from my strong and clear spiritual strength and so easily fell into bad habits where partying and drinking seemed like the better choice on a Saturday night. Instead of resting and restoring in preparation for my upcoming fellowship, I was celebrating, throwing caution to the wind. I jumped headfirst into a pool and broke my neck instantly. My life took a hard right turn in one single second and all my plans were instantly crushed. No more moving, no more fellowship, no more love and, in my mind, no more life. I wanted to die.

Approaching anniversaries of injuries are never easy. And this Friday is the four year anniversary of my spinal cord injury leaving me a complete quadriplegic with no mobility or sensation below my shoulders. It's probably the darkest week of my entire year, the week approach up until my injury date. It’s a reminder of who I was and what I was before the break and the memories of my pre-injury life are endless. The yoga instructor, the triathlete, the physical therapist, world traveler, lover of life, burning man girl, soul-searching nomad Yogi and adventurer of life. I was in love with life and loving every second.

This week is very emotional for me. There are a lot of tears and an endless ocean of regrets, so much remorse for decisions that, in hindsight, were clearly dead wrong. Everything used to be so great before my accident; why did this have to happen to me? What did I do to deserve this? The unfortunate reality is there is no answer and never will be; there is no reason why bad things happen to good people. I just made a terrible mistake that I can never take back. Ever. It is the roughest and hardest of all realities, sometimes feeling like a nightmare that you can never wake up from. Waking up every morning, unable to move and waiting for the start of my day, the groundhog day style routine of 100% dependency on others for everything.

This week will come and go. This Friday marking four years will come and go. The tears will subside and I will pack away the insurmountable regret and remorse for yet another year, like an old dusty suitcase being packed away in the closet waiting for its next trip. I will start a new year, my fifth year as a quad, breaking down new barriers and overcoming all of the obstacles that I encounter. Life will go on and I can mark down another year on the books of my new life as a spinal cord survivor with the hopes that sometime soon there will be a glimmer of hope that walking or even feeding myself might become a reality. In the meanwhile, I will continue to travel and take trips, write about them and make others laugh. I will continue to find the true meaning of my existence while I am here and help empower others to be greater versions of themselves, whether they're in a wheelchair or not. I will continue to challenge myself and others around me to take a stand in every aspect of their lives, love life harder and never ever take anything for granted.

As for Friday, instead of wallowing in sadness and despair for my life that has changed so, you can find me front row under the stars at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Colorado hanging out with an old friend listening to some banjo picking bluegrass music that will certainly uplift my soul. I can't think of any other way to start the fifth year of my new life.

"Ruin is a gift. Ruin is the road to transformation”

Elizabeth Gilbert