​A Lost Year

Posted by Elizabeth Forst in Life After Paralysis on April 22, 2021 # COVID-19


EB on plane wearing a mask and pink hoodieThis past week I received the first portion of the COVID19 vaccination. It has been a tough year; there is no question about that. There have been days, weeks and months of staying at home alone. As a quadriplegic, I dealt with depression and loneliness on a level that I wasn't expecting or prepared for. I spent more time with my service dog, watched endless hours of Below Deck, tried my attention span at audiobooks and even learned Sanskrit – an ancient yogi language. With all of the social withdrawal – I can now look back on the year and am trying to realize that it wasn't such a lost year as previously thought and was in fact, a year of growth, inspiration and newness. I found myself trying new activities and having new experiences that never would have transpired if not for the virus. With all of the darkness, there was some light.

When the pandemic hit, my first instinct was to augment my nutrition and vitamin intake with natural and holistic remedies to improve my immune system. I started every day with a freshly crushed clove of garlic slathered in a teaspoon of sticky local honey, quite the vampire's kryptonite. I made homemade bone broth for the first time, drinking it through a straw as if it were a tasty cocktail, although realizing after the first Mason jar that the other 7 Mason jars would live in my freezer for the remainder of the year – and are still there. I started taking massive amounts of daily vitamin C, Zinc, Echinacea and goldenseal, elderberry syrup and even tried medicinal mushrooms from the local health food store. My immune system had never been so strong.

After checking my nutrition off the list, my attention turned towards entertaining activities when there was nothing to do and nowhere to go. Because I'm a quadriplegic and can't use my hands, the option of cooking, knitting or doing various arts and crafts that became so commonplace for the general population was obviously out the window for me. With my assistant's help, I learned the two of us could create fun activities together; I was the brain behind the ideas, and she was my hands. I started a succulent baby horticultural farm in my sunny dining room. The soil had become a hot commodity at the time and was nowhere to be found. I reverted to asking my local community through next-door if anyone "out there" would donate their extra soil. The response was incredible as I had total strangers – and many of them – dropping off bags of soil to my front door, even including their personal plant clippings that I might cultivate for myself. The community response was unbelievably positive during such a scary and challenging time. We were coming together as a village, not even knowing each other by face or name. It was a gift economy.

Shadow laying on the sidewalk next to chalk art that reads "Choose Love"As the weather improved through the end of spring, it was time to venture out of the apartment in the fresh air. My service dog Shadow and I took numerous roll walks around my property's exterior, getting some fresh air and exercise to clear the mind. I started an anonymous sidewalk-chalking project where my assistant and I secretly crisscrossed my apartment complex, chalking positive affirmations on the sidewalks, in front of our general mailbox area and over by the dog park. The despair and fear were so thick in the air. My thought was to send clandestine love notes throughout the property. My heart swelled weeks ago when a few of my neighbors heard that I was the secret love note maker and told me how much those affirmations meant to them during those especially difficult first couple of months. Hearing the words "that was you!?" was music to my ears. It worked…

Buddha gardenI built a Buddha garden outside my bedroom patio, I connected with friends on the telephone from long ago, entertained Friday family happy hour zoom calls, started writing a book, meditated more, found solace in Indian style mantra chanting to calm the soul and even tried venturing out on an airplane masked and all. The summer came and went, the fall leaves fell as they always do, the Denver cold weather crept in as the holidays seemed like a blur and before I knew it one year had passed. Weeks melted into months and months melted into a year where time seemed to stand still in which the comment "what day is it again?" was a regular occurrence. Yet during this time of isolation, I fond a great appreciation for the stillness, thoughtfulness and introspection – for the quiet.

So here I am, with one long-awaited vaccination in my arm, wondering what life is going to be like in this new world post-pandemic. I have already noticed more traffic outside my apartment window, increased crowds at the local grocery store, travelers slowly making their way back into airports and the idling jets of our planet starting to rev again. There seems to be a breath of fresh air, a new hope for a better human existence and a greater appreciation for the little things like giving a real arm around the chest kind of hug to a friend or family member without fear or trepidation. My greatest hope is that within ourselves, our families and friends that there have been great emotional and mental growth, a newfound appreciation for spending time with our loved ones; whether near or far and most importantly a renewed perspective into what truly is important in our existence here on this planet which– in my opinion – is to love one another and ourselves unconditionally.

What's next for me now that I have a new lease on life? I will continue to push the envelope as I always do, yet with a different perspective, perhaps a softer, less busy existence feeling such gratitude for surviving the last year and gaining peace within myself within the quiet time. I will honor and remember the loss. I will go on in their memory, and I will get that second shot for those that couldn't.

Keep on keeping on…

Elizabeth Forst is a nomad Yogi, world traveler and spinal cord injury survivor. Enjoying the mountain life in Denver, Colorado, she is a doctor of physical therapy with roots based both in Western medicine and the Eastern traditions; understanding the connection between mind, body, and spirit is her ultimate life pursuit. Through her writing and advocacy efforts locally and nationally, she is a beacon of light and a source of positive exploration for others traversing the challenges of paralysis. Find her entire collection at: www.ebforst.com

This project was supported, in part, by grant number 90PRRC0002, from the U.S. Administration for Community Living, Department of Health and Human Services, Washington, D.C. 20201. Grantees undertaking projects under government sponsorship are encouraged to express freely their findings and conclusions. Points of view or opinions do not, therefore, necessarily represent official Administration for Community Living policy.