Check Your Butt

Posted by Kristin Beale in Life After Paralysis on November 17, 2021 # Lifestyle

Kristin Beale HeadshotI’ve learned a lot of obnoxious lessons, the hard way, in my almost two decades in disability. I’m rolling around with plenty of wisdom for newly injured people, or anyone willing to listen to me, and all of it either has a personal story or my visual evidence to go along. I have lots of stories about lots of hard ways.

The main piece of advice for today is: think ahead for the future. Your Now might be okay, but how will you hold up later on, down the road? Live your Now so that future self is grateful for current self.

  1. Check your butt, and your skin. In this case, I won’t offer you visual evidence of my butt cheeks, so you’ll have to trust me: your skin is fragile, and its integrity is crucial. I, being that I’m wheelchair-dependent, have had a very hard time with pressure sores on my butt. They all came from doing too much, sitting too long, and not checking myself after a day of it. I have similar pressure sores on my body that developed for the same reason, the same mistake: not checking myself. Keep a mirror in your bathroom or by your bedside, and give yourself a once-over.
  2. Drink water, tons of it. I’ve had my fair share of bladder infections that left one of my kidneys with only 30% function. There are a couple of other factors that played into that loss but, mostly, water could have saved me. When it was already too late, I discovered some variations, like hot tea and flavored water additives, that get me excited about drinking when I’m resisting it but, like I said, my kidney was already RIP. The lesson to learn from me is to figure out what motivates you to get enough water every day, and stick to it. Ideally, you’ll figure it out before things go too far.
  3. Stand up either in leg braces or in a standing frame. Weight-bearing helps bone density in my legs so they won’t snap, yes, but it also keeps my muscles stretched out and able to fully extend. When your legs are constantly in the sitting position, your muscles will get so tight, they’ll actually get stuck that way. Another way to keep your muscles long is to sleep with your legs fully extended (vs. on your side), but also consider that bone density.
  4. Stop caring so much. People are going to look at you – let them. They’ll have questions – answer as much as you’re comfortable. They might discriminate or keep their distance – don’t waste your energy with them. That stuff might get to you and you might feel bummed about yourself sometimes, but try instead to meet them where they are: laugh at yourself, humor about your stylish wheelchair, be proud of the chance to park your car at the front of the lot, and maintain a welcoming posture. That will make you more approachable, and your difference less stigmatized. In a world where so many of us look kind of the same, delight in your individuality. For that reason, my wheelchair is one of my favorite things about myself.
  5. Don’t be embarrassed, no matter how much extra time or effort you take. Everyone is in such a hurry these days, and it’s often for no reason. Take the time you need to get yourself right, and don’t worry about when people lose patience. Forget those people. They can wait, and a little extra effort is not going to kill them.
  6. Accept help when you need it. You’re capable of so much and you’re independent, whether mentally or physically. Independence doesn’t mean you’re totally devoid of assistance when you need it, though, and asking for help doesn’t say anything about whether or not you can do things yourself. Everyone needs help sometimes. It’s okay.
  7. Focus on yourself and your confidence. A backpack full of self-confidence will follow you through your whole life, and it’ll make everything easier: your interpersonal relationships, your self-image, your overthinking, and even your morning routine. Confidence will show in how you carry yourself in every situation, and people will notice. So, work on that. Building your self-confidence is like building a wall around yourself, in a good way.

There are lots of things I wish someone had told me all those years ago when I was a newcomer to my disability. The lessons regarding my body, my temple, may seem to be the most crucial, but the mental pointers are every bit as valid. It took a few years to achieve those ones, but I finally did, and please believe when I say that I am free. All the effort you put toward reaching your mental and physical harmony will be worth it.

Kristin Beale is a native of Richmond, Virginia. She is the author of two books, Greater Things and A Million Suns, and a comic book, Date Me. Check them out and read an excerpt at Her comics can be found on Instagram @Greater.Things.Comics.

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,700,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.