Finding Meaning in Life After a Spinal Cord Injury

Posted by Zack Collie in Life After Paralysis on March 09, 2022 # Lifestyle

Zack Collie in the hospital After my spinal cord injury, one of the hardest things I had to deal with was finding new meaning in my life. I was 15 years old when I broke my neck. I didn’t have much of a path at that age. My goal at that period of my life was to graduate from high school so I could be done with school forever. After that, I figured I would get a job and start working. I have mentioned this in past blogs. I was a very independent and fast-paced person. I was always going from one thing to the next.

Zack Collie with a puppyWhen I broke my neck and became a quadriplegic, anything I had planned for my future was now gone. I felt hopeless, lost, and had no meaning or purpose in my life. This was a very dark time for me. I had never experienced these strong negative feelings before in my life. I had no idea how my future was going to look. How would I be independent and support myself when I now have to rely on others for physical things I could no longer do. It pissed me off that this happened to me. I had thoughts going through my head, such as "why did this happen to me?" and "what did I do to deserve this?" I feel like so many people struggle to make meaning in their life. It is something that we all go through at some point in our lives. Some people find their purpose sooner than others, and it takes years or decades for others. I have found my purpose in life through my injury. It feels weird to admit that out loud. But I view my life now as being full of abundance and meaning.

My life forever changed on Memorial 2010. I broke my neck and became paralyzed, but it did not break me. I realize that I would not be the person I am today had my accident not happened. I know that without the suffering I have gone through, the growth I have achieved would be impossible. I believe I have accomplished more in my life right now at the age of 27 than I would have in my entire previous life had my injury never happened. One of the greatest accomplishments in my life is loving who I truly am and the person I have become. I believe my meaning and purpose in life is to help others, and I can do that through counseling.

Zack and SedonaI am who I am today because of my disability. I used to be ashamed of being in a wheelchair, and now I embrace it. I am able to have a strong impact on others because of being in a chair. I would have never continued my education beyond high school. But because of my injury, I received a wheelchair scholarship and am now in the last year of my master’s program for counseling. There is no doubt in my mind and heart that this is the path for me. When I came to this realization, I found meaning for my life. My attitude, perspective, and heart changed. This growth helped me to deal with living in a body that does not work. It didn't take away the fact that I am paralyzed, but it helped me understand that I can still have an amazing life. A life worth living and fighting for. I hope that this blog will help someone who is currently feeling hopeless or struggling with finding meaning in life. If you feel lost and don't even know where to start, I encourage you to read a book called Man's Search for Meaning by Victor Frankyl. It is one of the best books I have ever read, and it changed how I looked at life.

Zack Collie is living with quadriplegia and was paralyzed in 2010 diving under a wave at Newport Beach breaking his C-4 vertebrae. Zack started a YouTube channel to spread awareness about spinal cord injuries and his life living as one. His mother, Amber Collie, is also a regular blogger for the Reeve Foundation

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.