Finding the inner party girl

Posted by Elizabeth Forst in Life After Paralysis on March 21, 2018 # Health

My therapist is my rock, a voice of truth and an enabler of personal growth and expansion. The irony is that I never had a mental health therapist throughout my entire life because as children our family believed receiving therapy meant that something was wrong– that you were broken. Or that you couldn't figure things out for yourself and therefore had to pay someone, a lot of money, to help navigate through the crazy twists and turns life unveils. Being in a family with a father as a Navy captain, therapy was not our tradition, it was not even discussed as an option for difficult times in any of our lives. It was tough love across the board, and as my father used to say to us "shape up or ship out". It simply was not part of my past.

So after my injury 3 1/2 years ago, a close friend and mental health therapist himself encouraged that I discard these previous familial realities and get into therapy. With insurance being Medicaid, I quickly discovered there were literally no immediate options. Wait lists for mental health services in Denver County are nine months out, with openings at the county hospital downtown – frankly not realistic to wait for or attend. The first nine months of injury are the scariest, the most confusing and essential to have a trained professional whom truly understands the situation. Confusion, depression, and despair become overwhelming – therapy is a must. Instead of waiting for the county's assistance, I was able to fundraise enough money to cover out-of-pocket costs for a mental health therapist that came to my home and worked with me for about six months. New to the game of therapy, I was completely unaware of the inappropriateness of my therapist spending 20 minutes of our one-hour session discussing his own family issues. That relationship came and went, for obvious reasons, and I was once again therapy-less.

It wasn't until just recently I finally found the right fit, a word-of-mouth recommendation and referral. My new therapist comes to my home every other Saturday and we sit around a hot cup of tea for an hour and a half to go deep into faraway places of my soul that have been locked up with no key for quite some time now. Digging in and uncovering some of these deep-rooted experiences and memories from life, especially surrounding my injury, expose a very sensitive and vulnerable place. It takes bravery and courage to go there. It brings up a lot of emotional responses including a deluge of tears of sadness that has unhelpfully transitioned to self-hatred and blame. Yet, with her wise knowledge and intuition, my therapist and I have begun to collectively shift these raw emotions into a reality that makes sense, encourages forgiveness of myself and supports self-love. It is hard work to get to this place; it takes a tremendous amount of emotional unraveling. But, I have found it is the key to surviving this injury, this new reality and acceptance of what I have become and why. I can never really know why, and actually it's inconsequential. The reality is that a tragic experience has placed me in this wheelchair, an often incredibly difficult space, that I must endure every day for the rest of my life. It's not easy. But it's starting to make sense.

Recently, my therapist provided me an incredibly emotional and challenging mission. I am to go deep into my soul and track down the inner party girl that is hiding out, cowering in a dark and dirty place since the night of my accident. For it was she who was in control the night that I was injured. It was the inner party girl that was exploding in all of her expression as she decided that jumping into a pool after a night of drinking and partying was a good idea – encouraging reckless and destructive behavior. She screwed up, and so she slunk away to a place that I've kept locked up for some time now. It's just been too painful.

But through therapy, I have realized one very important thing. To forgive oneself and not self-blame is the path to emotional recovery. I have to forgive her, that crazy inner party girl side of myself. I have to allow her to reemerge, allow her to reintegrate into my current situation and help redirect some of that energy into a positive direction. I have to love her again; I have to love me again. I have to love the girl that now sits in a wheelchair all day, managing all of the complexities of a new life with a constant voice in the back of my head wondering how did I get here.

It’s a work in progress; I'm a work in progress… All I can do is take one day at a time all the while knowing that I am exactly where I am supposed to be, here and now.

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.