​Finding Your New Normal – Using Adversity to Become a More Complete Version of Yourself

Posted by Reeve Staff in Life After Paralysis on July 31, 2020 # Lifestyle

By guest blogger Ian Malesiewski

After breaking my neck, I spent four months in a rehab hospital preparing for my transition back to the real world. I spent countless hours exercising and trying to strengthen every muscle in my body. Although living life with paralysis is sometimes frustrating, I believe I handled my injury the best way I possibly could. I went to every therapy session with a positive attitude and a smile on my face. However, after any life-changing event, it is difficult adjusting to your new life. In fact, the biggest challenge for me after my injury was trying to figure out what my “New Normal” was.Ian wresting prior to being injured

Prior to my injury, I was both a division one football and wrestling recruit. My “normal” before I got hurt was completely different compared to what it is now. Before my injury, my “normal” life consisted of 5 AM morning runs, daily lifts, and practices for both football and wrestling. I spent all of my energy focusing solely on athletics and I basically had no interests besides sports. Since my accident robbed me of the ability to compete athletically, this was extremely problematic. For months I felt like I was just living life aimlessly with no goals or motivation. Luckily, this all changed in December of 2018 when I began working with the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation.

In 2018, the Reeve Foundation had recently started a social advocacy and educational campaign to tell stories and raise awareness of what it is like to live with paralysis. Since I am a college student living with paralysis, the Reeve Foundation reached out to me and asked me to serve as an ambassador to help kickstart their campaign. In this specific role, I was able to share my personal experiences to help reshape how society views people with disabilities. In addition to sharing my story, I was also able to work with and learn from other members of the paralysis community. Although this might have seemed like a small event, it was extremely important and eye-opening. For the first time since my injury, I felt truly passionate about something. I knew from that point forward that my “New Normal” had to be centered around me giving back to the paralysis and disability communities.

Since 2018, I have also worked with the Foundation as a political advocate, advocacy blog writer, and peer mentor. These experiences have been so influential they have actually impacted my career aspirations. After college, I now plan on attending law school to focus on refining legislation to help improve the lives of individuals living with disabilities.Comparison pictures of Ian in hospital bed and Ian today

In addition to these experiences sparking a fire inside of me, they have also revealed to me a lot about my character. Specifically, I have realized that even though this injury has derailed the path that I once had planned for myself, it has taught me so many valuable lessons. The most important being attitude is everything. I have discovered that in life, you may not be able to control every situation and its outcome, but you can control your attitude and how you deal with it!

In closing, I challenge every person living with paralysis to stay motivated and try to find their “New Normal”. It took me months to find something I truly felt passionate about, but I couldn’t be happier with my new interests and goals. In closing, I hope all people can use adversity to reveal their character and eventually become a more complete version of themselves.

My name is Ian Malesiewski and I am currently finishing up my sophomore year at the University of Miami. Unfortunately, four years ago I broke my neck while wrestling at the Cadet World Team Trials and I am a C-4 quadriplegic. Although this injury left me paralyzed from the chest down, it has made me truly appreciate my education and life outside of athletics. With that being said, I am currently majoring in neuroscience with minors in chemistry, public health, and philosophy. You can follow me on Instagram @ianmalesiewski34 and Twitter @fiercekitty3. You can also message me on Reeve Connect, Ian Malesiewski.

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.