​Something to look forward to

Posted by Amber Collie in Life After Paralysis on September 29, 2021 # Caregiving, Lifestyle

Cup of coffee and glasses on a book next to a fire pitWhat do you like to do for fun, people have asked me? This shouldn’t be a hard question to answer, right? Then how come I couldn’t think of anything. I work. I put very high expectations on myself from an early age. I was married with children at 22, had four kids by age 30, and ran a photography business. Then on Memorial Day in 2010, my oldest son Zack was paralyzed in a beach accident; I instantly became his full-time caregiver. I poured all I had into helping my son still have a good life. Making sure his needs were met to the best of my ability.

I helped him make goals, and we met them together. He graduated from high school and went on to college. He was able to live on campus for a couple of semesters. He even moved out independently with help from outside caregivers. This gave me a bit of breathing room, but I ended up busing myself with other things, still never slowing down or focusing on things for myself. Caregivers need to care for themselves. Why is that so hard for me?

When COVID-19 hit, Zack was forced to move back home, and I took over once again as his full-time helper. I’ve heard myself talk about balance, and I do practice it, but I tend to overwork myself. I’m so used to working that I forget to play. I’m good at organizing and planning things, but I have had to teach myself to slow down and enjoy the actual vacation or event once it’s here. My mind can go a mile a minute. I’m a great multitasker, but that is not always a good thing. Learning to be present in the moment is hard for me because my mind is already on to the next thing. I am fully aware of this and will continue to practice slowing down and enjoying what is going on around me.

A few years ago, I started reading for fun. I’ve always read serious books or self-help-style books. One day my son said I should read the Harry Potter series. I laughed and said, isn’t that for kids? But I humored him and picked up book 1. To my surprise, I loved it and read the whole series. This was the start of reading for fun, and boy was I missing out. I now go to the public library often. I’ll look for a book then try to match it with the audio version. That way, I can read when I’m home and listen in the car when I’m out running errands. Reading has really helped me relax more it’s a nice escape from reality when I need a break.

I also absolutely love to travel. I’ll go anywhere! I enjoy the whole process of researching new places, making reservations, planning activities. I don’t even mind the airport most of the time. There is a lot to see, like Sunrise from airplanemountains, oceans, deserts, cities, farms, ranches. I’ve been all over California and the United States. Travel starts with an idea, where do you want to go? I like to think of the season ahead and book it early. Then I have something to look forward to! I’ve been able to go to a lot of amazing places like Ireland, Iceland, Brazil, Guatemala, Mexico and even India. I’m fascinated with other cultures.

As a caregiver, you are constantly giving your time and energy to someone else, but don’t forget about yourself. I neglected myself for a long time. I’m the first one to jump up and help others, but I wasn’t giving that care to myself. You must make time for the things you love to. You will be a better person for it. This also helps with caregiver burnout, and that’s a real thing. Zack, even in a power chair, has traveled. It was scary at first, but he did it. He has gone to Hawaii a couple of times, and Colorado for adaptive skiing, local mountains, desert and beaches. The National Parks are almost always wheelchair assessable. We have even found assessable camping or small cabins. If you absolutely can’t travel, try looking on YouTube, it’s a great place to find realistic travel vlogs, videos and photos or visit your local library and read! There are many other hobbies besides travel and reading. Think of what you like to do: cooking, crossword puzzles, art, music, etc. Stop and do these things, even if for only a short break and do not feel guilty! I wasted a lot of time thinking that way. Not anymore.

My life has had many parts, I could write a book just on that section but let's fast forward to when I married Adron Collie. Two weeks after turning 20 (yes, very young!) I had Zackery at age 22, Levi at 24, six years later Kaden, and 18 months after that daughter Laila, making me a busy mother of four. At that time, I also ran a photography business. The year Zack was injured I had a child in Preschool, Elementary, Jr. High and High School. Four kids in four schools! I thought I was so busy, just getting their drop off and pick up times correct was a challenge. I have to laugh now thinking back on that because little did I know my life was just about to turn upside down.

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.