This is how I've changed

Posted by Kristin Beale in Life After Paralysis on October 06, 2020 # Lifestyle

I remember when blood used to scare me. It didn’t scare me in a way that heights or spiders scare some people, but seeing blood coming out of my body was, at the least, a call to action. Now, I see blood and react in the same way as when I see a leaf on my porch. That is, I’m not alarmed, but I’d prefer it if it were removed. That attitude is either great because I’m not easily sent into a panic, or it’s the reason I have so many wounds on my body. But that’s how I’ve changed.

When I was in seventh grade, my laugh sounded like a siren. My routine was this: if I thought something was funny, I would hold back my laughter with puffed-out cheeks until I couldn’t anymore, then let it out all at once, so it was a screech. Thinking back to it, I don’t know why people hung around me during this phase. Nothing about it was unintentional, and my sister reminded me how painful it was to everyone in earshot. But I thought I was cute. Now, my laugh is silent. That’s how I’ve changed.Kristin selfie

I used to feel things. I don’t mean literally, and I’m not talking about the loss of sensation that came with my paralysis, thought that would also be valid. I mean that I didn’t use to be so wary of being happy or excited. Those were the days before people let me down – constantly let me down. These days, I don’t let myself go to that place of complete vulnerability unless I’m 100% sure of its fulfillment. I’ve grown to expect something to rain, or at least sprinkle, on my parade. It’s a form of self-defense, I guess. Whether it has protected me from bad or prevented me from good, I’m not sure. But that’s how I’ve changed.

Pop-Tarts used to be my favorite food. After that, I loved Hostess’ Zebra Cakes. Those were signature Kristin Foods, and they’re both loaded with sugar, carbs, high fructose corn syrup, and all the things I now work hard to avoid. If those foods were my staples, it’s safe to assume that I was chubby with dimples in my fingers, right? Contrary, I was somehow still thin, tan, and with impressively muscular calves. Granted, I was a teenager with the metabolism of a race car, but more importantly, I could run it off. I could jump it off or skip it off or backflip it off. After an accident that forces me into a wheelchair, I must be conscious about what I eat, then overly aware because I can’t work the calories off like I used to. Today, I even have the nerve to say that blueberry is my favorite food. My diet is the most boring thing about me, and that’s how I’ve changed.

I’m conscious of and grateful for every minute of my life. In my life, I’ve had more friends die than I can count on one hand, one of which while my arms were wrapped around his waist. There is nothing more heartbreaking and nothing more humbling than a dead friend. The heartbreaking part is obvious, but the humbling lesson is one of gratitude. I used to take things for granted – whether it’s feeling in my feet or a friend to call when I’m bored. Both things were stolen from me, and from that, I’ve learned to be grateful for all things in my life, big and small. That’s how I’ve changed.

My accident and subsequent paralysis changed my life in every single way. Most of those changes were good, and I’m grateful, but there are a few that I’m not. The biggest lesson I’ve learned from my life’s struggle is to adapt. More importantly, adapt with a smile on. People are watching you, and they’re taking notes. The more grace and love you show yourself and others amid your battle, the more positive of an impact you’ll have. Tell that to my younger self, and I wouldn’t have taken it seriously but, I guess that’s how I’ve changed.

Disability has changed me in ways I never expected, but I’ll say it again, am exceedingly grateful for. The past 15 years since my accident have been packed with tons of problem-solving and more difficulties, yes, but there’s beauty in that fight. My paralyzed body has given me not only a physical challenge but also a mental hill to achieve happiness within my exceptional situation. There’s no question that my disability has changed me, but I wouldn’t change that for anything.

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.