Tomorrow is a new day…

Posted by Elizabeth Forst in Life After Paralysis on December 22, 2017 # Health, Mobility

Usually my blogs focus on positivity, empowerment, breaking down barriers, changing the paradigm of thought, and inspirational travel stories etc. But it seems necessary to interject the other side of the coin that represents life's difficulties, challenges and the dark, gloomy days that sometimes seem unbearable. It is the real face of surviving a spinal cord injury. It is not my intention to wallow in misery, or be depressed or look for others' sympathy. It is merely an attempt to share with others how I rise above to find a breath of fresh air and light during tough times.

I found myself in this debacle this past week during my annual post spinal cord injury reevaluation at Craig Hospital in Colorado. It was a physically, mentally and emotionally demanding week of various medical tests and appointments, five straight days of what I like to call hell week. I met with physical therapy, occupational therapy, nursing, psychiatry, wheelchair clinic, pharmacy, clinical care management, technology, therapeutic recreation and radiology including a cervical MRI and various shoulder x-rays. Mornings started in the dark with my caregivers changing their whole schedule to accommodate mine – 6 AM rising dashing out the door at 9 AM to make 10 o'clock appointments ending the day around 7 PM. Each one-hour back-to-back meeting comprised tackling mind-boggling tasks such as wheelchair biomechanics, reviewing new medical problems, exposing emotional issues all the while jelling the idea I will never walk again – a reality I like to avoid.

Being that I have gone through this reevaluation twice in two previous years, I historically break emotionally at the midweek point, hump day – Wednesday. As tradition has it, Wednesday night found me in my bedroom preparing for bed fighting back the tears of a long and exhausting emotional beginning of the week knowing that I have a lot more to come. All of the self-deprecating questions flood back… Why did this happen to me? How did this happen to me? How am I going to continue on living this life in a wheelchair? I could feel the darkness trapping me with questions that will always be unanswered. In that moment, my caregiver allowed and held space for me to shed those necessary emotional tears that were flowing fortuitously. I don't cry very often but when I do, I cry hard, all the while knowing it is a much needed emotional release.

So when the question arises amongst my own friends and family that wonder how I rise above these moments of utter darkness and despair, I think about those moments of emotional tears and how incredibly important they are as a release of emotions. Cry it out, let it out, allow those moments of vulnerability with yourself, your friends, family and caregivers, for they are your sounding boards and confidants when times get rough. After the tears are blotted away from my cheeks, almost always I feel 100% better, preparing for the rest of my day or a sound nights sleep.

I also always put on my favorite music – typically Neil Young or so – to allow the melodic sounds of a singer's voice to cut away the tentacles of depression. Even a favorite movie can provide a good tactic to redirecting the mind and it’s often times frenetic and frantic thought processes. And if none of this helps, rolling outside and breathing in a huge breath of fresh air always does the trick for me, providing a change of scenery and a new positive energy infiltrating all the cells of my body. I usually take three great big breaths fulfilling my yogi background of previous years. Three is the magic number.

Whatever your strategy may be, I would encourage in times of depression, despair and negativity to try your best to find the light, imagine light all around you, beaming on you and helping you rise above the deep dark hole that envelops us. If there is one thing that is a constant in our existence it is change. And so in this moment of sadness, there will be a change, a change in heart or of the mind. It is a mathematical certainty; things will not stay the same, including feeling like being in a trapped state of depression. Change is good.

In closing, I can hear the subtle voice of my father inside my head helping me along my own tough days, like last week at Craig. I know what he would say… "Tomorrow is a new day… Keep your powder dry and don't take any wooden nickels". Good advice from a man that saw it all in his 76 years as he now soars with the angels in heaven helping me to light up my own darkness.

Merry Christmas and happy holidays, keep on keeping on and remember… Anything is possible!