​What’s Your Superpower?

Posted by Howard Menaker in Life After Paralysis on October 14, 2022 # Lifestyle

superpower The idea of having a superpower is one many of us share. Children dream of having superpowers: super strength, the ability to fly, or invisibility. The Marvel Universe has become one of the most lucrative franchises in entertainment history, serving up superheroes beyond our imaginations.

Recently, reading “The Beauty of Dawn” by New York Times columnist Frank Bruni made me think about the superhuman powers resting within many people with disabilities. Bruni asks us to consider the superpowers we possess, even if we never think of them as being superhuman. Bruni writes about a friend who is blind, who told him that losing his vision “gave (me) skills, tools, a way of thinking, a brain that brought me here. For any person with a disability, from the moment you wake up until the moment you are back in bed, you are facing all kinds of challenges and obstacles that you have to sort out... With a disability, you have to become patient. You have to become resilient.”

It is true: those of us with a spinal cord injury have to work at getting through our day in ways others will never know. Our morning preparations, from brushing our teeth to going to the bathroom, require thought, planning and often assistance. We must adapt our cars or depend on others to drive us to appointments and social events. We re-organize our kitchens so that plates, glasses, and utensils can be reached from our wheelchairs. When we travel, we have to make special arrangements. How many times have you been going out to dinner with friends, only to stop and call the restaurant to be sure it is truly accessible?

Our superpower requires a special blend of patience, resilience, and planning. When you have conversations with friends about what it takes to get through the day, you may hear them say, “Wow… I could never do all of that.” At that moment, they see us as superhuman.

And perhaps when we were first injured, we too thought we could never do “all of that.” But here we are, not just existing, but thriving. Many of us have been fortunate enough to receive outstanding medical treatment, physical and occupational therapy, and other training that enables us to do more than we ever thought possible. But even with all that assistance, every day still poses considerable obstacles, roadblocks, and struggles. We must continually develop our superhuman ability to adapt to the world around us, and to adapt ourselves to make our way.

We have developed another superpower: the power of optimism, hope, and faith. Everyone with a spinal cord injury I see in physical therapy or working out in the gym has hope and optimism in a measure that can only be described as superhuman. Many of us faced dark days after our injuries when we thought we would never again be able to do any of the things we enjoyed. But we have summoned up enough hope to keep pushing forward and improving our quality of life.

So, what are our superpowers? They can’t be summed up in one word. Our superpowers are a combination of will, hope, planning, hard work, patience, and perseverance. We face obstacles every day and, putting our powers to good use, and we figure out how to overcome them.

So, get busy designing the superhero costume that best fits you and your abilities. You know your powers are superhuman. Your family and friends know you are a hero. You should have the right costume, not just for Halloween, but to figuratively put on every day when you wake up and start your day. It will feel great, and I know it will fit you just right.

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.