When Life Punches You

Posted by Kristin Beale in Life After Paralysis on July 15, 2021 # Lifestyle

Kristin and her husbandI was the first among my friends to go through a trauma in life. That’s not to say we lived in a bubble where bad things didn’t happen to us, but I started young; I was only 14 years old when mine happened. At 14, I was hit by a Jet Ski that killed my friend and very nearly killed me. That was my first trauma. My second was managing being a high schooler at the same time as a paralyzed, wheelchair-dependent teenager whose world had flipped upside down, inside out, and backward.

That’s just to say that I’ve dealt with hardships of every species: first with the death of my friend; learning to love myself, wheels and all; working to overcome my disability and shatter predictions of the medical community; trying to fit in and be seen as a person, before a disability; losing friends; building confidence; and, my current obstacle, wheeling around in a wheelchair that’s constantly breaking down.

That list could go on. I’m not saying that we’re not all going through stuff, hard stuff, and I’m not asking you to give your stuff anymore thought. What I’m most concerned about is: How are you? Are you jumping over the speedbumps and walking on, or are you letting them trip you up? What can you do to take better care of your mental health?

Well, I’m glad you asked. I have some suggestions:

1. Acknowledge your struggle. If someone is treating you poorly, speak up. If you’re in danger, get help. If something bad happens that you need to heal from, start the process. If people are trying to put you in a box, break out of it. And if your broken wheelchair is getting in the way of you living your life, wait a couple more years until insurance will pay for a new one.

Just kidding – I’m working on it.

2. Reflect on what’s causing the struggle. Are you taking on too much? This is a big one for me because the answer is usually “yes.” Everyone has a breaking point, and we’re all working hard to stay away from it. Write down your feelings, make a To-Do list, talk to someone, and/or figure out a way for you to slow down. Stress causes pimples, and that’s the last thing you’ll want to add to your list.

3. Make time for yourself. Find something that calms your mind and works as an outlet for your skills. I like to draw pictures and read books, and my husband likes to shoot monsters in his video game. This one is going to look different for everyone but, if it relaxes you, it’s just as valid

4. Exercise. This is my favorite form of self-care when I’m stressed or frustrated; I love to sweat, work my body hard, and have a solid excuse for an early bedtime. I don’t love the part where I have a splitting headache from not drinking enough water while I ride my handcycle, so please learn my lessons: work your body as hard as you can but bring a water bottle.

5. Eat right. Many people like to “drown their sorrows” in Oreo cookies and Doritos at the end of a hard week, but that doesn’t help anything. Trust me. In fact, over time, that habit might cause another trouble to your list (weight gain, diabetes, hypertension, etc.). So, splurge every once in a while, but, general advice, put the Oreos in the back of the pantry shelf.

6. Sleep. When we’re going through something tough, sleep is often the first thing we sacrifice. Whether it’s because you’re awake in bed with a racing mind or because you’re staying awake fixing a problem, please realize: you’re only making it worse. The biggest lesson I learned in college is that sleep deprivation does no favors to memory recall, headaches, or exhaustion levels. Once again, please learn my lessons.

Life throws us curveballs, then punches us in the face, then sticks out its foot to trip us up. But that doesn’t mean you have to fall; things may get hard, and you may stumble, but you can get back control before hitting the ground. The last thing we need is a metaphorical broken bone or, almost literally, a breakout on your face.

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 https://kristinbeale.com/. 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.