15 Years of Lessons Part 2

Posted by Kristin Beale in Life After Paralysis on September 28, 2020 # Lifestyle

On the fifteenth anniversary of my accident, I reflect on years of inaccessibility, lots of modifications, and even more scraped knees. With every (literal and figurative) wound, I've learned something. I've learned 15 things – one for every year paralyzed. Here's part two. Kristin Beale posing with friends

7.Take all the time you need. When I was first paralyzed, everything was slow. I remember 5 minutes to go from lying in bed to sitting up, 10 minutes to put on pants while sitting in my wheelchair, and 20 minutes to go to the bathroom. Now, 15 years later, I pop out of bed, take 2 minutes to put on pants, and can go to the bathroom in under 5 minutes. Like every new habit, it took a minute to get the hang of things, but you will. Be patient with the process.

8.Never stop moving, literally. Hopefully, I can save you from having to learn this hard lesson. I've had my run around (and around, and around) with pressure sores, and, after a month-long hospital stay and surgery, I've accustomed to constantly move around in my seat. My loss of lower-body-sensation means I can't feel the discomfort of sitting in the same spot for too long; my skin will break down if I don't move around often. I don't think I need to say that a wound on the butt of a wheelchair user is inconvenient.

9.Check yourself out. Another reason for that hospital visit is I didn't check myself enough. I'm talking about a handheld mirror to look at every part of my body with reduced sensation. Every single wound I've had, and I've had many, could have been avoided with a better self-check. Get your mirror out and check yo' self.

10.Drink water. Not drinking enough water has always been a struggle for me. I've had one pea-sized kidney stone, countless UTIs, and I lost my right kidney. For the most part, all I had to do to prevent those was to drink more water. Are you kidding? Drink your water, people.

11.Work for independence. As a sophomore in high school, I was back to square one of needing help as I learned how to exist as a wheelchair user. Independence is a never-ending battle for us, but it's the battle to fight. The reward at the end of the tunnel is saying "thanks, but no thanks" when people try to help. Priceless.

12.Get a dog (or cat). I found my dog, Achilles, when I graduated from college and was freshly in the "Adult World." That meant away from my friends, getting my first real job, dating as an adult, and my first breakup. Achilles was my rock. "Get a dog" is my first advice for anyone going through a hard time because of how much she helped me.

13.Save, save, save. Life is expensive, and when you add disability, it gets a little out of control. But you can prepare! Invest, save, and stop wasting your money on squeaky toys for your dog. I'm talking to myself, too, for this one.

14.Don't waste your time on people who don't care. I'm talking about dating, "friends," and everyone you surround yourself with. I'm guilty of all those: I rationalize every clearly-not-good-for-me man I went on a date with, invested 100% into every person who smiled at me and let myself be influenced by the wrong kind of people. After lots of tears, time wasted, and failed investments, I'm more mindful about who I give my energy to.

15.Travel. This is last on my list because I realize it's coming from a place of privilege. The world is so big, people are [mostly] friendly, and it's good to see what's out there. That could mean a day trip to your neighboring city or an airplane across the country, but there's much to say about getting perspective on the world.

Fifteen years of disability gave me fifteen lessons I'm so happy to share with you. I stand by it: my paralysis is one of the best things that has happened to me; I wouldn't trade it for anything. It has shaped who I am, given me perspective, and hardened me in places that needed hardening. This year I look back on the consistent support from my family and friends, my slow ease into living as a wheelchair user, to now, where I'm the happiest person I know. Just because my life looks different doesn't mean it's not as much, if not more, fun.

Read Part 1.

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/