So if anyone thinks I’m an enormous weirdo for putting such an emphasis on recovery seven years out, I suppose this’ll explain it all. I was inspired by my Yogi tea advice yesterday: “Live for each other.” And I realized I’d completely forgotten to address this topic earlier.
It’s tremendously important to define your personal why. What’s a personal why? It is the summary of why you’d take out the time in your busy day to do rote repetitions of mind-numbing exercises — why you’re forcing yourself to tie up your good hand, why you may go to psychotherapy, why you invest in $5000 orthotics (mmyeah, they exist — more on the Walk Aide in the future), why you even try methods that at face value seemed hokey (massage? Accupuncture? Meditation?). It’s the sum of all the parts to your therapy.
Your personal why gives your mission a purpose and quiets naysayers (although, really, who’s out of his mind enough to discourage you from pursuing a better you?). It motivates you to continue even when it seems hopeless and it also helps encourage those around you who support you. The stronger your reasons, and the more people who know about them, the greater your drive becomes.
Another way of wording this “personal why” is to call it your vision. What do you see yourself being able to do as a result of your healing? It could be as simple as being able to tie your shoes by yourself or as complex as being able to dance again. And very importantly, who’s your recovery for? Whom does it serve? Just you? Or also your loved ones?
Personally, my why encompasses a scope far greater than myself. I pursue my recovery, yes, for my own satisfaction and fulfillment, but more so, I also do it for everyone else. I’d like to have the simple contentment at being able to take care of myself fully — to not need so much help at the turn of every few moments. To use both my hands and arms like a normal person (as much as I hate to use the term “normal,” as my current state is for now what is normal for me). I’d like to be able to do things quickly and not have to consider whether I’m physically capable of participating in things my friends invite me to (i.e., my friend is having an outdoor BBQ and volleyball party for Memorial Day and I LOVE volleyball!!! Yet I still haven’t RSVPed).
To me, my current state just is not acceptable. As my best friend often jokes in a heavily ambiguous (East?) European accent, “Ees-a no good.” For me to see a bus I need to catch a few hundred meters away — which most people could just jog up to and board in the matter of seconds — and think, “Well, I could try and make a run for it, but I won’t because I’ll look like a total weirdo” and therefore miss it because I’m only comfortable with walking toward it, to do that and wait another fifteen minutes for the next one is just not cutting it.
To be sure, this is a bit of a bratty attitude. Would I rather walk to the stop and sit and wait for the next bus, or would I rather lie bedridden in the hospital where I need to ask nurses to help me transfer to a wheelchair to go to the restroom? Shut up, already, right?
Now, there is certainly a limit to how much complaining someone can make without just seeming ungrateful and completely without perspective. (I’m talking to you, Orson Hodge — now, please wheel yourself away from the swimming pool.)
But it’s a well-known “secret” that you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. That’s why people like me, or us, are in a separate boat from those who are born blind or with a congenital condition that is all they know. We’ve lived a life of privilege, in the sense that we know what we don’t have, and we know it greatly.
Consider, though, that this knowledge is a gift rather than a curse. In some cases, say, for Orson Hodge (and in case you have ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA who he is, I apologize; I’m a religious fan of Desperate Housewives, and he’s a fellow who one day completely breaks his spinal cord and is rendered paraplegic) or the late Christopher Reeve (RIP), prospects for complete recovery are limited — but you know what?
Christopher Reeve was later dubbed a “medical marvel.” As was Morris Goodman, who walked out of the hospital after being declared quadriplegic for life (only initially capable of blinking his eyes)!
Even if a complete and total recovery is not supposedly in the cards for you (and if you ask the docs and therapists about me they’re not in the cards even for me), some outstanding and miraculous gains can certainly be made as long as you have the mental prowess to try. And this is a big deal.
We’re also gifted in the sense that recoveries can be made. Yes, it’s a stinker that this happened to us, but a true failure is to stay down when you’ve fallen. See that you can push yourself back up and keep going. I consider us blessed because of the ability to heal from what’s happened. And of course, it always varies from case to case, but recovery’s not always in store for everyone, so consider yourself lucky if it’s possible for you. Even to just an extent.
Your personal goals and personal whys are unique to you. If it’s an enormous accomplishment for you to open and extend your fingers, then when you’ve done that, celebrate!! And I mean this with utmost love and care — seriously, I’m basing a soon-to-be future post on personal celebrations and also the yogic principle of mudita — without at all casting on you what my personal goals are. In this hypothetical case, it is not okay for you to not open your fingers. That’s all your call; no one can tell you what should be okay with you and what not. (That’s why this is a rehab revolution here — disregard the outside people and their unhopeful words.)
So for me, I’m pushing for a total recovery here. Is that unrealistic? Perhaps, but why take it away from me? A neuropsychologist once suggested it may be healthiest for me to just accept it and move on — but I refuse to draw the line here. Because ultimately, I want it all.
My personal why comes out of the awareness that as I am today, I am not realized. I haven’t yet reached the minimum portion of my physical potential. Yes, my gains have been significant, but as they are now, they’re limited pretty much to only helping myself. I see mothers take care of their newborns, adjust their toddler daughters’ hairstyles, chase them around in play. As I am now? I’m limited. Limited to how much I can do to take care of my future children.
So this is not just a selfish pride thing. (Although a large part of it is, of course.) My recovery and fulfillment of my physical potential is for me; it’s for society (like future patients . . . more on this in a second), for my parents, my sister, my friends (so they don’t have to keep slowing down for me), for my lover (whom I’ll be able to embrace fully, and not only partially), for my future children, for you.
Future patients? Well, I’d like to heal the masses one day. As a physician, I’d rather not be limited to the sensation and strength of my right side.
But — and this is a more immediate why here — when I reach my total recovery and can do silly (silly, yet still very desirable to a young woman) things like go out wearing high heels again, I can most importantly set an example for any and all future patients of disability acquisition from brain, spinal cord, or whatever traumatic injury. And once someone’s seen it done — ideally, this will be the moment the diagnosticians stop telling you there’s no hope.
Because no matter what, as long as you are alive and your thoughts are intact — miracles can happen. You just have to try, and when you try, think of your why, and then try harder.
To our healing,