Friday, January 1, 2010
A Life Worth Living
Most of what I've learned from my experience, from aging, and from questioning and meeting others is that there is no set way in leading and being happy in life being happy in life. The basis of it needs to stand on a firm ground, which is living my life according to my beliefs and making sure that that core is unshakable. But to get to this point was too difficult at times. To be told numerous times I'd probably die in a six hour span, then to wake up days later in an intensive care unit unable to feel or move 95 percent of my body, breathing with a large plastic tube in my throat, surrounded and attached to numerous medical devices I'd only presume would be life support, made me think it would be easier to die at times. But I didn't. I lived. Dying was a passing thought. But there was a lot of time to think about other more difficult questions: what is the point of my life, and what will make me live a happy life?
The three years following my injury were a blur. I didn't feel human, and in a sense, I hated myself. I couldn't look in a mirror, not even gaze out of a window, fearing the reflection of myself sitting in a wheelchair would be enough to propel me into a downward spiral of negative thought and unending tears. I felt like an idiot, not being able to drink a glass of water on my own, go to the bathroom alone, almost everything had to be assisted. I didn't take showers. I didn't get haircuts -- I'd shave my head bald. I wore the same paper hospital pants everyday, and the same ratty shirt for three years. I wanted to blend in. I didn't want people to look at me, talk to me, notice me, or even think about me. All I did was therapy, for seven to eight hours a day, followed by eating and sleeping. I gained 30 pounds and couldn't care less. And then, Christopher Reeve passed away.
Suddenly superman was dead. He did it all. He advocated for stem cell research, pushed for spinal cord injury research and now, he vanished. And suddenly, I was left with feeling emptiness, followed by a sense of irresponsibility. What had I done to fight for a cure? What had I done to advocate for others with disabilities? What had I done other than wallow in self-pity? In a matter of seconds, my attitude shifted and I realized I need to do something, anything! As I did that, all of a sudden I looked at my pants and ugly t-shirt and, finally, in a mirror, and I saw a different person. This wasn't me. My skin was red, flaky, grey in spots, oily in some; I looked like a mess. I didn't even want to spend time with myself, so why would anyone else?