As I progressed through graduate school in my chosen field of social work, certain classes brought up wounds that I still suffer on a daily basis.
Prior to my stroke, I was a vibrant active young mother with two toddlers. I loved working out at the gym, or roller skating on the bike path at the beach with my kids in the jogger. Exercise was a big part of my life. Yes, I was perhaps a little vain about my physical appearance. Much of my self-worth was based upon how I looked on the outside. Body changes that I suffered on the outside adversely affected me on the inside.
I went to sleep on June 28, a physically fit and happy young mother and woke up early the next morning completely paralyzed. At the hospital, the doctors said I had less than one in a million odds to survive – that they might as well let me go – and they said this within a few feet of my bed!
My stroke put me through the 5 Stages of Grief described by Kubler-Ross: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
In the early stages of my recovery, I did not know how far I could or would progress. Every day was a challenge. It took a long time before I eventually came to understand that I would never again regain the full use of my left side.
I am so thankful for the social workers who guided and supported me through this time in my life. Their example planted the seed that eventually led to my seeking a higher education. Through my education, I learned to sharpen my counseling skills so that I could better serve those who have experienced a loss.
Even though I have overcome many challenges, my life today, just like yours remains challenging. When I was first trying to deal with recovery from my stroke, I found that I would have constant challenges including endless reminders of what I had lost.
For example, getting dressed in the morning; I still cannot perform the small tasks that required the use of two hands. I was forced to learn how to adjust living in a two handed world with the use of one working arm and hand. I needed help to get through this time in my life.
In the early days of my recovery, I had a wonderful compassionate social worker who guided me (thank you Amy!) through my mental depression that enhanced the burden of my physical paralysis. She simply would not allow my depression to paralyze me even further. Physical therapy has been an ongoing process, as well as, my continued determination to focus on what I can do and not get lost in what I could not do.
My long journey has taught me what it takes to get unstuck and help others get unstuck and how to move forward. I have a disability. Yes. But I am not defined by my disability; nor will I define anyone else by theirs. We all have some kind of disability. Some things are harder for us, but doesn’t that only make us to try harder and get stronger and better – not despite our disabilities, but because of them!