This month, my journey continues with a new chapter. I am entering into a two-year program to earn a Master’s degree in Social Work at California State University of Long Beach.
What attracted me to the helping profession is my personal experience of desperately needing help myself. In fact, I needed help to do everything.
I went through the difficult process of recovering from a massive double brainstem stroke. I needed help surviving the long night. I needed help going through rehabilitation. I needed help restoring my health, my profession and my role in my family. Through this long, arduous journey of recovery, I gained a deep appreciation for the helping professions.
Due to the extensive brain injury, I had to start all over again from the beginning. Those of you who read my book, Paralyzed but not Powerless, will recall that during my recovery process I had to go within and rebuild and reinvent myself emotionally, mentally, and physically.
Like a baby learning to take my first steps, I learned how to eat, drink, swallow, speak, write, walk and to dress myself. And, I also learned to curse those clothing designers who put zippers and tiny buttons in the back of women’s clothing!
I decided to give back – by serving others the same way those who helped me survive and succeed. What better way than to become a counselor.
My experience recovering from complete paralysis gives me a unique opportunity to understand and counsel individuals who deal with various disabilities – especially newly acquired or developed handicaps and difficulties, visible or invisible, physical or psychiatric. My experience helps me give them hope that they can live a normal (or supernormal!) life as they go through their journey of recovery.
I know how it feels to struggle with seemingly insurmountable personal and physical challenges. I know firsthand what hard work is, and the feeling of uncertainty as they push through the fear of the unknown. I have been to a place very few people can even imagine. This experience has convinced me of the power, and resiliency of the human spirit. Perhaps that is why God gave me my experience.
My dear friend and one of the editors of my book, Paralyzed but not Powerless, says it this way, “Let’s appreciate the wonderful things that God blesses us with. It demonstrates our belief in Him. Let’s also appreciate the terrible things God puts us through. That demonstrates our faith in Him.” [Thomas Cantrell]
Many of you reading this, reached out to me during my recovery. Many have reached out to me during your own recovery – or to help your loved one with theirs. I thank God for all those wonderfully terrible experiences that allowed me to understand and assist helping all you wonderful people. I feel blessed to share my story, to work with families to help them and guide them by facilitating them as caregivers and helping them figure out how to be a caregiver in the most appropriate ways. “Appropriate” means the ways that give the person opportunity for maximum growth. Because of the help and support (the mistakes too) of my family and medical professionals, I am better equipped to explore options when the family feels stuck and, in a way, just as paralyzed as I was in their attempts to move forward and deal with their challenges.
Encouraging a total stranger in their recovery is very gratifying. It is from these experiences, that my desire to become a Social Worker developed. Join me on this new phase of my journey as I help others on their path. Your letters, your input and feedback, your ideas, your stories, are invaluable to me – so please keep writing. You help me help them. When they heal, perhaps they, too, will have the blessing and opportunity of helping others on their paths of recovery.