Over 32 years ago, I lay in a hospital bed with a metal halo screwed into my skull, immobilizing my neck. I had a C5/C6 injury due to a motor vehicle accident caused by a drunk driver. I was paralyzed from the collarbones down, parts of my arms and my hands and needed a tracheotomy to breathe. I was scared, depressed and angry. How could this happen to me? I was independent, adventurous and athletic. This does not happen to people like myself. I didn't know where I was going to live nor how I was going to manage physically and financially. If someone told me then that someday I would actually be grateful in some ways for my disability, I would've screamed at them that they were out of their mind!
But the years passed and I began to realize that this massive hurdle that was thrown at me as a young adult, came with unexpected gifts that slowly rose to the surface, often difficult to identify through my tunneled negative vision.
The older that I get, the more in touch I am with myself and the more that I have learned to embrace the positives. We all have obstacles, relatively speaking, that are overwhelming at times but if we force ourselves to look introspectively, we will see that those challenges are actually the tools that have sculpted us into the person that we have become.
That doesn't necessarily mean I rejoice over having a disability – it's frustrating and difficult beyond words sometimes but if you are able to see the glimmer of light throughout those tough times, they are not only bearable but much easier to overcome.
Many years ago, I was complaining about everything that had gone wrong that day and my friend suggested that I get a journal and each day, enter five things for which I was grateful. Sounds easy right? At first it was next to impossible and I would sit racking my brain trying to think of anything positive of yet another crappy day. But then gradually I started to learn to shift my mind and way of thinking to see things with a different perspective.
Fifteen years later, I have no idea what became of the journal but every night before I go to sleep, I think of five positive aspects of my day, trying not to use the same ones over and over again. It may be as simple as a smile from a stranger or pretty sunset. The exercise actually calms me and helps me go to sleep.
Often we can not change our circumstances but we can strive to change how we deal with them. Thinking positive can be challenging but not impossible, especially if you work at it. Given that we are coming into the season of thankfulness, we at mobileWOMEN.org came together to share some of the reasons why we are thankful for our disability:
- I am so grateful for all the amazing people, especially other “mobileWOMEN” that I have met due to my disability. Even though we come from different backgrounds, there is an undeniable bond that creates a deep connection.
- My disability has taught me to have empathy for others. I truly did not understand what it meant to have compassion for others’ struggles until I lived through my own.
- My disability taught me that I want to help people. Working with older adults for over 20 years who are now facing their own disabilities, it has taught me to understand the sudden changes they go through or the losses they face. It has also taught me to directly address them and not act like they are not present when family or staff are present.
- My disability has taught me perseverance. My disability has taught me that there are always multiple ways to accomplish something, and the perseverance to find my own best way of doing something with a positive attitude is a quality that I'm proud of and something that other people often comment about as lacking in other people they meet.
- My disability has taught me how to be responsible. I have lots of fun in life and live life to the fullest, but having unique aspects of dealing with everything from my medical care to making sure that my chair stays in good working order has taught me to be responsible at the same time.
- Living with my disability has taught me patience. Not everything can be done quickly and some tasks require resourcefulness, and so I grew into a fairly patient individual.
- I've learned to look beyond the receipt of a person and a situation. Things are definitely not always what they seem!
- My disability taught me to be a great listener because I understand the importance of support.
- Disability taught me to understand what prejudice is like and be more compassionate to anyone or group who has faced their own bigotry. Not saying I'm perfect with this, but I pay attention and try to be more empathetic.
- My disability taught me to be strong and that I am a survivor.
By Wendy Crawford and themobileWOMEN.org Team. Please visit our Facebook page and share with us why you are grateful for your disability.