It’s not very well known that I love talking about how I ended up in a wheelchair… a lot… no seriously, a whole lot. Of course it can make for some awkward conversation with me laughing at being in a near fatal accident, or trying to tell someone with a straight face, “I got off lucky by only losing movement and sensation in most of my body”. It is however the reality of the situation and I genuinely embrace every aspect of this new life that I am aware of. I found that talking about my experience is therapeutic for me on a psychological and emotional level. This wasn’t always the case though.
There was a time when I lived my life on the basis that the accident was in the past and should not be talked about, by or to me, no matter what. Funny enough, I remember the therapist (psychologist) at the spinal rehab unit trying repeatedly to get me to talk about my then recent accident and what I was going through: A whole human being who got paid to listen to me ramble on about my problems… what I would give for that now. Of course I never gave him a chance, not even close. Not while I was in so much denial. In fact, it wasn’t until over a year after leaving hospital, almost two years after “D-Day”, I realised most people around me could not relate to me because no one knew what was going on in my head. So I decided to try telling people how I really felt. “What’s the worst that could happen”, I told myself. A couple conversations later and you couldn’t shut me up. I would tell my story to a house plant if it would listen. And no question was or is too intrusive, in fact, the deeper the question the more I enjoyed answering. Worst case scenario, if I don’t like a question, I don’t answer.
The most surprising part of all this was that as much as I enjoyed getting it all off my chest, that wasn’t why I loved sharing so much. It was the reactions of those I was talking to. That face that says, “If you never told me that, I would never have thought of it that way”. The knowledge that you’ve just given someone else a glimpse into a world they will probably never see but they come across every day. The thought of them meeting someone like myself (be it disabled, spinally injured or in a wheelchair) and not feeling awkward or nervous; in fact, enjoying the interaction, because they can relate to something about that person a little better. The more I spoke about my experiences, the lighter I felt, but more importantly, the more of that reaction I saw on peoples’ faces. The more I heard people show gratitude for learning something that opened there eyes just that bit more, the stronger the sense of purpose I felt to keep sharing. And all I had to do was be myself.
So I started writing a blog. This very blog you’re reading.
I’d wanted to start one, or at least something similar for years now. I had indeed attempted one a few years back. It was dull, hard to focus on, but more than anything, I hadn’t figured out what my message was: Mostly because I hadn’t figured out most of my problems at the time. So all I had to write was… just that… problems, unresolved depressing problems. Writing it made me feel worse than I already did and it didn’t get passed two posts. It wasn’t until I learned to start loving myself again and view my experiences as a source of strength, and not pain, did I have the courage to share. But still, nothing could have prepared me for the reactions from others. I expected all the usual comments: “You’re so strong”, “You’re so inspirational” (that one doesn’t even register anymore, but more on that later). But I wasn’t prepared for people saying they understood THEMSELVES better; or they would try and live THEIR own lives better, after reading what I had to write. It wasn’t the praises and well wishes that got me, it was the people who felt THEIR own lives were better off, those who left my blog a little smarter, a little more caring, a little more aware. Those were the people that made me feel I was doing something good, because I had helped THEM in some way. Hardly anything is more rewarding.
So imagine my elation when someone from my solicitors at Brethertons got in touch about working on a project where I could potentially share my experience with A LOT more people.
Ok before I go any further, a little background on Brethertons. Very soon after my injury, it became glaringly clear my life was about to become ridiculously and unnecessarily difficult, and not for the obvious reasons. Brethertons stepped in and made a lot of that extra stress go away, permanently. I actually intend to do a series of posts detailing how they helped and this new project fits right into those plans.
The idea was to make a series of informative videos for people affected by spinal injury, directly or indirectly, and anyone else willing to learn a thing or two about spinal injury. And I’d be doing it the old fashioned way: talking. Of course I jumped at the idea. The videos in this post are the first results of our collaboration.
The day of filming was actually one of the most enjoyable and productive experiences I’ve had in a while. I spoke for over two hours (could’ve been a lot longer) and then did a couple camera shots to flesh out the video: The most fun ones being having a camera strapped onto my chair. I felt like an X-Wing pilot (not so subtle Star Wars reference there). The whole thing lasted about five hours but it honestly felt too short. Thanks in no small part to Millie and Declan from Media Spaces who filmed and conducted the interview.
All in all, this whole thing has cemented the idea in my head that I can build a career out of something I love doing – Helping others. There are other ways I’ve learned to help others, but all those are worthy of their own posts. In the meantime, check out these first videos and hopefully you learn something from them.
Till next time, stay awesome.