I’ve been reflecting on a lot of things recently and flicking through photos I may have physically changed but I’m still me. I mean, I struggled for years to come to terms with accepting the fact I’m in a wheelchair so much so that I was hardly in it. I have many demons and being out publicly in a wheelchair is one of them. I’m not one of these people who post daily photos of themselves, I would rather post a photo of the ocean or a flower! Don’t get me wrong there was a time when photos weren’t such an issue and I wasn’t so body conscience. But now sadly things couldn’t be more different. I know vanity isn’t everything but being young and in a wheelchair I’m extremely aware of how I look. I don’t tend to look at myself in the mirror anymore, the last time I looked in a full length mirror I cried as I didn’t like the person that was staring back at me. Oh how I would envy anyone who was a petite height and size. To me being 6 ft and being a average size just didn’t look right sitting in a wheelchair. The now untoned stomach muscles and the relaxation of my body being in my chair couldn’t make me feel any worse. I use to get away with wearing whatever I liked but now I sometimes struggle to find clothes that will look ok on me in a wheelchair, for example dresses, a floaty dress tends to swamp me and on the other hand a tight fitted dress can show the bumps I wish to cover up! I’m still learning with what suits me and what doesn’t as unfortunately there’s no written handbook! I was grieving for the person I use to be and I was undeniably self-sabotaging my healing process as I was ashamed to be seen in a wheelchair. I’m now slowly coming to terms with understanding that this is me now and I’m not necessarily always going to be like this.
That’s another reason why I keep active as I know it’s a vital part of me staying healthy. I know a lot of us find going to the gym, exercising and getting sweaty something but a chore but once we get started and get it done we get great satisfaction and feel accomplished. Moving our bodies is genuinely one of the biggest blessings we have but for some reason a lot of us tend to perceive this gift and just take it for granted. I know I use to have moments when I would contemplate missing Netball training or not go for a run because I couldn’t be bothered. I never really had a good enough excuse I was just being lazy plain and simple.
I haven’t been able to move my body the way most people do for almost 6 years now and those (almost) 6 years have been a massive chaotic struggle, even though I go to my gym every week day, exercise isn’t the same. Having limited arm movement and adapting exercises to facilitate my movement is extremely frustrating, tiring and difficult, but you know what…at the same time it’s incredibly rewarding. I’m one of those people where exercise is a massive part of my life, it has been ever since I was little. Exercise has been a massive part of who I am. The endorphin and energy rush that I use to get from working out gave me energy and allowed me to be my bubbly self. I now get that sense of achievement where I feel I’m doing exercise for a much bigger picture…to get better and become me again! As years go by in everyone’s life, things change, ambitions change and our goals change…from being in Salisbury hospital and being told I couldn’t use the arm bike because I didn’t have enough muscle movement to push the handles around, I was determined to prove the physio wrong. Everyday mum or Nelly would push me to the gym, strap my hands around the arm bike handles and encourage me to try my very best to push these handles around and build up some distance on the clock. Weeks went by and I never gave up, I finally did it, it wasn’t miles on the clock but I still manage to do it and the physio also witnessed it but simply walked on by…if only I could’ve flicked my middle finger at her because she just didn’t understand how important exercise was and still is to me. My goal since day 1 of my accident was to get better and to keep healthy and going to my gym allows me to do that. My view of exercise was entirely different 6 years ago because I genuinely didn’t realise how much of a privilege and blessing it is.
But unfortunately, I wish it didn’t take me losing the use of my legs and most of my upper body to realise how much I love them. I wish it didn’t take me not being able to run, swim, play netball, lift weights, throwing and catching to realise how much I lived for sport. I wish it didn’t take something so drastic to realise something so simple.
I’ve now accepted the fact life could be a whole lot worse and maybe I’ve been given this path in life as I needed to learn about myself. I needed to be angry at myself and the world before I saw things getting better. I used to scream and get frustrated by the way I looked in my chair but that’s improving. As for exercise…well my body and what it can do has changed a lot since my accident but now I have the biggest urge to push my body to its limits and experiment what exactly I’m capable of. I find, I can do new things every day from being able to feel from a touch on the tip of my thumb to my wrists having slight more movements in or finally having the arm strength to hit a ball. These are all things I couldn’t do but I can now. And with these little victories, it’s made me realise that I’m laughing harder, I’m smiling bigger and my heart is overflowing more than it ever has in my life. I’m learning and I’m accepting and I’m crying because yesterday was one of the best days of my life and I didn’t need to walk for it to be incredible.
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