For as far as I can remember my life has revolved around one continuous schedule. While pursuing higher education my days consisted of studying, being shuffled from meeting to meeting for afterschool activities, volunteering in the community, attending networking conferences, making time for the gym, and friends. The cycle then continued while beginning my career with a demanding work schedule. I still scheduled ahead time for friends, the gym, hobbies like being a health blogger and volunteering, and more networking events. I thought sleep was a waste of time and had to constantly be in action and onto my next task.
Chronic pain has held me back from doing the sports I once loved and even some work settings. My body now has limits compared to what I could once do and only time will tell if those limits will remain. However, I realized I was wrong in how I was viewing this new challenge. I was narrowly thinking of life in one concrete way. I have found out more about myself and what I’m capable of through going through this experience and for that I am grateful for. I have learned to be kinder to my body, to find out what is essential in how I spend my time, and what matters most to me. There’s more than one way to workout (even if this means I’ll never be able to post a picture on Instagram with the ubiquitous #beastmode), to lead a productive life at a slower pace, to value time spent with the people that mean the most to me, to volunteer not with physical labor but with my mind and expertise, to go out and meet new people doing different activities, and to focus on meaningful work like fighting for a cause that I am truly passionate about.
Amy Purdy, defies what it means to live beyond limits. At 19 years old, she lost both of her legs below the knee due to bacterial meningitis. Purdy battled depression as this was not how she planned to live her life, but she overcame it by accepting her new life but not her limitations. Her new prosthetics were not working to allow her to continue snowboarding, but she didn’t let that stop her and she built her own. Now she is a world champion female adaptive snowboarder. She cofounded a non-profit organization, Adaptive Action Sports to introduce those with physical challenges to action sports.
Hugh Herr lost both of his legs due to a climbing accident. The accident did not hold him back from climbing again as he designed his own prosthetics to accomplish his goal. Herr returned to school to study engineering, and is now an engineer of prosthetics at MIT. His career is dedicated to helping others to get back to doing what they love and for some never imagined that they could do.
Focus on the positives. I read now more than ever, I am finally taking the time to learn a new language, and I work out daily. Focus on what you can do, or on filling in the gaps of how you can go about accomplishing what you currently can’t do. Most importantly, I’m still here. I’m still present and have a new outlook and appreciation for life. I am choosing to make a positive out of a negative life event. I refuse to be stuck in thinking about all the things that I cannot do.
You can still be a doer in life, you just have to be more creative in your process. There is more than one way to go about accomplishing something perhaps the technology or thought process is currently lagging, but it is not impossible. I have my voice, my mind, and my fighting spirit and as far as I’m concerned the sky is the limit in being able to make a difference. It starts with one person. I have reached out and partnered with healthcare providers and non-profit organizations in my city in attempts to organize support groups for those in chronic pain, to raise awareness, and to influence policy. Chronic pain is not going to hold me back, I’ve only just begun.