“How a spinal cord injury changed my life – from independent to dependent”
I recently completed seven years of my spinal cord injury (SCI). This occasion definitely deserves a throwback by looking into these years and the changes I’ve had to face, accept, embrace, ignore, and many other things. But what prompted me to write this blog is a thought-provoking session at my company off-site which required all of us to share one incident that changed our lives.
To know more about what a spinal cord injury is, head over to my evergreen post: Demystifying spinal cord injury.
I’m gonna break down my thoughts into a series of posts. This first one is about my journey from being independent to dependent.
Before my spinal cord injury, I clearly remember times when I was extremely proud of myself for being independent. Living by myself in the big vivacious city of Mumbai. Being able to take off whenever and wherever I desired. Working hard and making my way through the corporate ladder, playing even harder to ensure that I am able to experiment with everything life has to offer. Challenging and embracing life was my second nature.
… to dependent
Cut back to present day, I’m living with a cervical spinal cord injury- paralysed below the shoulders. Which means that I cannot use my fingers to lift food, cannot use my back to sit straight, cannot use my obliques or my spine to turn in bed, cannot control my pee or when my bowel decides to take a dump, cannot use my legs to walk, and cannot use my toes to wriggle my feet inside a shoe.
While the above are basics, my spinal cord injury also implies I cannot hold anything with my hands, not even the hand of the people I love. I cannot wear a certain type of clothes because I will not able to manage them by myself. I cannot get carried away at times by sitting for long durations because that would mean risking a pressure sore.
I’m also dependent on someone else to put my perfume, pull my hair back, remove the laptop from my bag so that I can work, lift me from wheelchair to the car seat so that I can travel. When my helper is not around, I’m dependent on a family member, friends, colleagues and generally people around me to get through. If I don’t put a hard stop this list can go on and on. I’m sure you’re getting the drift of what I’m talking about here 😉
There is definitely a big change in how I look, how I do things and how I perceive myself. But, the one thing that has not changed is what I am on the inside. I have taken my time in accepting my new being, learning and adapting to different techniques of doing things and most importantly striving to be more kind and gentle with myself. It is a continuous process. So what if I need a helper to get ready in the morning! Don’t you hire to cook if you’re unable to prepare food by yourself? Don’t you hire a help to keep the house clean? Don’t we hire an electrician to fix broken circuits and appliances? We all take help with things we are not able to do by ourselves and that’s normal.
I have realised, with the help of my dimaag ke doctors, that what is the point of beating myself up for things I’m not able to do. The mindset is not helping me to feel better in that situation. It’s also not helping when I’m trying to move on in life.
I always need my helper, a constant companion, travel with an entourage and I’ve become more of a team worker than an individual achiever. That is the way I get things done now. That is my style now. That’s it.