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A few years ago after my spinal cord injury I was in a pretty bad place. Not that I’m not occasionally in a bad place now but I felt so different then my old self. I used to be pretty active. I prided myself on how fast I could walk. When I worked for Southwestern Bell Telephone Company we used to have an hour for lunch. I would jet out of that building like a bullet. I enjoyed the feeling of getting many tasks done in that lunch hour. Even when I was just a secretary I always prided myself on my speed and accuracy of doing all of my work. Being fast is definitely something you leave behind for a long time after a Spinal Cord Injury.
Even though it felt as if it was a whole different world I think I did a pretty good job at keeping a good attitude. In the hospital I dug in right away and concentrated on getting the job done and getting home. When the doctors discovered I had a blood clot in my spinal cord they moved me immediately to Acute Rehab for several weeks. It was a whirlwind of Occupational Therapy, Physical therapy, tending to the incisions in my back, dealing with the nerve damage and lots and lots of blood tests! I even got lessons on how to take a shower, how to do the dishes, make coffee, etc… When you’ve had a person sit and watch you take a shower and give you tips on it then you know a little bit of what it’s like being handicapped. You are really at the mercy of another’s kindness, patience and how deep their dedication to another human being is. I have to say that the majority of the people there were so lovely and so hard working. From the doctors to the cleaning staff, I encountered kindness for the entire three weeks I was there and for the years that I went back on an outpatient basis. One of the nurse’s assistants was so caring that she would take my white Ted stockings and wash them out each evening and hang them on the bar on the wall to dry. Another sweet lady would sneak my laundry into the floor washer and dryer and bring it all back smelling clean and folded nicely the next morning. Yet another would save an extra oat bran muffin for me every day and bring me that with a cup of coffee in the afternoon. I will have to say that I was a really great patient. I knew these people were there to help and I felt bad because there were many many older people that had suffered strokes or had dementia on the floor. These poor folks were angry and confused and would have fits of despair where they would pull their IVs out and fight against the staff. I didn’t want to cause any more trouble for anyone then I had to and I’m a pretty polite person anyway. I always thanked the nurse’s for everything. I had to be turned a couple of times a night and I had to use a commode on the side of the bed. You can never do those things without help. Especially at night because I had those inflatable things on my legs that constantly pumped circulation and I had the big boots on my feet to prevent drop foot. All of that would have to come off every time I had to go to the bathroom. The night nurse/assistant team was especially wonderful. The male nurse had a southern accent and he would come in with the sweetest greeting. I always thanked him every time and he always said, “Jeanne, you are the nicest patient I’ve ever had!” So sweet. The little lady that cleaned the rooms was also an absolute angel! She was from the Philippines and her name was Filly. She would come in and sit down and chat with me almost every day. She took such an interest in Emily and the years that I went back for checkups I would see her and we would always hug each other and she always asked how Emily was and wanted to hear all about what she was doing. She never failed to tell me how wonderful I looked and how well I was doing. I’ll tell you there is not enough money in the world that these hard working people can get payed for doing what they do. It can make such a difference in someone’s life when another person obviously cares about their job. The only time I cried during my time there was one day when I tried to hike my knee up onto the bed to get in instead of sitting down first. That had always been such a habit of mine that I did it without even thinking. Well, I twirled around and fell flat on my butt onto the floor. A male assistant named Ivan came running in and lifted me up and helped me back in bed. I immediately burst into tears! Another female assistant (I’m sorry that I can’t remember her name) came in and actually held me for the longest time and let me cry it out. She spoke softly to me the whole time. Both her and Ivan were a different nationality similar to Russian but I’m not sure what. That beautiful accent and her words were incredibly soothing. I still marvel at the kindness that I was shown that day. It still melts my heart. I’m so glad I took the time to write each one of these people a thank you note and have the doctor give them out for me. It actually was rather hard to remember all of their names. The amount of medicine that they put you on after a spinal cord injury is mind blowing! Just to remember all of their names even a month later was difficult. But I’m so happy I did. I often think about registering my dogs as service animals and taking them to visit hospitals. Someone did this when I was there and I was just thrilled because I missed my own dogs so much. I really think I am going to follow up on this and see what it would take. It would be nice to do something for the people in long term care and try to make someone’s day a bit better. I have gone through so much with this injury but I am happy that I can still look and find the good. It’s all a matter of perspective and attitude. You really have a choice each day whether to accept something for what it is and look for the good in it or fight against it and be miserable. I was a Mom that wanted to get home to my kids and my pets. Who has time to miserable? You can look at the same picture and see something more than one way and each way can be beautiful if you look for it.
Do I sound like some sort of Pollyanna? I don’t mean to be a cliché. I I’m just trying to say that no matter what trials that you encounter in life try to find the goodness in the world. I really don’t buy into the thought that everything happens for a reason because it doesn’t. Kids die, whole cities sink to the ground in earthquakes or homes are wiped out by tornadoes. The only reason those things happen is because the world is a hard place and we are all susceptible to the elements and to accidents and diseases. But when things do happen that are bad hopefully we all have it within us to try to at least find a way to have more good days than bad. And while we are at it maybe we can find a way to make someone else have more good days than bad. Get out and look at people’s faces and smile at them and try to make connections. I’m so happy that this event in my life made me more open to finding connections. I have the best friends of my life in my groups on Facebook. Most of them are through my Adoptive Moms group. These are the sweetest most loving ladies in the world that I’ve never met (with a few exceptions). I don’t think I would have made these amazing friends if I hadn’t gone through what I did. It made me thankful for human connection and for seeing that people can be kind to each other. It’s more important than ever in this life to seek positivity. I sought and I found. If I am down and I need advice or a shoulder to cry on then help is only a few clicks away. I can get advice or just understanding but most of all a lot of love! In turn I’ve found that I want to be nice and supportive and I love making someone’s day. It really doesn’t take much. The biggest thing that helps people is to listen to them, validate that their feelings are real and either help them solve a problem or simply be the person that offers a shoulder to cry on. XXOO
Every day is a new day to me. Yesterday I felt really sad and really sorry for myself. I listened to my favorite singer, Josh Groban singing “You’ll never walk alone” and I sobbed in my car. Don’t get me wrong, I know I have it better than a lot of people. I don’t have cancer, my children are all healthy, we have a house with a big yard and plenty of beautiful birds in that yard flying around and making music to make me and themselves happy. But yesterday none of it helped. I have a spinal cord injury from a spinal subdural hematoma incurred during a spinal fusion surgery. I have pain and numbness from the waist down plus partial paralysis. I also have scarring on my spinal nerves that I’ve been told will grow and make my bowel, bladder and lower body weaker and more disabled. It’s progressive, there is no cure and the only treatment is nerve and pain pills. This makes me sad and scared and so tired. I’ve changed with the progression for the last 6 years since the surgery and I think I’ve done a pretty damn good job of adjusting over and over depending on what the day brings. It’s an ongoing dance of depression vs. hope. I belong to many groups on Facebook. Pretty much one for every condition I have. Most of them are wonderful and informative and inspiring. Most of them are filled with hopeful people that have bad days like I do but go on and live life to the best of their ability. But there are a few cons in opening yourself up to so many people. The risk of encountering the type of people that post these types of things day in and day out:
“All it takes is a beautiful fake smile to hide an injured soul and they will never notice how broken you really are”
“You asked me what was wrong. I smiled and said nothing. When you turned around a tear came down and I whispered… Everything is…”
“I’m exhausted from trying to be stronger than I feel”
“Why is this only happening to me?”
Really? Well listen, I know what depression is. I’m no stranger to it and I’m honestly not trying to minimize the impact that it has on a person. But I can’t accept that it’s my lot in life. I HAVE to try. I HAVE to have a plan. And when plan A doesn’t work then I have a plan b, c, d, e and so on. Do I have days that I have to sit back and cry? Yes, often. I have times of stress, times where I say, “I hate my life, I hate my life”. But I try my damnest to get past this and move on.
What gets me through the hard days? My kids, my husband, my friends, my dogs and cats, my backyard, the birds, squirrels, chipmunks, trees, the veins in every leaf, a huge cucumber or little baby watermelon growing in the garden and a thousand other things. I let them take me over and fill me up so I can feel the light again. And kindness… Every day I strive to be kind. When the Dalai Lama said his religion was kindess it really spoke to me. I want to make things better for everyone. I need my friends! I need my family! But they need me too. Everyone can have an impact on someone else’s day. That feeling of being needed, the joy that you can give to someone else just by seeing them and acknowledging their goodness is what helps me day to day. And my dreams… I dream constantly. I look at pictures, I listen to songs, I make modge podge birdhouses or picture frames with pictures of my dream places torn out and pasted on or pinned to Pinterest or on my facebook cover photo or on my phone background. I dream and I plan. Mostly it’s about the beach. I love the beach, I love the seagulls, I love the sunset and the sand and the smell of the ocean! I often say I will someday be that old tan lady walking around on the beach with my boobs down to my knees, tattoos on my arms, a tiny little nose ring and a bucket full of seashells. I love my dreams and my plans. I couldn’t live without them. I couldn’t live without the silky feel of my dogs fur beneath my hands or the loud purr of my kitties when they lay next to me and beg me to pet them. The love of animals and nature is a healing presence in my life every day.
What doesn’t help me besides long drawn out pity parties? The following sentiments: “God only gives us what we can handle”, “We are chosen to feel this pain so we can be warriors and we don’t know why but we will know when we get to Heaven”, “There’s a reason for everything”, It’s meant to be”, etc. etc. etc. I can’t deal with that. I don’t know where I am at in my beliefs right now. I only know that I don’t know. I want to believe, I am dying to believe but I don’t know what I can believe. I do think that there has to be an intelligent entity in the world because there is so much beauty and intricacy in everything around us that it can’t just have happened randomly. But is there a God up there that knows me personally? Knows my whole life and knows what has happened and what will happen and is controlling it for some unknown reason? Well Gawd I hope not. And if this is the case, I’m sorry… I don’t want to know that person and I think it’s ridiculous.
Anyway, these are my thoughts on this auspicious occasion of my first blog. I hope someone can identify with me and my struggle. I hope that if I can keep sharing what helps me I can possibly help one person.
Until then, spread kindness. Smile at people every day especially people that look like they really need it. Compliment someone or many someones every day. Make their day and maybe your day will be made. Thanks for listening and peace to you.