From the blank stares, to the worried stares, to the curious stares, to the ‘I remember you’ stares, to the ‘I’m pretending not to look’ stares, and to the quick glances that really aren’t that quick… It is human nature and it will never change. It instantly becomes one’s blunt reality the moment they transition from walking to wheeling.
Since the very first moments of my MS diagnosis, the thought of life in a wheelchair instantly entered my mind and it was a thought I DREADED becoming a reality. I simply couldn’t fathom how that type of life could be filled with happiness or success. Always being an athlete, with sports an integral part of my being, I just could not see how life would or could ‘go on’ in a wheelchair. I literally saw it as the absolute worst case scenario, and never imagined my mind would change. Why would it? In the beginning, despite my diagnosis, I was still fully able-bodied and I was still fully able to do everything I wanted, the WAY I wanted.
However, it was only two years post diagnosis when the downward spiral began. Little by little, my mobility dwindled away and so did my zest for life, smile, laughter, and positive outlook on my future.
Each day I fought SO hard to take microscopic steps, and instead of celebrating a win on the court, I began celebrating the days I was able to walk to the bathroom, cook a meal, stand for a mere 30 seconds, successfully step off of a curb, or complete any other task I once took for granted.
Only two years post diagnosis, the person I was became the person I never thought I’d be. My ability to drive and work quickly became luxuries I used to have, and were additional pieces of my independence that were snatched right out of my hands.
I spent day after day crying more hours than not, and each and every day was filled with nerve pain, chronic fatigue, and the unknowns of my future. My ability to contribute to my family became less and less, and my purpose in life became almost nonexistent.
Just when I thought things couldn’t get any worse, life proved me wrong and my worst case scenario became my harsh reality. The energy exerted to take two simple steps was no longer functional and this girl became “The Girl in the Wheelchair.”
You may be wondering why I reference myself in this way, and the simple answer is that I have learned how to OWN it. Yup, it was a turn of events I never saw coming. Wouldn’t you think my worst case scenario coming to fruition would launch me further into a life of misery? YA, me too… but it didn’t!
The moment I became a daily wheelchair user was the moment I regained my independence. I no longer had to rely on an arm to hold or a wall to grab. I no longer had to avoid going places I so desperately wanted to be, and best of all, I no longer had to play victim to my illness. Living in a wheelchair started to highlight all the things I was now ABLE to do, and it triggered my persistent pursuit of becoming an athlete once again.
I have said it many times before, and I’ll say it again, Wheelchair Tennis has changed my life. I know, it’s a pretty bold statement to make about a sport right? But it’s the truth. Wheelchair Tennis opened my eyes to all I could be despite my illness, and all the aspects of my life I could regain including my independence, confidence and overall happiness. My first time being back on the court rather than beside it, was a moment of empowerment and surrealism.
I developed the ability to see the world through a different lens, and started practicing gratitude on a regular basis. I lived each day with my life-changing quote as guidance and a daily reminder of all the things I have gained rather than lost.
“There’s ALWAYS someone who would love to have your bad days.”
No quote has ever resonated with me more deeply, and no quote is more true. Although my situation is one that presents a multitude of challenges, I know there are SO many people who have it worse and would trade places with me in an instant. It was during this time of self reflection when I began to realize that a wheelchair isn’t disabling at all. I not only learned how to survive in it, I learned how to THRIVE in it.
Of course living life in a chair is far from ideal, but it is also far from the ‘worst case scenario’ I had pinned in my mind. I’m still fully aware of all the different types of looks I receive, but I no longer see this in a negative light. I can once again enter a room with confidence, knowing that a wheelchair is merely a mode of transportation and one I am grateful to have. I know that people will often wonder what happened, and it will always be my story to tell, when and how I wish.
I know that no matter what I do, I will always stand out in a crowd, and this is a fact I have learned to embrace. Whether I’m remembered from an interesting conversation, a sparkly accessory, or as the girl in the wheelchair, it’s neither here nor there, because true confidence comes from within.
Do I still have dark days? ABSOLUTELY. I have days I still wonder why. I have days I still break down and cry, and I have days I still dream about the person I used to be. No day is easy and often the pain is unbearable to the point no words can describe. I have many days I don’t know how I am going to do it, and EVERY day I wish I could do more. I have MULTIPLE reasons why this isn’t fair and MULTIPLE symptoms I just can’t ignore. But regardless of the battles we face, it is the overcoming of these moments that strengthens us, shapes us and prepares us for the mental resilience needed to succeed in this life.
It’s through ALL the adversity overcome, battles won, and grieving the loss of myself, that I have learned one simple yet crucial life lesson:
No matter how difficult, how painful, how exhausting, or how emotionally draining it may be, OWNING our OWN reality is what it’s all about.
#thegirlinthewheelchair #truth #lifelessons #ownit #thrive #adversity #determination #persistency #multiplesclerosis #MSawareness #wheelchairtennis #personaljourney #overcomingobstacles #confidence