Happy New Year

Reprinted from PN/Paraplegia News January 2015

Getting through the holiday season can be tough, but knowledge overcomes fear.

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Whether you’re newly injured or a seasoned para or quadriplegic, you just finished a season filled with emotional contradictions. Some moments were glorious, some were horrible, and now many of you are trying to make sense of it all.

I could give you the answer in one sentence. But then what are we going to do with the rest of this page? Well, don’t worry. I’ve never let you guys down before, right? I’m not about to do so now.

First, whatever problems you had over the holidays, they just made you more normal. ‘Huh?’ you say. Remember this: If you’re a struggling para, at least you are not a struggling quad. If you’re a struggling quad, at least you’re not an alone, struggling quad. If you’re an alone, struggling quad, at least you’re not a homeless, alone, struggling quad.

If you’re a homeless, alone, struggling quad, get your butt to the nearest United States Department of Housing and Urban Development-Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Supportive Housing office so you can get some assistance.

After that, think about the people diagnosed with cancer, depression, multiple sclerosis (MS) or one of the many family members who lost a brother, sister, mother or father, because of one of the many auto accidents that occurred over the holidays.

Fear Is Manageable

This brings me to the topic of the month, knowledge overcomes fear.

I’ve met many newly-injured veterans and civilians over the past few years and see the same emotion early on in the injury experience — fear.

Although this emotion is entirely normal and expected, it’s also manageable. The fear is because of the lack of understanding of how your future is going to turn out.

Before the accident, we were all pretty sure of what was going to happen in our futures. Then we wake up and everything is turned upside down in an instant once we realize we can no longer move our arms, legs or both.

What you need is a plan. Whether or not you have support of loved ones, family or professionals, you serve yourself best by learning all you can about your particular condition, whether it’s MS or spinal-cord injury or disease (SCI/D).

Knowledge Is Power

What can knowledge do for you?

You can cancel all the surprises you’ll be in for as you travel down the road of this injury. For example, my first year I had more than a few bowel accidents and couldn’t understand why.

I started reading about the digestive system. I learned sugar can loosen the stool and excess sugar can cause diarrhea. So, I immediately began drastically cutting down on my sugar intake — not completely, but substantially.

I had one man refuse to read about his condition because he didn’t want to accept what was going to happen to him. One thing we all have to come to terms with is this condition isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

Yes, there are people working on methods to repair SCI/D, but at this present level of technology and skill, our best bet of creating a successful life is learning how to cope physically and mentally with our condition as soon as possible.

Also, many people don’t seem to understand that any type of financial support you’re receiving from the government is only temporary. It’s a return of the money you paid into the system while you were working. Those who are service connected are receiving a pension under a different set of circumstances.

The disability payments are eventually going to disappear and without preparation, your life is going to drop in quality along with it. However, now you can do something about it.

Happiness Is A Choice

First of all, you can return to school, possibly with a scholarship, such as one at the University of Southern

California sponsored by the Swim with Mike program.

Additionally, you can check with your state’s vocational rehabilitation program for assistance in going back to school or training for a new profession you can perform from your wheelchair.

There’s a good movie I recommend called Just a Little Inconvenience, starring Lee Majors, about a double amputee returning from Vietnam.

My point, and one made in the movie, is when I stop by the VA,

I bump into some of the cheeriest people I know. I also bump into some of the angriest people I know.

What you need to understand is that their happiness, or lack of it, has nothing to do with their surroundings. Their happiness has everything to do with their choices to be happy.

I can be a source of light or a source of darkness. I choose to bring light to whatever room I may enter. This is the first month of the rest of the year and it’s 2015. Whatever happened last year, let it go.

Let’s look ahead and make a promise to ourselves to make the next 364 days our best ever.


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