I think there are stages to everything in life, stages you simply have to work through and experience. I mean, there are stages you go through in school, there are stages you go through in your professional life, and there are definitely stages in dealing with loss. I’m sure everyone’s been through what I’m talking about in some way or another. Maybe it was the loss of a job, maybe it was the loss of a friend or family member. I guess I’ve been dealing with my own little menagerie of loss since May. Loss of career aspirations. Loss of sensations. Loss of motor function. And on and on and on. No matter what it is, loss is hard. More simply put, loss sucks. I googled stages of loss and apparently there are five. Five stages you go through as you learn how to cope with your new situation.
Denial…anger….bargaining….depression…..all leading up to acceptance.
It just feels good to say doesn’t it? Like a big sigh of relief after all these hard and terrible things. The rainbow after the storm. But getting there…man is that rough. Somedays it feels like your pulling on a door that says push. I’ll be the first to say it, life is everything but enjoyable when you’re at a place in your life where you don’t even accept who you are. When I was first injured, acceptance was the last thing on my agenda. I guess I didn’t even realize it until I think back on that time now–like my own personal form of denial. I mean, I knew I couldn’t walk and if I ever did regain motor function, it honestly would be a miracle. But I didn’t want to take in this whole situation..Hmmmm, let me explain.
For starters, I hated seeing myself in the mirror while I was first in the hospital. Heck, I avoided mirrors at all costs. I mean, there were mirrors on the back wall of the elevator, and I would always push in backwards so I wouldn’t have to see myself. I hated seeing the wheelchair. I hated seeing my tracheotomy awkwardly sticking out of my neck. I hated seeing myself in that stupid TLSO brace .
When the trach did come out, I remember staring at myself in the mirror for at least 5 minutes straight. It was like I had forgotten what I looked like… I also didn’t like the word wheelchair. I actually asked my Mom and those around me to call it “my chair.” I guess I wasn’t ready to accept that I needed one to get around. I had filled my head with all of these negative perceptions about wheelchairs and people who used them and I wasn’t ready to accept that that…was me.
I remember going to the Denver Zoo mid-August and one of the first things we did was go and see this elephant show. It was super cool and I can honestly say I never related to an elephant until I saw one roll over, then I felt like we had a lot in common…But anyways, to watch the show, I had to sit in handicapped seating. A little section of cement instead of a bench with that rigid little blue and white man staring back at me. It was a lot to take in for someone who had always thought she would never use that space until she was old and gray, but there I sat.
It’s been a journey to say the least coming to the point in my life where I accept myself again. And you know, I don’t just accept myself, I love myself for who I am and all that I now stand for and have to fight for. I love that I get to challenge the perceptions of those that happen to encounter me on a daily basis. I love my wheelchair and it’s awesome lime green-ness and I plan to punch anybodies lights out who tries to take it away when I’m not sitting in it. In the world we live in today, it’s easy to listen to all of societies reasons to not love yourself. But you know, they simply aren’t true.
I am different now. But I accept my differences. Heck, I love my differences. Cause that’s how I roll.