As a follower of my posts, I would imagine that as you go about your life, you work hard to think positively, focus on your successes not your failures, and find the good in any situation. You may not always succeed in this endeavor, but you try your best. That is great, and I live my life the same way. In fact, fostering this type of mindset in others is one of the goals of Roll Models. As much effort as you make to focus on the good and not the bad though, there are going to be difficult times in your life. There are going to be moments that it seems as if the stars are aligned against you, where nothing goes as planned, and no matter what you do things keep getting worse. How you handle these moments when adversity rears its ugly head will play a large part in shaping your life, as well as your overall level of happiness. I was recently reminded of this critical fact of life one day last week.
For me to get up and around and out the door in the morning is a very carefully and well choreographed production. Not only do I need to do everything “normal” people do to get moving, but also about a thousand other things related to my wheelchair and disability. On top of that, I am not a morning person and my body is the most stiff and sore when I wake up, so until my morning meds kick in after breakfast, I am not exactly operating at maximum efficiency to say the least. That being said, my nurses and I have my morning routine down to an art. We can get everything done in a reasonable amount of time without hurting me and be out the door. We don’t even have to speak much, we just know the drill. We almost function like a pair of ice dancers who never speak on the ice, but they always know what the other is going to do. Also like two ice dancers, even the smallest mistake can throw off the entire routine from that point on, and once things start to unravel, they can fall apart pretty quickly. This is exactly what happened on one unfortunate day last week.
The first portion of my morning activities went well, and it was a beautiful, warm day outside. I have been trying to make myself wake up earlier to enjoy more of my day, and I had been successful all week at avoiding the “snooze” button. Even more importantly, my body was tolerating being up longer quite well, so I was in a good mood. I had a bunch of errands to run, including getting some important medication at the pharmacy, so I needed to get up and out the door to make sure I had time to get everything done. Even though I was going to spend my day riding in my van, completing meaningless tasks, I was actually kind of looking forward to being out on one of the first nice days in a while. If I had known what the day had in store for me though, I probably would have just stayed in bed.
Everything started off innocently enough. It was when I was all dressed and ready, and it was time to transfer me into my wheelchair that the problems started. Since transferring me is a 2 person job, every day at various times I have a second nurse scheduled to come in for 5 minutes to assist my current nurse with moving me into or out of my wheelchair. On this day though, the scheduled time came and no one showed up. I was stuck in bed. Strike one. I called the nursing agency, and they started trying to find someone else to come help. After about 45 minutes of being stuck in bed, the replacement arrived, and I could get up to begin my day. I was a bit irked, but I rallied and maintained my high spirits. I choked down a few “Apple Jacks,” put on a spritz of my Clinique “Happy” cologne to encourage optimistic thinking, and started getting ready to leave. My nurse was putting my shoes on (some fly black Cortez sneakers), like we have done a million times before, and as she was lifting my foot I feel my knee pop and a sharp pain shoot up my leg. Strike two. Not only was I in substantial pain, but in my experience when your body pops it is not a good thing. We had to wait for the pain spasms to subside, and then take the time to make sure no real damage had been done. Luckily, it wasn’t too serious, and after this 30 minute delay, we were finally able to get out the door. We were over an hour behind schedule, but we still had time to get all of the more important stuff done, so once again I pulled it together and sustained my good mood. We got me loaded into the “Drotarcade,” got my chair locked down, and started up the van. My nurse goes to shift into gear, and all of a sudden I don’t hear the purr of the engine. It had cut out. After starting it and having it die immediately a few times, I concluded that something was wrong, and I was not going anywhere. Strike three.
Now, a lot of people at this point would just throw their hands up, say “fine, you win,” and walk away hoping that someone else will deal with this. Basically, they would give in to adversity. They would give up. As a disabled person, I don’t have that luxury. My life has way too many moving parts and is far too complex for me to just wait for things to get better. For me, how I respond to adversity can be the difference between life and death. If I let my emotions take over and walk away from a tough situation, things can very quickly and without notice get so much worse. So as bad as things can be sometimes, like on this terrible day, I cannot give up. I will not give up. Instead, I meet these obstacles head on, and then do whatever it takes to overcome them.
So, we got me back out of the van and back in to my apartment. After spending about 15 minutes doing some relaxation techniques, visualization exercises, and deep breathing, I got myself out of this emotional rollercoaster and back into a calm, centered emotional place to start dealing with the various issues facing me. The most pressing issue is getting my van fixed. Since it is my only means of transportation, I have to have it. It is my lifeline to the world. I get online, find a mechanic and towing company, and get it towed in, which gets the ball rolling on solving that problem. Secondly, I still have the issue of getting my medication from the pharmacy. These particular drugs have to be picked up on certain days due to being controlled substances, so I have to find a way to make this happen. I get close to panic as I struggle to find a solution, but I managed to keep my cool, and I eventually decided to try to call in a favor. I call up a friend, and after explaining my predicament, he agrees to give up 3 hours of his day to help me out. After making a couple of other phone calls to postpone my other errands, the crisis had been averted. I had fought adversity and won.
I managed to take a day where nothing seemed to go the way I had planned, and maintain my composure in the face of adversity. If I had given in to my initial, emotional reaction and said “this is too much for me, I will deal with it later,” I would have ended up going through withdrawal from not getting my medication. On top of that, I would not have had a vehicle to take me to the hospital if the withdrawal symptoms escalated. From there, it is a pretty quick jump to hospitalization and death (my medications are so strong that detox can cause a stroke). In short, I would have been royally screwed. I didn’t let that happen though. I cowboyed up, got control of my emotions, and fought the obstacles before me with everything I had. The idea of giving up, calling it a day, and waiting to try again tomorrow never even crossed my mind. I will never stop fighting to live my life the way I want. I will never give up.
There are so many days that I could have used to illustrate how important it is to fight through adversity, but I chose this story because of how normal and mundane the day was. I wanted you to see how even on an average day of running errands, if you give up when things get tough, there can be major consequences right around the corner (like going through withdrawal). Please, if you get nothing else out of reading my posts, I hope you understand how important it is to learn to overcome adversity. I have already mentioned some of the techniques and strategies you can use to maintain control of your mind and feelings in difficult situations, but even more important than having the tools is the mentality you you have in facing these obstacles. You have to completely remove any little semblance of doubt that you will overcome whatever life throws at you. You have to believe with every fiber of your body that you will never give up. That you will continue to fight no matter how much you hurt, how hard you have to work, or how many times you fail. Once you truly believe this at the core of your being, no amount of adversity will phase you. If I can give you at least that much, I will be happy.
How you get to this emotional place is different for everyone. I can give you the tools and techniques I use and do my best to show you the way, but in the end, you have to figure out how to get yourself over that feeling of self doubt. If imagining my struggles and how hard I fight every day to overcome adversity and live my life is helpful in motivating you, that is great. If not, find what does inspire you, and use that (I think of my family and everything they have sacrificed for me). Without this unwavering commitment to never give up, when adversity confronts you, you will eventually succumb to its power. Once you acquire this mentality though, there is nothing that you cannot overcome.