Every life has challenges. We all face obstacles that seem to be impossible to overcome. But the reality is, some of these obstacles are much more difficult to face than others. Recently we heard from Elizabeth regarding her dear friend James. James experienced a C6-7 spinal cord injury several years ago and life has been difficult to face ever since. We want to encourage James and all the people out there who are facing a life that is overwhelming due to physical disabilities. Justin and Patrick have differing perspectives on this topic. Today, we hear from Justin
I have lived with my disability for my entire adult life. And though limited function of my body is something that has developed slowly over time, I am now entirely dependent upon others for daily care. I can’t use my arms or legs. I have to be dressed, showered, bathed, helped in the bathroom, and fed. The only independence I have left is choosing where and when I go in my power wheelchair. That’s it. Adjustment to this kind of life has never been easy. I battled depression and suicidal thoughts when I lost the use of my arms and upper body in 2010. Since then, I have struggled with being a burden to my friends, my family, and my wife. Darkness is always right around the corner and is such an easy place to go. So how do I battle this?
Mindset is everything! Yes there is much I don’t have, but what are the things I do have? The list is long, but to name a few: I have air in my lungs, I can see the vivid colors of the trees and flowers in my back yard, I can taste the flavors of my favorite foods and enjoy wine, I have a wife how loves me, children who love me, friends and family who love me, I have a wheelchair that allows me to roll to the park with my kids and along side my wife as we go for walks, I have a mind full of ideas and creativity, and I have my faith. A faith that reminds me, relationships are my greatest treasure on this earth and those relationships move me forward.
Don’t get me wrong; it would be nice to be able to walk! Just having my arms back would mean the ability to use a hand cycle, the ability to exercise. Unfortunately, this isn’t an option for me. But what is an option is living life with people I love and embracing the help of friends and family. Their helping hands open doors that allow me to experience things like camping, hiking along trails, going swimming, or sitting in an auditorium listening to a comedian or a live band. Living independently in spite of my dependence has led others to do the same. It’s a humbling thing to have someone tell me, “You have given me the strength to carry on!” The challenges I face are made less challenging by surrounding myself with people ready to lend a hand, and my willingness to accept the help offered.
To James and anyone else out there who is thinking of giving up. Get outdoors, fill your lungs with fresh air, find a hand-cycle and go for a ride, invite someone to walk along side you as you embrace the colors and sounds of the world you can still experience, relish the feeling of the sun as it warms your face, start small but do something everyday. Focus on the things you can do, focus on the things you have, embrace the people who love you and who you love and surround yourself with them. Invite them in, open up and be vulnerable, tell them the things you want to experience and let them be the vessels through which you are able to experience them. Pick an adventure and embark on it. This could be a camping trip, a stroll along a country trail, a trip to the theater, or simply a night out to dinner with friends.
Remember, our disabilities can destroy us, or our disabilities can give others hope to live life in spite of the challenges they face. No matter our circumstances, we can always bring light to those around us. Choose light!