It was stolen from me. Stolen.
I didn’t know what to do. I felt robbed. I was robbed. Why me? How could that be fair?
It’s my life. That’s what was stolen – my life. I had won a World Championship. I was fit and strong (relatively). The sky wasn’t my limit, I was limitless. The World wasn’t my Oyster – I wasn’t so limiting – more like the galaxy. But then these limits imploded. The life, my life, as I knew it, disappeared. Gone.
In December 2011 I suffered an injury to the base of my spinal cord in a heavy parachute landing. The affects of this injury will be with me for life. I’m lucky though. In some ways it could be a lot worse. I could be in a wheel chair. I could be dead. There is a lot to be grateful for.
But, even when you’re lucky, you still feel robbed. You don’t have to be robbed of everything to feel like you’ve been robbed of everything. A decrease in your physical or mental ability of just 1% is noticeable. The bigger that decrease, the more that is taken from you, the more you notice it.
I spent a long time in rehab. I saw some extremely skilled Doctors, Surgeons, Consultants. I still do. I worked hard to regain my old life. I watched amputees and others with far more severe visible injuries overcoming their disabilities, hobbling around on their prosthetics. They were regaining their lives. I wasn’t so fortunate.
My recover wasn’t so fast. It stalled. I watched all these other people accelerate in their recovery. But I had stalled. My progress was poor, non-existent. But I was a go-getter. I was a do-er, an achiever. I should be progressing. I should be pushing the boundaries. I should be proving the Doctors wrong and recovering ahead of their predictions.
The Mental Battle
It was tough. I was beaten. Broken. My mental picture deteriorated. I was losing. Losing the battle with myself. Mentally I started to spiral down. As you start to spiral, it only keeps going down. The plug hole, the drain, beckons you closer and you descend further and further. There is no life vest in sight just the depths of the chasm you’re encumbered within.
Physical recovery, without a positive mental picture, is almost impossible. I knew that. I understood that. But regaining my mental composure to a point that would constructively aid my physical recovery seemed like climbing Mount Everest with both arms tied behind my back while wearing a blindfold – possible in theory but incredibly unlikely.
I was embarrassed. It was embarrassing to be this way. I hid it. Many of my family, many of friends didn’t (still don’t) know the severity of my injuries. It made me feel weak. I didn’t want to be weak. I didn’t want to be the guy that didn’t recovery. I didn’t want to be the guy that couldn’t overcome his injury. I didn’t want to be the guy that was held back, that would hold others back. I didn’t want to be the guy that got frustrated by it all, that was struggling to deal with it mentally.
There is nothing to see. From the outside, I look normal. I’m not missing a limb. I don’t have scars. My injuries are internal. I don’t want sympathy, I don’t need sympathy, but with nothing to show, nothing to outwardly prove my state, my predicament, I feel like a fraud. More reason to hide.
But as I hid, as I hide, as I’m embarrassed, my mental toughness, my mental agility, stays within that ever descending spiral.
So what are the lessons? What do we take away? What do we learn?
I don’t know. There’s lots. There’s none. I normally analyze my experiences. I normally ask ‘So What?’. I normally look at it to see what else we can learn from this stuff. Not this time. I think this post is just for me.
Well, maybe just one lesson. It’s the holistic approach. You have to believe to achieve. To get physically better I need to be mentally strong. It’s the same in all walks of life. To achieve something you need to believe in yourself, in your ability. Normally I can do that, I’m working on getting that back.
Perhaps I’ll come back and write more about this. For now, I’ve probably shared enough. The journey has been tough. It’s still tough. There are good days. Others aren’t quite so good. I’ll leave it there – I have an appointment with my Neuro-Urology Consultant to go to.
Main photo by Felipe Ferreira.