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I remember it like it was yesterday

Trapped and helpless. I was lying on my side staring at the blue curtain that surrounded my bed, trying my best to take my mind somewhere else whilst the nurse was manually evacuating my bowel. How could this even be real? Did I really have to accept that a man whom I didn't especially like, was doing this intrusive procedure? The reality was there was no choice over the matter. It is hard to describe exactly how I felt at times but just for a second I ask you to imagine being in this situation and I am sure you will get the idea. It was total hell and quite literally, my life was shit.

On the 6th of May it will be seventeen years since my life changed in the most dramatic of ways. That means I have lived 6210 days of my life with no movement or sensation from the chest down, almost 40% of my life.

I remember lying on the ground at the horse trials knowing life as I knew it was truly over. In a spilt second I had lost my sport and my career, and I soon learnt I was going to have far more than that to deal with.

Sometimes I was shivering as if it was minus twenty degrees as I felt so cold due to my body struggling to regulate my temperature, I would frequently feel nauseous or faint as my body also had difficulty regulating my blood pressure and my bladder would empty itself whenever it felt like it (it didn't care where I was or who was there- I think that’s a blog in itself 🤣), my legs and feet would swell yet the muscles were wasting and none of my clothes fit me anymore.

Going home was my goal whilst I was in hospital and I discharged myself as soon as I felt I could cope, however, I was surrounded by things I used to do and no longer could. Watching other people live the life I used to have and longed for, was heart wrenching. I was still on this planet but I was forced to 'sit out' and watch others whilst I had lost my identity and living a life that I was so unfamiliar with. It wasn’t the life I had mapped out. I didn't like the new me one iota- I was someone who never sat still for a second.

If I went for a night out, it was agony seeing people head to the dance floor, I had always been the first up and loved to dance the night away. I hated watching my horses continue their careers with other riders after all my hard work, especially my top horse as it was made particularly tough as I had no say in this. I had friends who were getting married and having children whilst this injury had wrecked the relationship I was in and I couldn't see who would want someone so broken. Anyway, how on earth could I look after children when looking after myself felt like a mammoth task?

It was impossible not to feel a little bitter about the cards I had been dealt.

Coming to terms with so many changes that I didn't want was incredibly tough. There were times I had cried so much there were no tears left and times when I wished I had hit that tree a little harder.

There were times when I felt angry, sad, envious, frustrated, lost and numb on the inside and outside but these feelings were interspersed with times where I felt a sense of determination greater than I had ever felt before; moments of hope and belief that I wasn't going to let this setback define me but instead I would use it to redefine me.

It took a while but I started to let go of the things I couldn't change, made decisions that were right for me, accepted what had happened and became grateful for what I had.

Of course I felt an emptiness I'd never felt before, but simultaneously I was full of gratitude. In hospital I was surrounded by injuries far worse than mine, neck injuries. I could wipe my own tears away… what someone paralysed from the neck down would have given for my injury. I knew I was in a position to make a difference.

Seventeen years later, I am still paralysed from the chest down despite the effort I put in to make any recovery, I still have no movement or sensation from the chest down, I can't control my bowel and bladder and all the other issues I mentioned above remain the same... only one thing has changed and that is my mindset.

Overcoming adversity is about resilience and finding ways to navigate through life's inevitable challenges. I had to dig deep to get through the dark times and I am going to share five tips to help you do just that:

  1. Develop a Growth Mindset: Embrace the belief that challenges and setbacks are opportunities for growth and learning. Rather than viewing adversity as insurmountable obstacles, see them as temporary setbacks that can ultimately strengthen your character and resilience. Focus on solutions and strategies for moving forward, rather than dwelling on what went wrong or what you lost .

  2. Practice Self-Compassion: Treat yourself with kindness and understanding, especially during difficult times. Acknowledge your feelings without judgment and remind yourself that it's okay to struggle. Find something that helps you. For me it is exercise.

  3. Seek Support from Others: Don't hesitate to reach out to friends, family, or professionals. Sharing your struggles with others can help lighten the emotional burden and provide valuable perspective and advice. Surround yourself with people who uplift and empower you, and don't be afraid to lean on them when you need a helping hand.

  4. Focus on Solutions: When faced with adversity, channel your energy into finding solutions and taking proactive steps to overcome obstacles. Break down larger challenges into smaller, more manageable tasks, and approach them one step at a time. Stay flexible and open-minded, willing to adapt your approach as needed, and celebrate your progress along the way, no matter how small.

  5. Find a Sense of Purpose: Remind yourself of what matters most. Find a sense of purpose by setting meaningful goals (for me that is supporting amazing charities) . When faced with setbacks, draw strength from a sense of purpose and keep moving forward with determination and resilience.

Remember, overcoming adversity is not about avoiding challenges altogether, as some of them are unavoidable but about building the inner strength to navigate through them with courage and resilience. If you can empower yourself to overcome adversity you can emerge stronger on the other side.

So here I am, not as broken as I once thought.

Next weekend I take on the Birmingham 10k in my wheelchair, pushing to raise a bit more money for the exciting research that Nicholls Spinal Injury Foundation fund, and after a call last week, I feel quietly confident that a spinal cord injury will be reversible. If you can help me with my mission please donate here;

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