Why do some hide, while others flourish?Mar 25 07:06
There’s a lot of people out there with disabilities. And as it is with any large group of people, there’s contrasts at every corner. In our little club, it can be very black and white. You’ve got the upbeat crowd - those who thrive despite their disability. And you’ve got those in the struggle - people who emotionally, have a hard time at it. I’m pretty sure I fit somewhere right in the middle. I don’t think my disability happened for a reason, but I thrive. I’m “inspirational” because I refuse to let the ¼ inch tear in my spinal cord ruin my life.
Lately, much more than usual, I’ve had a hard time getting those who are deep in the struggle out of my head. They remind me of myself 18 years ago. In the beginning of my quad life, my life was joyless. All the world was grey. I was new to this awful life and wanted out. The people in wheelchairs who smiled all the time were my arch-enemies. I can thankfully say I now see color and (usually) love life, but many simply can’t, and never will. They’re depressed, they see themselves as broken and unworthy. And I know some of these people. They’re my online friends. They’ll disappear for years and never write back :/ It’s a sad business.
I’ve come to believe that some people just aren’t programmed to deal with intense physical hardship, i.e. disability. Some tough guys just can’t be the wheelchair guy, and they’ll drink themselves into oblivion. Some can’t deal with the stares, and they never leave the house. Then there’s those that do it all - they get a PhD, MD, JD, they have triplets, travel the globe, they invent amazing products that help others. Their disability is nothing more than an pesky issue easily cured with a mobility product, and they move on.
Why some have the ability to see life with a disability as possible, and why others can‘t no matter how much therapy or medication, we’ll never know for sure. Blame it on the way they were raised, or the culture they‘re from, or stubborn prejudices that stem from a bull-headed personality. Just be glad you’re thriving. It can be a nightmare never seeing the light, never adjusting. I experienced it for 3 years and it still haunts me.
Depressed because of your disability? How did you overcome it? Is there a trick to learning how to thrive?
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1. Mr. C | Apr 01 12:54
My son chris and I are the founders of Gridiron Heroes www.gridironheroes.org For Chris and I it was more about helping someone else having to deal with this life changing injury. Once Chris put his focus on helping someone else, nothing else seem to matter. Chris would work with the athlete and I with the parents. We stop asking why this happened and started asking what do we do now? We answered that question by helping others.
2. Dan | Apr 01 01:50
I have a congenital disability (osteogenisus imperfecta) where I have had roughly over 200 fractures over my 36 years and when I stand, I am 4'5". When I was 15 I found wheelchair sports, and it changed my life. I met people who were successful in their everyday life who had families, careers, who were educated, and not too shabby on the court too. I jumped in and I transitioned from "why me" to "thank you". I have travelled all around the world competing and coaching, and most of the friends that I have are somehow connected to wheelchair sport. Today I feel very fortunate for my disability, it has given me opportunities that I might not have ever had. One being a career, I work in the adaptive recreation field and have the opportunity to educate and change the lives of other people with disabilities. I would highly recommend to any person with a disability to get out there and get active. It will make a difference in your life!
3. Travmay | Apr 01 07:54
Support is key! I don't know where I would be without my wife, kids and family. It is always a struggle for anyone. When I was injured (T-12) it was tough to pick myself up. I lost my job, income and life all in the same moment. does get better through support and prayer.
4. Tiffiny | Apr 01 09:20
@ Mr. C - wow I love your organization, and the purpose for which it was built on. LOVE it. I hope you guys continue to grow. So focus on helping others. Nice. @ Dave - get active in life; anything and everything, from sports to a career. Make the best of it. @ Trav - support IS huge. but the sad part is that not everybody has that. glad to hear you did/do though. and yes @ prayer. anything thats brings positivity into your mind is a good thing.
5. Julie | Apr 02 01:33
Well? How did you manage it? Not everyone has family - some of us out there are far too intelligent to take "solace" in religion, or "you're being tested" or other such platitudes. But we are ALONE. I am alone. What of use who don't have the stereotypical loving family, who ARE REALLY alone? "Go out and meet people" Oh really? How do you do that, hmmm? A social gathering for disabled people? Where? And all the other issues that come with it, in my case *pain* - deal with that how? Go to my happy place? I don't have one. And reading the below, about prayer - if that is your answer, then kindly save it for those who care to bandage with it. (yes I'm angry at the moment) Pain causes anger and it twists us over the years and that makes us more sad and more angry and so the cycle goes. I hurt, therefore I am?
6. greg | Apr 02 06:20
i've been a gimp (t6 para)for over 40 yrs no it's not easy and life gets tuffer as you pass 65. my main focus is staying healthy and alive. God Bless.
7. ellie | Apr 02 10:22
excellent question!! For me it's probably because I have such an aversion to being unhappy. With MS I've been in long relapses than back into remission. When I go from a good remission to a long bad relapse that's the hardest.
8. Josh | Apr 02 10:24
I remember being in the hospital, afraid, and struggling to imagine a good future for me. I remember one thought very clearly: I had a choice. I could choose to be miserable and angry like some I had met... Pitying themselves and making others around them feel their pain. Or, I could choose to live! I could decide that I would make the most of my life! I knew I didn't want to live the rest of my life inside four walls wondering about what my life COULD have been. I began grabbing the opportunities that were presenting themselves, like voc rehab and free education! It took longer to be comfortable with other disabled people. I wasn't one of THEM! THEY'RE creepy, weird, look funny, and some of them smell funny, too! :) I discovered adaptive sports and experienced another level of fun and independence. I learned SO much from my peers, like the billiant ways they were adapting and socializing. Instead of finding excuses NOT to do something, I tried to find the bravery to say "Why not?"
9. Gary Presley | Apr 03 06:35
 It's nature/nurture. The right combo of the two allow some of us to cope better than others.  It's time/smarts. It takes some of us longer to grow intelligent enough to realize that being angry and frustrated won't change the nature and degree of disability.  It's environment. Some of us are "disabled" by negative thinkers surrounding us, and it's difficult to escape when you cannot run.  It's force of will. Happiness (or as close as you can get to it) is a matter of choice.  It's the assuming responsibility for one's own welfare and understanding we live with the consequences of our choices.  It's living within the possibilities of reality.  It's the ability to see reality.
10. macneal25 | Apr 06 11:20
i could never do it before, but i awoke from my coma and i could! i'm talking about writing! while it is a good release for me, I recomend laughing, at least every day! if you can laugh at lifes little miscues, you've already won! ok, back to my poetry, i'm going to show you one because i have a good feeling about you.
11. ctraynor | Apr 26 10:35
I read this hoping you would lay out observations & experiences from your life; perhaps bringing forth a personal "process" of flourishing. Of course, there are no answers, only rare bits of insight. We all need to be cautious, though, that we don't accidentally make the transition even harder for all of the people who find themselves in a bad place (I suspect its a MAJORITY of folks with adult-onset disability-remember those truly struggling are literally absent from any assessments one might make). When the blog points out "I'm glad you're thriving" I feel concerned that those still grappling with basic emotional survival in the midst of this 5-Alarm Fire that taxes every single facet of our psychological coping repertoire, may feel even farther behind the curve & even more guilt that they've not yet chosen the supposed hero's path with its surreal expectation to, not just accept, but actually EMBRACE disability & the destructive swath it cut in your life and others your love. Chris
12. S2 Medical Supply | Jul 12 11:14
Everyone looks at life with a disability in a different manner. Not everyone is able to "overcome" their ailment and thrive in the remainder of life. It's important to help everyone come to grips with their disability, move on, succeed in life and not let their quality of life be impaired by such physical disability. L.S. S2 Medical Supply http://www.s2medicalsupply.com
13. TLaura | Aug 03 01:56
I was injured when I was 13 (T3-T6) my family was there, had tutors in the hospital and made sure I graduated with my 8th grade class and started HS as well. I've always been pretty independent and just automatically thought that I was to graduate and get a job. I'm not a very social person and have a low tolerance for people, even though I work in customer service, lol, but I work, I drive, I live on my own with my 2 dogs, I go out occasionally. But it is an individual struggle and I would rather stay positive than have negative thoughts that, for me, would make the journey much worse. I've just come to a point in my life where I want to share my story and hopefully help others. Since "able bodied" people seem to think I'm so amazing, lol. So try to be positive and stay strong.
14. TLaura | Aug 03 02:06
By the way I'm 40 now and kudos to the great comments before mine. I just found out about these sites and I'm loving all the info that is now out there. Thank you
15. ladybug2535 | Aug 06 08:39
Family, friends, Feeling needed or having a purpose (whether a job or being a parent), financial security, pain levels--the RIGHT kind of support; attitude (no not necessarily the "right" attitude); the ability to (finally) accept change; the ability to think outside the box: All of these impact adjustment to disability. Some people can't cope with what may seem a minor illness or disability, while others seem to easily cope with what would be considered a major disability. It is not for us to judge those that struggle, but to offer our hand in friendship and understanding. We've ALL had bad days, and even though we can never know "exactly" what someone else is going through, we can certainly offer our support. I really resent the idea that we can "overcome" our disability. It's living with it that counts.
16. JulieM | Dec 26 04:50
I'm late to this discussion... I'd be in the latter category and went through rehab with someone who'd be the former. A lot of it, in my opinion, matters on who you were before the disability--these things (becoming disabled, even just aging) magnifies who were are. Also, my wheelchair/disability is an after-thought for me; for my friend it was all about who she was, partly because she had a more severe injury and that situation was thrown in her face every day (relying on PCAs, limitations in everyday life), more than in mine (able to dress/function more on my own).
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Tiffiny Carlson is freelance writer and writes the “SCI Life” column for New Mobility. She's also a C6 quad from a diving accident that occurred when she was 14 years old. A lifelong resident of Minneapolis, Tiffiny has been a writer in the disability community for over 10 years and writes for several publications and blogs, as well as her personal blog BeautyAbility. Her work has also appeared in mainstream publications such as Nerve.com and Playgirl.