In honor of Back to the Future 2 day, I’ve decided to think of what advice I would give myself if I could jump to the future. It’s easy to tell my past-self what my current-self would say. But, what would my past-self tell my future-self? In Back to the Future 2, Marty McFly and Doc go to the future to save the space-time continuum which their previous travels altered. They arrive in the future on October 21, 2015.
If I could have traveled in time from the date of my paralysis to Oct. 21, 2015 (two years and a couple months post-injury) what would I tell myself? I tend to be pretty skeptical of things, so I imagine I’d have a hard time convincing myself that I really was myself. But, since I’ve implemented a few code words and phrases for just such an emergency, once I convinced myself, here’s what I would likely tell myself:
- Don’t be hard on yourself. Things are outside of your control. While you had really hoped to be walking within a year, it’s OK if you aren’t. Or don’t. Not walking by now doesn’t mean you won’t ever walk again. It just means that you aren’t at this point in time.
- Don’t lose hope. Remember when you first went to the in-patient rehabilitation facility and you were so determined and eager? You pushed through it, even when your body betrayed you and you were more fatigued than you’d ever been in your entire life. You fought when pain ransacked your body. More pain than you can ever describe or even accurately remember. You fought through that to keep trying. When fear clouded your vision and you were afraid of falling or of failing, you worked hard. Remember when your doctors and physical therapists saw flickers of movement and that was enough to motivate you for the next day. Don’t lose that hope, or that drive. Just because you hit a plateau or don’t see major changes, don’t stop. Keep trying, because at the end of the day, it all helps! It’s what will keep you going.
- Don’t get complacent. You fought hard and made some gains. You don’t know what gains you may make in the future. And you don’t know what medical advances there may be in the future. Don’t just accept life. It’s OK to acclimate and do what you need to do to live a happy life. But always keep working and researching, just like you did in the beginning. Don’t get too comfortable in your disability that you just accept it for what it is. Fight to heal!
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. You weren’t all that good at this in the hospital either. It’s hard to become dependent on people. It’s hard to give up independence and freedom and require people to help us. But don’t be afraid to ask for it. Just because you’ve gotten used to life as a paraplegic doesn’t mean that you have everything down. Sometimes things are on a high shelf or you need help putting the shower bench in the shower. Don’t feel bad asking for help. Most people are genuinely nice and want to help.
- Don’t take people for granted. Most people you will encounter (whether family, friends or strangers) want to help you. And will help you. But, don’t ever take that for granted. Remember that when you were first injured, you were so happy and grateful for people to visit you or when they helped you out with things. Don’t ever expect things from others. Be appreciative when they do go out of their way for you.
I guess my past-self is mostly concerned that I don’t ever give up and that I appreciate what (and who) I have in life. The problem with time is that you tend to forget. And you tend to get comfortable. But, in a situation where I am blessed to be an “incomplete paraplegic,” I should never take that for granted and keep fighting. That’s hard to remember. But so very, very important!