By Kirsten Short
Sacha, my yoga instructor, said at the end of this evening’s class: “Sometimes things don’t always go as planned and that’s okay. There will be bumps in the road, but know that you are more than able and capable to get through these challenges.” “Ugh. That’s just great,” I thought, “Here I am trying to enjoy my last savasana and be mindful, and all I can think about are my detours and embracing them. THANK-YOU Sacha!”
Okay. Okay. I wasn’t really that mad. How could I be? Sacha just gave me a great topic to write about: Embrace. Life’s. Detours. Repeat this phrase three times. Write it down. Remember it. Make it your mantra.
I am confident that Janine Shepherd would give the same advice. When a car accident shattered her dreams of representing Australia in the 1988 Winter Olympics, Shepherd was devastated. Not only would she never be able to ski competitively again, but she was also paralyzed from the waist down. Yet, it was when she was at her lowest, that she found her will to live and the strength to move on:
“I had a choice: I could keep fighting this, or I could let go and accept not only my body, but the circumstances of my life. And then I stopped asking, 'Why me?' And I started to ask, 'Why not me?' And then I thought to myself, maybe being at rock bottom is actually the perfect place to start... even though I had absolutely no idea what I was going to do, in that uncertainty came a sense of freedom. I was no longer tied to a set path. I was free to explore life's infinite possibilities. And that realization was about to change my life. Sitting at home in my wheelchair and my plaster body cast, an airplane flew overhead. I looked up, and I thought to myself, 'That's it! If I can't walk, then I might as well fly.'"
Within the year, she had earned her pilot’s license. She is now a best-selling author and a heavily sought after motivational speaker. Click here to listen to her full TED talk: “A Broken Body isn’t a Broken Person” — it’s one of my favourites.
Although my story is very different from and definitely not as inspirational as Shepherd’s, I can absolutely relate to her and her message. Shepherd stresses the power and importance of the human spirit and that we are more than our physical limitations. “I know that I am not my body, and I also know that you aren’t yours.” My concussion occurred on February 19, 2017. While at a friends house, I fell, hit my chin on the way down, and knocked myself out. I don’t remember much from the accident; I only know that it drastically and dramatically changed my life. My recovery over the last 16 months has been painfully slow. My post concussion symptoms, mainly the fatigue, chronic migraines and blurry vision, have made it impossible for me treturn to my job as a CPA (at least for now).
The good news? Yes, there is good news. In the midst of the pain, tears and setbacks, I have found an upside: passion. Over the last year (and some), I have seen how costly and frustrating the Canadian Health Care System is for acquired brain injury survivors and their families (as I'm sure anyone reading this knows). I WANT TO CHANGE THIS. I am starting small and in the city where my injury occurred: Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada. (You can read an article CBC North wrote about me here.) I am so excited to see what I can accomplish!
And more importantly, I know now — without a doubt — that Shepherd was right: I AM more than my disability. Life happens sometimes. It can be unpredictable, tough and unfair. The secret to getting through these difficult times? Use the setbacks. Take the opportunity to reinvent your life. Find your spirit. And yes, embrace life’s detours.
(You can read more from Kirsten Short on her personal blog!)