Shortly after I Learned about my spinal cord injury while in hospital, I decided that I would make it my goal to get my life back. At that time getting my life back meant that I was to fully recover and be exactly the way I was when I walked into hospital a week earlier. What I didn’t learn, until several years later, that recovery is never a destination, it is a journey of a lifetime.
Setting out to recover from a setback.
In life we all experience and encounter setbacks that we want and/or need to bounce back from. For some, it may be an addictive behavior such as drugs, alcohol, gambling, etc. For others, it could be a physical injury. It could be a sprained ankle, a torn ligament in a shoulder or a catastrophic injury (such as a stroke or spinal cord injury) that leaves the injured party confined to a wheelchair.
Regardless of it is an addiction or an injury of some kind, nearly every person who is facing either can remember a time before the addiction or injury when life was “normal”. For almost every person who sees the drastic change from then to now, the one thing the want more than anything is to be “as good as new”. The only path the see to reach that goal is to make a full recovery and I was no exception when I learned of my spinal cord injury after my ascending to descending aortic bypass.
The journey back to “as good as new”
While an addict may enter an inpatient treatment program and/or participate in a 12-step program, a person with a physical injury may enter a rehabilitation hospital for intense physical and occupational therapy (as I did after my spinal core injury). Both are seeking a restoration of sorts back to the life they knew before the addiction or injury. Both refer to the dreamed restoration as “a full recovery”, yet neither of them realizing that recovery is a path to their destination, not the destination itself.
While I laid in a hospital bed, unable to run, walk, stand, feed, dress or even turn myself in my bed, I was telling myself “I will be up on my feet and walking like I did a week ago, by Labor Day.“ (At the time, Labor day was just five weeks away,)
To say I was overly optimistic was probably an understatement. To say I either had no idea of how serious of problem I was facing or how much I may have been in denial of my injury would also be a true statement. Like any addict or any person who has had their life turned upside down by a physical injury, wants their life back to normal sooner rather than later. (This is part of our instant gratification culture we created after wh introduced the microwave t the middle class.)
The perceived path to recovery is not a yellow brick road.
The truth is, and that I would learn the hard way, is that getting your life back after an injury (just as it is when someone hits rock bottom who is battling an addiction) is going to take longer than it took to become physically disabled or addicted to drugs, alcohol, etc.
Not only is the recovery path can be long, it can also be a winding road with unexpected, pot holes, detours and dead ends.
In my case, as I began on my road to recovery, I experienced several falls. One fall left me with a hairline fracture in my arm. Although the falls did slow me down a bit, I did hit a large pot hole less than 2 months into my journey when it was discovered Zi had life threatening blood clots in my legs. The blood clots forced my doctor to suspend my outpatient therapy for nearly three months.
After getting through that pot hole, I returned to the road to recovery for about four months until I hit a dead end – the day that my insurance company said I wasn’t making any measurable and meaningful recovery and they stopped paying for my therapy.
Despite all the pot holes I encountered, and the dead ends I ran into, I found ways to continue my journey on my own – sometimes you must find ways to do things on your own to get what you want in life.
Why recovery is never a destination and is always a journey.
It has been nearly sixteen years sine I survived an ischemic stroke to my spinal cord and I am still not walking without mobility aides, but I am walling. Measuring my progress by what I could do today compared to yesterday (as I did immediately after my stroke) is now measurable by what can I do today that I could not do a few years ago.
Obliviously that means I am still revering (slowly). It also means the journey to getting my life back will probably go on until either I die, give up or am able to walk again without any assistance.
I have no plans to die in the foreseeable future. I haven’t given up yet so I doubt if that day will ever come, and if I am ever able to walk again without assistance, I am sure it will be more difficult than it was for me before my injury.
As long a I do not give up, I am a recovering surviving of an ischemic stroke to the spinal cord. Just as an addict will always be a recovering addict.
Remember, recovering is present tense, recovered is pat tense and recovery is the journey you take – and it is not a destination!