“HOW DO YOU DO IT?”
Recently I was presenting my crash story at the Traffic Offenders Rehabilitation Program. Afterwards, I had a lovely gentleman wait and wait until the crowds dissipated and the people in front of him had their opportunity to talk to me. Then he asked “How do you do it?”, as in what makes me want to get out of bed and keep going everyday after such a tragic event. Now off the cuff and on the spot I blurted out that “You just have to, you can’t give up. There are people counting on you to want to keep going”.
I came away from that presentation with my head churning those thoughts and it has made me ponder to really analyze what has made me want to keep going. So I have come up with 5 essential coping mechanisms that I have used to make me want to keep going.
1. APPRECIATE THE GIFT OF LIFE
When you come so close to dying (I was in intensive care for 3 weeks before I was stable enough to be transferred to the Acute Ward in the Spinal Unit) – you really don’t want to die! All of a sudden I realised how short life can be and I had done virtually nothing at the age of 18.
There were so many things I hadn’t experienced yet, that flashed through my mind at that time – and I almost didn’t get the chance to do them! So I see life as a gift and one that needs to be cherished. I feel honoured that I have been given a second chance to do amazing things with my life with purpose.
2. BE GRATEFUL
It didn’t take me long at all to realise how lucky I was and how it could have been so much worse. I was grateful that my injury caused paraplegia instead of quadriplegia. When I was bed ridden in hospital and I needed a drink of water, I would ask the nurse to get me a glass – I could hold it and drink it myself. If it had been worse, like the guy next to me, he needed to have the glass held for him and a straw put in so that he could drink it.
I have found that being grateful everyday for all the little wonderful things I have in my life has actually resulted in increasing abundance and opportunities. The more grateful I am the better my life gets.
3. LOOK AT THE BIG PICTURE
Before my crash I used to get hung up on little details about life. It was like they mattered so much. I would stress over what people thought and when and how I was going to do things that were actually out of my control. After the crash I started to let go of these details. I would now look at the grand scheme of things and decide “is it really that important? Do I need to stress and waste so much energy on trivial things that I can’t control or change?” – the fact is it’s not worth the energy.
A huge weight gets lifted off your shoulders when you look at the big picture and don’t sweat the small stuff. Before, I used to get into heated debates with people who I now realise will never change and that’s OK. We are all entitled to our opinions but it is only after the crash that I was able to let go and realise that my energy was needed elsewhere right then and these debates were not so important in the big picture.
4. PUT MYSELF IN OTHER PEOPLE’S SHOES
In the first few years, I did have days when I didn’t think it was worth to keep going, but then I would put myself in other people’s shoes, particularly my close family and realise that it is hard for them too. They are watching me fight back from all that has been taken away and they were hurting too. If I gave up and chose not to fight or keep going, how many lives could I destroy?
Seeing life from other people’s perspectives has given me a reference point from which to exist. It’s not all about me. My crash had a ripple effect and it impacted many people. My strength to still get up and keep going has allowed others to watch me and do more with their lives as a result. That is good enough reason for me to not give up and embrace the purpose of why this happened to me.
5. BE ADAPTABLE AND FLEXIBLE
The biggest tool over the years that has served me best is actually that of being adaptable and flexible. By going with the flow and adapting my plans, my perspective on life and my achievable outcomes, I have been able to accommodate for the new me. I always say to the students I present to – make plans but keep them in sand and not cement because the only guarantee in life is change.
The more we can adapt to change the better we can cope with what life throws at us. We never get dealt something we can’t cope with, it will test us for sure but we will be able to overcome it if we choose to. Migrating to Australia in 1980 at the age of 8 probably prepped me up to cope with change in a big way.
So there you have it, my 5 coping mechanisms to keep going and get more out of life everyday. The photos highlight how many things I still can do which make my life worth living. How do I do it? As my friend Mel would say – I push the covers back, get my legs over the edge of the bed and transfer onto my wheelchair…I get up just like everybody else!