Hope is almost unanimously seen as a positive thing, the desire for something accompanied by the belief that it could genuinely happen. "I hope I win the lottery", "I hope I pass my exams", "I hope no embarrassing pictures of me from last night end up on Facebook!" And as the tagline from The Shawshank Redemption states, 'Fear can hold you prisoner. Hope can set you free.' But is this always the case?
There's no denying that suffering a spinal injury is an unpleasant affair. It is a life-changing moment, and as you are lying in a hospital bed, more or less unable to move, a million thoughts frantically colliding inside your head, it is difficult to see how anything good could ever come of it. I remember bursting into tears on my first night on the rehab ward as all my fellow inmates chanted "FRESH FISH! FRESH FISH!" in unison...wait...sorry, still thinking about The Shawshank Redemption, what a film! No, the reason I burst into tears was because I was now completely off my hallucinogenic pain meds, allowing the reality of what had happened and the extent of my injury to finally sink in. And at that moment, as far as I was concerned, I had destroyed my life and nothing was ever going to be good again. Because if you can't walk and have full control of your body then what's the point right?! And that's when I began to hope, for the holy grail of spinal injuries: The Cure.
|Few realise that the original title of their 1992 hit was in fact, Friday I'm Incompletely Paralysed!|
|I'm sure there's a fitting metaphor here somewhere...|
But then something inside me changed.
It didn't happen suddenly, I didn't go to sleep in one mindframe and wake up in another. More, it was something that came about gradually, over time and without me noticing. The feelings of anger, denial and hatred towards my situation, coupled with the desperate hopes for a miracle that had been a permanent fixture in my thoughts for months, began to dissipate. This continued until one day I realised that, despite my initial protestations to the contrary and without my knowledge, I had come to terms with what had happened. I was okay with it. I had unwittingly crafted a wholly enjoyable life, full of opportunities, with friends and family I
And that is pretty much how I've felt every day since. Of course, I get days where I don't feel great about myself but then everyone has those, regardless of circumstance. Now my main source of regret is that I didn't embrace the possibilities that come with spinal injury sooner: the travelling, the multitude of disability sports available, the ease of rolling down to the pub on a Saturday afternoon followed several hours later by the blurry, uphill slog home!
But I doubt any of this would have happened if I'd continued to get carried away with the media buzz and paused my life as I clung onto the hope of walking again. As far as spinal injuries are concerned, I don't think there's anything more dangerous or more damaging than refusing to accept what has happened and instead becoming fixated on reversing the effects. It will consume you and it will end up stopping you from having the life you wanted far more than the injury itself ever would have. Fear can indeed hold you prisoner, but then sometimes so can hope. I'm not, by any means, saying hope is a terrible thing and should be completely abandoned! Hope can be (and more often than not is) a fantastic thing but you should never allow it to put blinkers on you and stop you from seeing all the potential that life has to offer.
My mum, to this day, still brings articles round about the latest developments, and I'll politely skim through them and pass comment, "I see the Daily Mail believes the cure lies in draining the blood of asylum seekers!" I'm sure that one day in the not too distant future, spinal cord damage will be reversable, and that will be an incredible breakthrough for the newly injured. However, after over a decade of being more or less permanently sat on my arse, throwing myself on/off and in/out of various things, as well as regularly catheterising and irrigating myself (the less detail I go into with these the better, trust me!), the mere thought of suddenly regaining full sensation is enough to send a shiver down my spine!