Most days I feel like I have found my place. I have purpose, independence and feel grounded in my sense of self which reaches far beyond the simple terms of mother, wife and paraplegic. I find safety in our routines and notice that I laugh far more often than I cry. My injury, like everything else, exists only as a part of me and I venture through the days and weeks much like anyone else. It’s as though I’m following a trail through the forest, not quite sure where it leads but enjoying it knowing I will come out the other side. Then there are days where I reach a breaking point. The days where I take a wrong turn and lose sight of the trail. My injury fuels my anxiety until I’ve blurred my reality enough to believe that without it I would never have to deal with anything difficult. And that is when I struggle to see anything except my injury; That is when I struggle to get out of bed.
I never should have made an ultrasound appointment for 7:30 in the morning. I know better – I’m not even a morning person on a day we are catching an early flight to Disneyland. But I was overdue for my renal ultrasound by two months (it’s an annual thing when you have a spinal cord injury) and the booking clerk didn’t seem willing to offer me any other time, so I took it. Not only was it early, but my husband had to go to work and I tend to feel very vulnerable going to medical appointments on my own. I should have rescheduled.
Instead I went to bed last night setting my alarm for an early morning. I couldn’t sleep. I kept thinking about my last ultrasound when the technician couldn’t stop telling me how she would pray for me and made me feel more pitied than anyone else I can recall. I couldn’t get out of her room fast enough. What if I had her again?
I was still wide awake. I remembered I would have to pay for parking and for some reason this sent me into a tailspin of panic. It was hard to see the screen from my wheelchair and even though I’ve done it a hundred times without a problem, this time it seemed like too much. I was fixated on parking and knew I was becoming unreasonable. I decided I wouldn’t go. I would wake up and call to reschedule.
I fell asleep only to wake up at 3:30 AM still thinking about ultrasounds, parking and the different way some people treat me. After tossing and turning for what felt like forever, I finally lost myself to the conclusion that it’s all because of paralysis and that paralysis will continue to shape everything I do and everything I become. I fell back asleep.
Morning came too soon and I woke up exhausted. I asked my husband to cancel my appointment and went back to bed. I woke up to him having left for work and felt my room close in on me. I thought that today would be the day my injury would overtake me. I was tired of being paralyzed and if it wasn’t going to change, then I wasn’t going to get out of bed. I would no longer work to see all of me, I would see only this one fragment and then allow it to overtake me at its will. Except that isn’t really what I want.
My husband came home because once anxiety completely overrules my rational thinking, I need a little help. I got out of bed and back into my chair – a task so simple yet it had felt enormous and crushing in those minutes after I opened my eyes. It instantly brought back a sense of normalcy. It was a reminder that, paralyzed or not, I can get out of bed; I should get out of bed. Slowly the spotlight moved away from my injury and I could see the rest of me coming out of the shadows. I apologized for the stress I caused while under the influence of my anxiety and I know I will feel remnants of guilt and embarrassment for a while. But I will go back to feeling purpose, taking comfort in our routines and knowing who I am. I am so much more than this injury – no matter what my anxiety tries to tell me.