Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Walking the Road of Adversity and Change

Every morning I sit down to write these blogs and wonder what to say.  Some days I have a burning desire to discuss a topic and other days nothing pops into my head.  Today I was looking at the articles on my news feed for inspiration and saw an article regarding Charla Nash, the victim of a chimp attack.  If you remember the story she was attacked by her friend's chimp and lost both eyes, 9 of her 10 fingers and most of her facial features.  The chimp was eventually shot and killed.

What I found interesting about this article is the resiliency Charla is showing.  As a 56 year old woman with a teenage daughter, she appears very optimistic about her life.  While she can not take care of herself or her family anymore she has not crawled into a corner and given up.  Instead she appears to be exploring what she can do.  Admittedly what she can do is a very short list right now, but she is working on it.

I wonder how many of us find ourselves in a position just like Charla's.  Most of us will never suffer the horrible attack and subsequent physical deformations she has, but many of us are stripped of our own status quo and forced to forge a new path.  I think of women who are recently divorced and thrown back into the work force.  I think of men who have worked for one company who are laid off and must find work in a new industry.  I think of people fighting illness or seniors struggling with dementia.

Millions of people find themselves changed every year.  The question then becomes one of surviving or thriving.

I was a very sick child.  In hindsight I wonder how many times my parents didn't know if I would make it.  I was in and out of hospitals for six years and it was difficult.  Unfortunately for my family I wasn't the only sick child.  My sister had the same problems I did and spent a similar amount of time needing hospitalization. 

To say I was used to being incapacitated was an understatement.  I didn't run like other kids, I didn't participate in sports like other kids and I definitely did not go outside to play like other kids.  While I learned to ride a bike and play on the swing set in our yard I had specific rules about the temperature, the wind, and the germs around me.  To me it was normal, but I assume other kids thought it was strange.

I got used to this version of my life and was even a little shocked when I got better in my teen years. I started leaving home without my rescue inhalers in tow and I was stunned when I realized I no longer had a bin of  medications to take daily.  I was healthy for about 4 years.

Then things changed.  I started getting sick again, but it was different than before.  I didn't need to be in the hospital, but wasn't functioning very well.  I went off to college and during that first year was diagnosed again.  This time it was really scary.  I was told what I had was terminal.  Now before you get too upset, please know it is manageable and I am doing fine.  I often tell people what I have is as terminal as getting hit by a bus...and just as likely.  As long as I am proactive about my health I will live to a ripe old age.

My point in this narrative is not to tell you a sad story so you will feel bad for me.  I want to point out the life I have lived so far is very different than what most of you experienced.  I have had my share of pitying looks and head shaking.  I know some people felt bad for me.  In truth, I felt bad for me too.

So back to Charla.  She was given a one-two punch.  Not only was she attacked by her best friend's chimp, she was mauled and lost the use of her body in the normal way.  Her reality changed quickly.  She had to adapt. When I think about it, most people do.

I was a sick kid, a sick teen and a sick adult, but here is the funny part.  When people ask about my health, I tell them I am healthy and doing great.  I know from experience it could be so much worse, because it has been.  While I am not even close to understanding Charla's pain, the adjustments she will need to make and the psychological ramifications of loosing her physical identity, I do understand the need to adapt.  I understand the need to find good things among the bad.  I understand the need to live life on whatever terms you have been given.

Now we are at an end of this blog and I hope I have not depressed you too much.  If you take any message away from this, please let it be one of hope.  Nasty stuff happens.  Being sick is no better or worse than going through a divorce or loosing you job in uncertain times.  Each of these situations challenges what you know about yourself.  Making the choice to start where you are and go forward is a brave choice and it will take you much farther than looking back.

On the trite side, you learn the most from challenges, you grow the most from adversity.  Looking around me, I see a lot of strong people with amazing challenges in their past. If you are in the middle of one of these "growth" opportunities I challenge you to keep going.  There is life on the other side, and it is amazing!

I would love to hear about your challenges and what you have learned from pushing through them.  I think we all find strength from knowing we aren't the only person who has walked this road.

No comments:

Post a Comment