Everyone has certain things, activities, features, etc., that are intrinsic to their definition of self, and when those things change, or have to change, it can be highly unsettling. The foundations of who you are as a person can completely be yanked out from under you like a rug. And that’s ok. It’s not fun, it’s not easy, but it is ok. We as humans aren’t static. We are constantly growing and changing, and change is part of life. Granted, no one expects to have their life be completely redefined without them having an active choice in the matter, but when that happens, we have the makeup to pick up and reconfigure a new life. I think remembering that we CAN do this, and to think about it, whether it’s happened to you or not, is important because its something that can happen to any of us at any time.
I found my entire definition of self was based upon several of my activities: I was an avid touring music photographer, I rode horses at a professional competitive level, and I enjoyed active outdoor sports like hiking and camping. Music, cameras, horses, and outside were the terms I used to define myself, and where I derived all of my self worth from. Not because I had or have low self confidence, but because those things encompassed my passions, my love, my dreams, and my goals. As a younger adult I was being slowed down by my genetic conditions, which now have me in a wheelchair and not able to be as active due to constantly dislocating joints and syncopal episodes. Initially this threw me into a huge depression that I wasn’t prepared to deal with; I wasn’t advised to seek therapy with this huge change in my life, and I truly wish I had been steered in that direction, and didn’t have to fight to that understanding myself. Without being able to do the things I considered so intrinsic to my being, I felt lost, like I didn’t know who I was anymore, and that I was worthless because I wasn’t who I used to be.
But it didn’t stay there. I am incredibly lucky to have a supportive partner who thinks I’m the bomb dot com no matter WHAT I can do, and in no way finds my worth tied to the things that I can or can’t do anymore. Through therapy, I’ve started to rediscover myself. I have a chance now as an adult to find and explore new passions, and that’s not scary anymore, it’s exciting! I’ve discovered, through using a service dog, that I truly enjoy dog training, and my current service dog in training is also headed to a competitive career in dock diving and rally obedience, neither of which is impacted by my new mobility limitations.
While it's not in the books for me to tour as a music photographer anymore, I’m getting that camera out with my dog, and with myself - I can’t expect anyone else to see me unless I can truly see me as who I am now, and accept and enjoy that. I can’t wait to try some adaptive winter sports this winter, after meeting some incredible athletes that have showed me that I can still enjoy sports, albeit differently, and different is just as good, if not more fun now, because I am able to work within my limitations instead of trying to force past them and end up sicker. I’ve been asked how I can live my life, knowing what I lost. In the past, this has been really hard to hear, being seen as less than I was. My response now is that I have an incredible opportunity to learn new things and rediscover the person I WANT to be, which is a choice few adults seem to give themselves, and one I certainly wouldn’t have made if I had a choice, but one that I am infinitely thankful for every single day. And every day I will keep finding new things, and ways, to enjoy the body I’ve been given and the life that I am now actively choosing to be involved in.