|Blindsided - Page 10|
The physical and emotional aspects of adjusting to paraplegia have given me a much clearer template for how adjustment to life change happens. This template gives me confidence about the process of adjustment clients go through. There's a profound and alienating recognition of crisis, accompanied by heartbreak and denial; attempts to move forward amidst storms of complications and setbacks; more heartbreak and setbacks; then a gradual sense of the abating storm, of settling waters, of a steadier place from which to get one's bearings; and, finally, an openness to new possibilities.
My body dictated the pace and the focus of my own adjustment. I had a choice about attitude, but I wasn't going to change the process. I find often that the circumstances my clients face are similar: they're going through a process dictated by their grief, depression, anxiety, job loss, or life transition. They can try to fight the process and postpone the inevitable or they can look at it for what it is and struggle through it authentically. My clearly demarcated process of adjustment to paraplegia helps me keep the whole picture in mind. I can normalize and validate what's happening in the present and have confidence in a future that'll make use of all the client is experiencing.
When I wheel into my office at 10:00 a.m., I've had three to four hours of up- close-and-personal experience with my disability. I've had an attendant doing everything it takes to prepare me for another day in the wheelchair—bathe me, dress my wounds, put my clothes on in bed, do my range of motion exercises, lift me with the ceiling lift, and then position me in my chair. To enter into the therapy room is an opportunity to leave all that behind, get outside myself, and focus totally on someone else. At that point, even the most difficult client seems inviting. The therapy room is both my workplace and my sanctuary. It's a place where I'm not disabled. When things go really well with a client, I may even feel like I'm dancing again.