Mind. Living with Disability: A reintroduction to HealingWoman.

Well, it only took me 34 years after my first major accident, a traumatic brain injury, to finally figure out that living with disability is living…. just more so.

The daffodils are out. It has been three days since I wore my winter coat. I needed an antihistamine this morning for my seasonal asthma because the grass is greening.

I have never been in a Gap or Aeropostale store but tried on size 6 jeans of both brands in the second hand shop and both fit (bought the Aeropostale, the Gap were too far down my middle-aged hips for my comfort).

Hormonal problems from the small brain tumor found in December are active but I have learned how to eat despite no appetite and record meals and snacks to make sure it is appropriate over time. I have trimmed down but stabilized after profound weight loss even while adding muscle.

I used my hiking poles to walk 4 + miles on the Eastern Greenway trail Sunday afternoon, a walking meditation made joyful by chipmunks and a small running stream that ran parallel most of the way. I met a few cyclists. A red tailed hawk hovered overhead much of the time, doubtless looking for careless chipmunks.

Five years ago at this time I could not walk short distances without a walker, was on narcotics constantly for the pain after spinal surgery/infection/repeat operations and rehab, and weighed over 200 rather than my current 150 pounds.
Mind you, my cumulative disabilities, including impaired balance and poor peripheral vision, are greater now than then, but I am more alive by far. If I need a wheelchair, I will try to find one that can do the fairly level fire trails used by trucks and I will still get the forest experience.

Blessings to all of you, wherever you are literally or in your life journeys. Treasure the good moments and put those memories away to keep. When it hurts too much to live an hour, live a minute, and if that is too much, take one breath, then one more. I’ve been there, too.

I have finally learned that living with disability is not just living with constant limitation and reminders of mortality. It is living with everything enhanced. If we can be mindful of all— living with dis-, ability, and possibility — it may bring at least some days of living with more, not less, than those who live with less awareness of limitation, and less awareness, period.

That does not mean disease, injury, or early death are good things. That does not mean life is fair.

I mean there are sometimes quiet blessings to be found in painful and sorrowful moments and in the people we meet during awful times.

For me, this is what I found in the prayerful state of my long walk. For me, speaking for myself alone, this is what I have recognized through the decades as God’s will.

It is not that he chose me, among my husband, his best friend, and me, as the one to be hit in the head with the chunk of rock and paving kicked up by a speeding car to hit my skull and injure my brain so badly it was the end of my fledgling career as a doctor. That was random chance.

God’s will was in the quiet reflection that I could find within myself, how I could re-examine my childhood dream to help people and make a difference, and then use those dreams and my knowledge to become an advocate for healthcare, disability rights, and patient advocacy, educating people how to become effective voices for themselves iwith healthcare providers and in making their decisions and setting goals when life isn’t fair to them, either.

Whether you are more in the corner of random chance, Karma, or a guiding hand of God, you are welcome here, to read my musings (Spirit), my articles on health literacy and patient advocacy (Mind), and articles on health conditions themselves (Body).

All I ask is that we recognize we are one family, whether we are living more aware of our dis- or our ability. For those who question the nature of mental illness, I firmly believe that illness seated in the brain is no different than illness seated in any other organ, it simply manifests through brain-based functions, and those include thought, memory, emotion, and behavior. When I use the term MIND, I mean the mental/conscious person who is the pilot of their body, and sometimes that means someone who is trying to pilot a body whose very brain sometimes works against them.

And with that, welcome spring, friends in the northern hemisphere. I hope your summer is ending well, friends in the southern hemisphere.

We share the same Earth. We are pulled by the same tides, lulled by the same soothing beats of our beloveds’ hearts.

Elizabeth Coolidge-Stolz, MD/ (c) HealingWoman

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