Month: April 2020

Red Hot Ant Daggers of Pain

I lost the battle today; it doesn’t happen often; I feel like I usually win or find a way to think I win. I went to bed at 2:30 PM so numb from medicine but still in pain; there was nothing else I could do. Just imagine millions of little hot red ants stabbing their forks and knives into your body starting just below your rib-cage and then down the back and front of your legs all the way to the tips of your toes. There is not a millimeter left untouched. It’s so intense that it feels like there’s a tourniquet wrapped around my torso and each leg.

red hot ant daggers of pain

Every time I move the ants get disrupted and start moving and deepening the pain with every step they take.  It’s like a million hot daggers stabbing into my torso and my legs. The bottom half of my body is on fire and there’s nothing I can do to put the fire out.  It sucks my energy and pollutes my mind with anger. The most interesting thing that happens is I feel like I’m freezing. I start with a sweatshirt to see if I can stay warm then I also smoke some of the medical marijuana in hopes that it won’t make the pain worse because sometimes it does.

I tried to make it through this time; I have my passion to distract- lesson plans for my students to master so they don’t get bored and actually learn something. I try to focus through; the weed helped a little but I accidently smoked too much and now I’m falling asleep at my computer and the pain is not much better just masked by the high. I don’t want to give in I want to focus and do my work; I just want to feel normal agian. 

I ask myself what else can I do? I could have a coffee but I know that increases my pain 5-fold, but at least I would be more alert and maybe able to focus through. I use to have the good shit OxyContin, Vicodin any opioid pain killer that I wanted and not just a few; I can have 90 of them per month (3 pills a day).  I use to take these put they cause horrible constipation, addiction and for me they only mask the pain for about 30 minutes. After those 30 minutes of pure bliss the pain came back 10-fold and also total exhaustion. Of course, I can just take another one but I couldn’t do it, my body wouldn’t let me; the high wasn’t worth the cost. This is what brought me to the medical canabis which given the right strain can take off the edge and help me focus on what I need to do  – it’s been a gift from God when it works.  I also try not to use it very often or I’ll just have to keep increasing the dosage.  

So now when it gets bad, I smoke the weed and do whatever I can do to get distracted from the hot ant daggers that feel like they are sucking the energy out of my soul. Distraction is the key and it totally works. When I’m passionate about what I’m doing and really in the present moment; no amount of pain can keep me from enjoying that moment. This is what happens when I teach and that’s what makes the pandemic quarantine so hard.

There is no great distraction like teaching available to me, no brat teenager taking out his phone or talking while I’m trying to teach (these are the ones I miss the most right now). What I would do to be back in class where student interactions can distract me from my pain and bring me into that present moment of engaging/inspiring that student to do the right thing. Or other distractions like a super fun hands on labs to get the kids to have some magic chemistry experience. These moments of passion and purpose are stronger than any opioids or weed strains I’ve ever had. Living a life with purpose is what keeps me sane!

But today I’m home and this distraction is not available and I’m freezing, exhausted, burning from the ribcage down. The only thing to do is to get into bed, cover myself with 4 blankets and pray that I wake up pain free.

I lost the battle but my body will win the war when one day these little daggers find a way to reconnect nerve sensations into feelings and movements once again.

No matter how sadistic it might be I need to celebrate the intense stabbing tourniquet of nerve impulses because they are resilient in searching for a connection that I know they will find.

6 Year Accident Anniversary

It is in Giving You Shall Receive

Today is my 6 years accident anniversary. 6 years ago on 4/25/2014 about 7:30 pm I was on my way home biking up from Hyde Park to downtown Chicago where I lived. I decided the safest route home would be to take the lake shore trail because I didn’t want to get hit by car and I didn’t know the streets very well. This night little did I know my life would change forever and that I wouldn’t be making my planned 600 mile bike ride from southern IL up to Wisconsin that coming summer. Little did I know that I wasn’t walking into my high school chemistry class for the rest of the year to implement labs and activities which I thought would help shape the future of my students. I know that my purpose in life is to change the world somehow through education. It’s the only thing I knew for sure I wanted to do with my life, but now I wasn’t sure how. 

Then God gave me this gift. He gave me the gift to see what the world is like with a disability and what it takes to live everyday taking care of basic needs. He gave me the opportunity to appreciate the little things in life that I’d been taking for granted for 34 years. So now with my new found situation of survival I get to learn first-hand the resilience it takes to survive in a world that is not accommodated for you. 

The thing that has depressed me the most over the past 6 years was the feeling that I can’t help other people because I’m barely surviving myself. I could hardly make it through my day so I felt like I couldn’t get close to my students because I wouldn’t be there when they needed me. I felt like I couldn’t get close to people because I had nothing to offer them – I was just this broken person rebuilding a shattered life. What do I have that I can possibly offer them that would be of any use? I’ve always measured my self-worth by who I can help – my self-worth scuppered. I’ve always been a giver and now I’ve become the ultimate taker and user.  I was desperate to be a giver again and that meant becoming independent and able to take care of myself without anyone’s help. So this is what I’ve spent the last 6 years doing.

This has been my drive that has brought me to a place where I’ve found my way that I can be a giver again. I’m independent and self-sufficient. While in the process to becoming independent I learned how real relationships exist- it was the power of AND within a relationship: give AND take. I realized that when people helped me and I shared my story with them they felt inspired and we both looked forward to our next interaction. The more I shared about my trials and survival the more I could truly connect with people. As a disabled person your first instinct is to hide everything that isn’t normal from people. Hide the nerve pain, bowel program, lack of bladder control, leg spasms, broken wheelchairs, diapers….etc. I’ve learned to celebrate these things in a way that makes them feel maybe not normal, but human for me and others. For example when I would take the train to work, the CTA workers with the ramp would wait with me for the train. While we waited we learned about each others’ lives. They would ask me about my recovery and I would ask them about their kids. I was able to connect with people in this way because they were essential to my life in a way that I never understood before my accident. I wasn’t a taker – I was a person with needs that has a ton a gratitude for the people that are able to support me along this journey. 

Now my husband (Ash) and I have begun my biggest way to give back with what God has given me. We have created Project Awaken where we can share all my stories and connect people with disabilities to inspire and motivate other people with disabilities to get active in life. It’s taken 6 years from my accident to understand what it means to give in this condition but it has only just begun.


Birthday Present- Podcast Dx Interview

Birthday Present - PodcastDx Interview

Last month I got the opportunity to speak to PodcastDx about my spinal cord injury and recovery process. They are an amazing podcast that brings to light the triumphs people have over what can become devastating situations. I appreciate their mission to highlight the wonderful capacity of the human spirit in times of trauma that sometimes leaves people with a #disability . It was wonderful for them to release the recording on my birthday which is also 3 days short of my 6 year anniversary of my accident. My #paralysisrecovery has seen a ton of blessing and being able to share them in this podcast was a treat. I main hope through this podcast is that inspires people to find the silver lining is what they might think to be the worst of times. I find these times are the ones that help us dig deep and learn to truly accept life as it is. I love myself now more than I ever did before my accident. Before my accident I didn’t think I was beautiful, attractive, smart enough, worthy enough, or capable to fulfill my life purpose. Now I know I’m perfect the way I am and I accept wearing a diaper, not being able to control my bowel movements or my bladder or even being able to walk -yet (: I realized everything in life is temporary and perfect just in the moment you’re in. My recovery over the past 6 years has made me whole!