Have you ever gone through a situation in your life and thought what if I could turn back the clock of time? This question of turning back the clock of time came to my mind after reading Didi’s blog post. Didi’s article reflects on how the experiences we have and share shape us and make us who we are.
“It takes just a second”
I had heard such phrase – “it takes just a second” – many times but only came to understand the fullness of its meaning in 2004. As it was the year were 1 second was what it took to turn my life upside down.
I was out one night and while I was returning home. I had an unfortunate accident which left me paralyzed from the neck down, unable to move a single muscle in my body. Can you imagine such a situation? One moment in life you are fully physically independent and a second later you can’t move a single muscle in your body.
Suddenly you find yourself not even physically able to do the simplest things in life. From making yourself a glass of water to shushing away a fly that sits on your nose. You can just imagine the physical and mental trauma, as in just 1 second it was like losing all my life.
It a question that Didi put forth in her article, why me? And it’s true in such difficult life-altering situations the question pops up as a normal process of grieving. Why me?
Initially, I cannot deny asking that question myself. I was in ITU stuck on a ventilator treading the fine line between life and death. Why me? Why did it have to happen to me that I end up paralyzed from the neck down. Fully conscious lying face-up on a bed staring at the ceiling of the hospital room. I spent the first few months after the injury pondering such a question.
The turning point
I spent hours at a time trying to answer the question of why me? Applying reason pondering a multitude of logical and philosophic arguments to answer such a question. But I could not find one argument that could fill the existential void I was feeling within myself. So, I just gave up trying to explain why I end up paralyzed. But this “giving up” was different it was not a resignation it was more of an acknowledgement of the fact that I was paralyzed.
Thereafter facing up in bed staring at the ceiling. I decided to spend a few moments in meditation trying to mindfully ground myself in the totality of such life-changing experience. And it was then that a moment of insight struck me – Why not me?
Why not me?
Such question carried such truth within it. Why not me? Did I have something special that made me immune from having such an experience. Actually not? Having an accident and ending up paralyzed could happen to anyone. Not only, but it also made me reflect on the fact that at any one moment in life there are thousands of people going through traumatic life-altering situations. Some due to a terminal illness, others might be facing mental health issues. While others might have lost everything due to war. Or the fact that approximately 1 billion people in the world are dying of hunger, with many of those being children.
“Counting my blessings”
This made me reflect and “count my blessings” and the fact that although paralyzed I was still alive and mentally, I was there. Which made me remember a phrase from the Bible when one loses oneself one finds oneself. It was not being able to move physically that actually defined who I am but my soul within. This set me on the road of recovery.
Life does not end with paralysis
I am still paralyzed today but unbecomingly I am living a full life. To the extent that to date I did things and had experiences that I would have never thought possible or achievable even before I had the accident. Because acknowledging the fact that I was paralyzed and embracing the totality of such lived experience ended up in advocating for the rights of persons affected by disability and influencing social policy in the area. I also got involved in co-producing and co-presenting a TV series on disability and social issues for 5 consecutive years.
Further such experience motivated me to further my education in the field of social well-being. With the final aim being to combine the knowledge gained with my lived experience towards accompanying individuals going through some form of existential distress. Such that I embarked on a 5-year course successfully reading a degree in psychology at the University of Malta. Were I was awarded the Deans award for academic excellence. While currently, I am following a Master’s of science Studies in Mindfulness at the University of Aberdeen. And last but not least in 2018 I was honoured by the President of the Republic of Malta as member of the “Order of Merit of Malta.”
What If I Could Turn Back The Clock Of Time?
Back to our starting question. If I had the opportunity to go to the day when I had the accident would I stop it and turn back the clock of time.
On reflection a definite and resounding “NO”. Not because it’s something enjoyable to be paralyzed. Indeed, if ever there is a clinically approved cure within the medical community, I would go for it. But because I did things as a paralyzed person that I never thought possible achieving. In addition, such experience involved an internal spiritual growth within myself that changed me in ways that made me who I am today. In a sense, it’s like having a deep-seated feeling of peace, joy and happiness within myself. When I stop and reflect, I truly feel that being paralyzed might have offered me a glimpse into the meaning of life:
There are times where we find yourself caught in a hard-bound search for the “meaning of life”. What is the meaning of life? It’s the question with an unfathomable answer. So hard is the question to answer that it leads one into an exhausting endless search while life passes by. Stop searching start living and meaning will start creeping into life 😉(Posted on my Facebook August 20th 2016)