Tattoos, plastic surgery and more, humans for thousands of years have been manipulating their bodies – to honor those we have lost, to enhance our beauty, to hide imperfections, to celebrate life moments; it is just something we do. But after a spinal cord injury I think the need for this grows exponentially, and it’s not hard to understand why.
Most people abhor the thought of becoming paralyzed. They think it’s one of the scariest things they could ever experience, and they’re correct in their assumption. As one who has lived with paralysis for 23 years, it definitely is something to fear. There are so many things you cannot do, situations you get stuck in (and are literally stuck in) that can drive you insane.
While my life is definitely not a living hell as one thinks might occur if they were to become paralyzed, there is a fierce desire that comes to the surface, one that cannot be ignored, and that is the desire to improve whatever parts of your body you can still improve, or that you are capable of improving on your own or with help from others.
Let me explain: I’ve had plastic surgery to enhance parts of my body so that I feel more feminine. I have a tattoo and want more (this is quite common in those with spinal cord injuries). I like to take care of my body as much as I can, this includes doing my hair, doing my makeup, getting my nails done, taking care of my teeth and anything I can still do.
Since this ridiculous paralysis thing is something I can’t change, it is so empowering to do other things I can change. I’m sure there is some psychological explanation behind this. My best answer is that it’s pleasurable to be able to improve my body. This helps me cope with my paralysis better than any support group, books, time that passes or anything else. The power of body manipulation post spinal cord injury is strong.
As of late my big thing has been using self-tanner, as well as yoga. I’m trying to stretch my arms in new ways since I’ve lost some range of motion in them over the years. This is something I can still do, and I’m adamant in making sure I don’t become lazy and neglect doing the things I can still do anymore.
Again, this is something I wish they would have told me in my physical rehab process, but it was something I had to find out on my own. The lesson: Do what you still can to love your body and feel comfortable in your own skin. It can and will help you heal. And of course be careful in overdoing it.
I’m not sitting here telling you to go get a facelift just because you can’t walk, but I am saying enjoy the freedoms that are still out there when it comes to liking the body you are in. After all, we are in these things until the end of our lives. Loving the body you are in after a spinal cord injury can be a very difficult journey, but I it must be done.
Do you agree with my sentiments? What do you do to your physical form to help cope with your paralysis?