By Barbara Polan
Since becoming disabled by a stroke, I have rejected the concept of accepting my broken body the way it is – I have equated acceptance with giving up, and I am certainly not one to give up. In fact, the “Never give up” mantra is one I'se heard scores of times, and I don's find it helpful. You know why? Because giving up is not one of the options on the menu in my head; so as advice, it goes in one ear and then nowhere. Seriously: Why would I accept my paralysis and give up trying to overcome it? How could I? And how could I ever accept the fact that I could be disabled the rest of my life, a timespan that might be 40 more years Can I really accept being like this for 40 years?
One OT I'se had along the way once told me about a conversation she's had with a patient who had broken her arm in four places; she asked the OT when her arm would be back to normal. The OT's response? She told the young woman that her arm would never be the same again – that it would always be an arm that had been broken in four places; what COULD happen, though, was that she could regain all the functions her never-broken arm had been able to do.
And this struck me the other day: What if acceptance means that I can stop going into the rattrap of focusing so far into the future? What if it means that I continue my fight, my hard work, never knowing the endpoint, never knowing how long it will last? Yes, I know where I want to go. Surprisingly, it is NOT back to where I was. I imagine a new, improved Barb, someone with all the physical and mental capabilities as pre-stroke, but with a deeper understanding of people in pain, grieving and/or taking a shot at the “impossible,” a writer better able to pierce the hearts of my readers by shining a light on situations they assume they will never find themselves in. I plan to be wiser, more empathetic, encouraging and connected to others.
There is no getting around the fact that I will always be a woman who has had a stroke. I can accept that.