Paralysis and later, debilitating pain forced me to direct my attention to my area of concern: my unresponsive body. Rather than the inclination to dissociate from the difficulty, I learned that I had to be totally present with the physical distress. I had to focus my thoughts, energy and will to be one with areas of my body that I could not physically feel. Later on, I had to use this directed presence to deal with the intensity of the pain associated with regaining my physical abilities.
During the initial stages of my paralysis, I could not feel anything below my neck. It was such a bizarre experience to have parts of my own body that could not feel. I could see my limbs. I wanted to move them. I thought that movement was occurring, but to my surprise when I looked down, nothing was happening. Sometimes, during bleaker moments, it felt like I was imprisoned, cut off from my body and my life. But I was determined to recover, and I had faith I could recover and that I would, and could, endure anything. This was my life. My present-day, my now. To connect with my inert body. I learned that I had to concentrate fully on the part of my body that I wanted to move. I had to remember what it felt like to initiate movement and to remember the chain of thoughts required to initiate that movement.
I learned that in order to make something happen now, I also had to be in the now. I had to focus and be fully present in that moment. I learned how to concentrate my focus to feel the life and energy within a specific area. The information for sensation and movement was not yet being relayed back to my brain, but I could feel there was still vitality there. I soon discovered that I could “be” with an area that was paralyzed by directing an absolute desire to feel. After several months, I still could not feel or move my legs. But I knew that there was still the potential for my legs to reconnect and express life through sensation and movement.
After 4 months I began to feel constant and excruciating pain in both of my legs. My legs that had not moved in months were now going into deep and sudden muscle spasms. I was excited because for the first time in months, I could feel. Yes, I was feeling intense pain but it was a sure sign of improvement. The pain medication did not provide any relief, so I had no choice but to experience the pain in it’s entirety. I discovered that I could mentally persuade the muscle to relax by focusing my attention and intention to the muscle. With conscious awareness, I used total focus to be present with the area of concern.
Within 8 months I was fortunate enough to recover full sensation and movement of my body. I was now able to concentrate on gaining the strength, endurance, and balance necessary to walk again. It has now been 8 years since the onset of my illness and I continue to use the lessons I learned during my recovery. My illness forced me to focus my attention and to be fully present. Even now, due to my injuries, there are still some physical skills that require complete consciousness to accomplish. But I know I can achieve them because of the lesson I learned from my illness which forced me to focus my attention and to be fully present. The ability to experience total presence and focus it to accomplish my goal is a true gift.
“… Even though the future seems far away, it is actually beginning right now. And while we are living in the present, we must celebrate life every day, knowing that we are becoming history with every word, every action, every moment…” – Mattie Stepanek