The most difficult aspect of my recovery involved practicing patience. At the time, all I wanted to do was to get better and get back to my life. Now that I look back on it, I can see that patience was truly a virtue because it encouraged me stay to focused on the present. Patience allowed me to concentrate on recovery rather than be distracted by physical limitations.
After surviving my initial attack of encephalitis, I focused on regaining the ability to stand and to walk. After 3 months of rigorous and exhausting rehabilitation, I was excited and inspired when I was consistently able to take a few steps unsupported. Then, 1 month later, my progress was unexpectedly halted and I experienced a relapse that left me paralyzed from the neck down. The thought of once again enduring the pain and frustration associated with the rehabilitation to regain my physical abilities left me feeling devastated and overwhelmed. I soon learned that any prospect I had for recovery would require an incredible and unimaginable kind of inner strength.
Within a few weeks I once again regained the use of my arms, but my legs remained paralyzed. I was faced with the daunting realization that I may never walk again. For the first time, I truly understood that the strength and determination needed to walk again would have to come from within. I thought that my previous experience with paralysis had prepared for me for the difficult road ahead. However, after 2 months of challenging and tiresome rehabilitative therapy, I did not yet have the muscle strength or balance to even sit-up unsupported and I still could not feel anything below the waist.
When I realized that my original plan to recover in 3 months was not going to happen, panic set in. I soon learned that focusing on the present and immediate goals rather than the end result left me feeling encouraged and capable. When the situation became too much to handle, I reminded myself that I just needed to get through the next hour. Tasks seemed less daunting when I reminded myself that I had to push beyond the pain and fatigue for small increments of time.
One of the happiest days of my life took place after 4 months of rehabilitation. I was able to wiggle my big toe. This moment reinforced my belief in my own strength and it taught me that with patience and perseverance anything was possible. Over the course of the next 6 months, drawing on the power of patience, I had progressively regained mobility and sensation of my entire body.
“Making your mark on the world is hard. If it were easy, everybody would do it. But it’s not. It takes patience, it takes commitment, and it comes with plenty of failure along the way. The real test is not whether you avoid this failure, because you won’t. It’s whether you let it harden or shame you into inaction, or whether you learn from it; whether you choose to persevere.” – Barack Obama
Copyright Dr. Julie Doobay 2011