I’ve never been a religious person. Throughout my life, I’ve generally taken a more or less scientific approach to religious belief and struggled with the notion of believing in something that can’t be proven. But ever since doctors told me that they could not predict my healing and that it would be wise to prepare never to walk again, I discovered my own religion: my 100% recovery.
Ok I’m not trying to get into a big existential discussion on religion or God or an afterlife, so just bear with me. All I’m saying now is that my injury has taught me to accept that it’s perfectly reasonable, and commendable, to believe in something that can’t necessarily be proven. Even immediately after my injury, in the most pain I’ve ever experienced and unable to feel most of my body, I refused to believe that my body was permanently damaged. I decided right then and there, that no matter how difficult the process and how long the recovery, I would get back to my feet and walk again. This belief only gets stronger with every day that passes.
I refuse to accept defeat, I refuse to embrace a life in a chair, I refuse to consider for one second that I won’t eventually stand up and walk on my own two legs, yet I have no proof for this. As I’ve written before, there are no specific prognoses for people with Spinal Cord Injury. Doctors don’t specify that a percentage of people with my injury do recover, and how can they really, since it’s hard to define what “recovery“ means exactly. It can mean something different to different people. I recently overheard another SCI patient say that as long as she could use her hands and get back to work, she would be happy. That was the objective of her recovery and she would probably adjust her expectations and goals accordingly. Well, that’s NOT the case for me.
I want to run and bike and stand and sprint and hike and stroll and stand atop mountains and swim in alpine lakes and do all of the things I love. There is no holy book outlining my beliefs but this doesn’t stop me from believing wholeheartedly in the possibility, and eventual reality, that I will recover fully. Many of the therapists I encounter in the conventional, Western approach tell me the main goal of recovery from an injury like this is to become “as independent as possible”. In other words, they can’t predict that I will recover and get back to normal (another nebulous and subjective term) so they suggest I adapt to whatever my current situation is and become “as independent as possible”. Every time I hear this, it makes my skin crawl. Maybe this is like a member of the Latter Day Saints church trying to articulate the beliefs of Mormonism to a Buddhist monk who has taken a vow of silence. Or vice versa. Each person may respect the other’s right to believe what they want, but the belief systems could not be more different. Well, the same goes for me.
I honestly don’t care what doctors or anyone else tells me anymore, because I KNOW, with every drop of blood I have in my body, that I WILL walk again. My recovery is my religion, and I am the most devout, fundamentalist believer.