I sat in the cold, dim room in my hospital bed looking down at the leg that the doctors had just told me they were going to have to amputate. My spirit was nearly broken and I could actually feel myself spiraling down into a dark hole so fast, as if I had no other choice. And that is when I remembered something I had heard, “One small decision can change the rest of your life.” At that very moment I decided I would be positive no matter what my circumstances were. Boy, I am glad I did, because I had no idea just what kind of a journey I was about to embark.
I want to share with you some of the things that helped me stay positive in the face of adversity. I learned the true definition of resilience in my recovery journey from 34 surgeries, three and a half months in the hospital and being diagnosed with a nerve disease called CRPS. Here are some of the things that helped me stay positive and turn a tragedy into triumph:
First, I had to focus on gratitude. I am sure you are wondering how could anyone be grateful when dealing with these circumstances?? Well….I opened my journal and immediately began a gratitude list—that is, all the things for which I was grateful. So instead of staring into darkness, I focused on what was light in my life: My family, my friends, my home, nature, blue skies, clouds, birds singing, music, America, the career I had worked so hard for and everything I had overcome and achieved. I was even grateful for my health, aside from the leg. Yet even that, too, made the list, because I still had the leg. So whether big or small things, make sure to add them to your gratitude list. As the list grows, so does the positivity. Psychological depression, as opposed to biochemical depression, doesn’t occur in a vacuum. It occurs in negativity, when “what I don’t have” seems greater than “what I want to have.” Focus on what you DO have and what you CAN do.
Next, I had to learn how to have some self love and acceptance for what I call my “new normal.” I have to be honest, this was really challenging for me. I was living in denial, trying to convince myself that I didn’t have the nerve disease, CRPS, and that I could do it all on my own and didn’t need any help from anyone. I would always cover up my scars and look down at my leg, that the doctors miraculously saved, and be filled with anger and disgust. I am ashamed to admit, I hated my leg (and hate is a four letter word in our family) because of the pain it gave me, that it no longer functioned like it should, and that it was so deformed. But, in order to be comfortable in our own skin we have to start by being completely honest with ourselves and then we can slowly develop some acceptance. When we own our story we can begin to truly heal and have such freedom. When you embrace your insecurities, people will either respect you for it, or dislike you for it. Either way, you will be more comfortable in your own skin and truly begin to heal. Be proud of yourself and all the progress you’ve made.
Finally, I learned the importance of being of service. This is the difference between choosing to be a survivor, verses a victim, and key for getting out of your head. It is a sure way to take your focus off your troubles, and guaranteed to produce happiness and positivity. Just because I was stuck in the bed, didn’t mean I couldn’t be of service. I began making phone calls to clients to make sure they were taken care of and set up with other fitness trainers until I could be up on my feet and train them myself. I also designed exercise programs for the nurses who were taking care of me and wanted to know how they could get that Brazilian butt of their dreams. Now I can share my journey of recovery to others and give them hope and let them see that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Sometimes it may be a long tunnel, but there is light and you CAN have the life you always imagined even if your circumstances have narrowed your possibilities.
Gratitude turns denial into acceptance, makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and create hope for tomorrow.
Are you doing everything in your power to stay positive and live with a grateful heart?