Tag Archives: Support System

To all my mentors, past and present.

9 Dec

After reading Arianna’s post on role models, I was inspired to write my own post regarding the numerous mentors I have had throughout my life thus far. Despite the fact that the mentors who are in my life right now are currently the most important to me, I know the mentors of my past also helped me during times in my life when I needed guidance.

Though I do not doubt that my strength and my drive for independence were two very important factors that got me where I am today, I know without a shadow of a doubt that the many mentors I’ve had throughout my life provided me with a level of support that not only acted as a cushion when I was feeling low, but also propelled me forward and taught me to reach for all the possibilities that were awaiting me. Even though I am naturally one of those people who makes sure to tell the people I care about how much they mean to me on a regular basis, I also believe that you can never say “I appreciate you” too many times. It’s a simple three word phrase, but it has the ability to hold an amount of emotion I can’t even begin to describe.

“In the end, though, maybe we must all give up trying to pay back the people in this world who sustain our lives. In the end, maybe it’s wiser to surrender before the miraculous scope of human generosity and to just keep saying thank you, forever and sincerely, for as long as we have voices.” – Elizabeth Gilbert

There is something really special about taking note of the people in your life who have shaped you. Though I definitely know that my parents fall into that category, I’m referring to those people who shaped me without being asked. Those people who, though it was never asked of them, established connections with me because they hoped to influence my life in a positive way. Even though the concept itself seems like a no-brainer, I know that I wouldn’t be who I am today with the mentors from my past and present. Each one of them has provided me with support, encouragement, love, advice, and best of all…their time. I don’t know what it is about establishing connections with people who want nothing more than to learn from you, while also hoping to positively influence you…but it has brought me more happiness than I can even begin to describe.

In simple terms, I thrive off of connections with other people. In some situations, those connections don’t lead to a positive result, but in the best circumstances, I have gained not only a friend, but someone who I am able to appreciate and learn from. I believe that my need and love of having general connections with others is very much related to my desire to work in the helping profession as a counselor. Since I have had mentors within my own life who have impacted me in ways I never could have imagined, I want the chance to impact others in the same way. I want to know that in some small way, I helped someone. Whether it’s helping them to realize that they are worthy of the love that others are showing them or helping them to see that the traumatic event from their childhood doesn’t define the person they are today, I want to be there through it all. I want the chance to help them discover who they truly are, even if that means uncovering things about themselves they’ve kept hidden for so long for fear of being ridiculed.

Therefore, to all my mentors, past and present (Mike, Tucky, Chuck, Dr. Cox, Mr. Richard, Miss Mary, Miss Marie, Mrs. Trish, Dr. Cahill and Mrs. Walker)…I appreciate each and every one of you. You each have helped me to realize something different, but equally important, about myself, which has helped me to continue to discover who I truly am. You’ve each supported me when I’ve been down, and have continued to support me through my successes. You’ve shown me what it means to be selfless because I know that none of you felt obligated to be a positive influence my life. You chose to fill that role on your own accord, which means more to me than you will ever know. In all actuality, there are not enough words in the English language to express how much I appreciate each and every one of you. If it means saying “I appreciate you” every day for as long as I live, then that’s exactly what I will do.

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The search for understanding from a disability perspective.

5 Dec

Since I didn’t have someone who understood my pain during my years of intense surgeries and physical therapy for my Cerebral Palsy, I talk a lot now about wanting to be that person for others with CP (or other disabilities) who are going through similar situations. Though I do know that I want to be the understanding ear for those with physical and/or emotional difficulties associated with their disability, it’s only recently that I’ve begun to realize that there still isn’t someone to fill that role within my own life.

Though it is reassuring to know there are so many others who are in similar situations, most of the people I have connected with (mainly through my blog) are in the phases of difficulty I was in many years ago: the intense physical therapy, the surgeries, the nights of crying because all you want to understand is why you have to be different from everyone else. In order to be the CP advocate that I wish to be for others, I’m still looking for an understanding ear, but specifically someone who has already faced the difficulties I’m currently dealing with. However, I’m beginning to realize that finding someone who understands isn’t just hard when you’re a kid. It’s hard at every phase of life, no matter how much you may have progressed from where you were on day 1.

However, it’s also important to make a distinction between someone who wants to understand and someone who can understand. My support group of friends are all people within my life who love me and want to understand the pain and difficulties I have faced and continue to face on a daily basis. However, despite their good intentions regarding every aspect of who I am, none of them fit into the category of being someone who can understand. Though I do not blame them and am still very appreciative of all they do for me, I still want someone who can understand. I want someone who knows exactly what I mean when I’m talking about the pain of post-op physical therapy or how hard it is to simply summon the strength to get out of bed in the morning to continue the daily battle that is associated with living with a physical disability.

Though it may take me a very long time to find someone who can act as a disability role model within my own life, I know the wait will not stop me from being that person for so many others. The recent realization that sharing my own story can help to inspire so many others to keep on going is incredibly special to me. I have seen from my blog posts how much I have helped others who also have CP (and even people who don’t have any kind of disability) to simply keep on going. In so many ways, that is all we can do. Though there many not be too many people who can understand, I will continue to share my story in order to help those who want to understand. It is through those who want to understand that change will come. Since the central part of the search for understanding lies in the need for acceptance, helping those who want to understand is the first step towards achieving some form of acceptance within the current society in which we live.

When in Ireland, sit in comfortable silence.

19 Jul

“Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.” -Anais Nin

Friendship is completely wonderful, but in the beginning, it can be a bit scary. How do you decide which people to allow entrance into your world? How do you pick the ones who you not only speak to about the petty things…but the deeper things…the things you know aren’t necessary to share? How do you choose one person from another? What makes one person more worthy to hear your story…to enter your world?

I’ve always been really good at making friends, and after a good chunk of years spent in counseling, I’ve become very open regarding who I am. Even now though, I know that I still have to be careful when choosing who I can open up to. It’s a hard decision though. So many times I just don’t even want to go into the deep things because I know that I already have a friend who has heard all that crap. However, another part of me aches to open up to people because even though I know that my past doesn’t define me, it is what has made me who I am today. Without it, I wouldn’t be the person sitting here writing this blog. I’d be someone different.

I don’t doubt that many people have moments in their life where they wonder what it would be like to live a different life. Maybe that’s what friendship creates for us. The opportunity to enter another person’s world almost in a way in which we can place ourself in that world any time we are with that particular friend. However, at the same time, even when friendship gives us the opportunity to get a glimpse into another possible life we could be given, it also allows us to see that if we are unhappy with an aspect of our life, we can try to change it. It may not be easy. It may be really hard, and it may hurt more than you ever imagined…but if a different life is what you long for, then the pain would be worth it in the end.

I’m grateful for the friendships that Ireland has allowed me to find, the most important one being the friendship with Alex, my roommate and friend. Since I’ve had some negative roommate experiences in the past, I was worried about having a roommate again. However, it’s turned out to be the best decision. First off, Alex and I get along really well, so sharing an apartment for the past few weeks has been fun. It’s going to feel so weird to go back home and realize that I won’t be having breakfast with Alex every morning. Alex has also been a great support for me and has stuck by me throughout this experience. Often times, even when I become friends with someone, I can tell that some people have a hard time hanging back and realizing that I can’t move at the same pace as everyone else. It’s really nice that my slower pace doesn’t bother Alex. However, I do make the point to remind her that she is welcome to have time to herself to go and explore things at her own pace. Thankfully, though we enjoy spending time with each other, we both also like time to ourselves, so it’s been a nice balance for the both of us.

I came to Ireland worried. Though I don’t have trouble meeting people and making friends…trying to make friends in an unknown place where you don’t know anyone is a completely different ball game. However, I haven’t had too much trouble making friends since being here. Maybe it’s because I’m in Ireland and it’s amazing. Or maybe because I’ve finally realized that not everyone needs to know every detail of my story. Since speaking about my past gives me a sense of relief, it would make sense to speak about it as often as I can. However, it’s not a necessity. In all actuality, not everyone is going to genuinely care that much. It’s not as if my soul will break if I don’t open up to most of them. Truthfully, maybe it shows more courage to not always bring it up. Because maybe true friendship is realizing when to open up and when to sit in comfortable silence, allowing nature to be the central focus of your “conversation.”

Beyond The Waves by Elizabeth Marek: A Book Review.

6 Jun

During one of my many trips to my favorite used bookstore in Asheville, I came across Beyond The Waves by Elizabeth Marek when looking through the bargain books. After reading the synopsis on the back of the book, it seemed like a book I’d like, but more than that, it seemed like the type of read that I’d pay much more than one dollar for. I’ll take the deals where I can get them though!

Psychologist Abby Cohen is still reeling from the loss of her beloved daughter when another young girl arrives in her life-twelve-year-old Miranda, who appears at Abby’s hospital mute, terrified, and completely alone. In her struggle to connect with this deeply disturbed child and unravel the mystery of her past, Abby must grapple with her own frozen self.

Numbed by grief and on the verge of losing her relationship with both her husband and little boy, Abby finds herself tempted to leave behind what is left of the family she once cherished. But something about Miranda and the bond that has begun to form between them awakens Abby’s capacity to feel, and reminds her of the power-and the limits-of love.

The way the characters of Abby and Miranda came together in order to deal with the demons of their different pasts was moving to me. I was most drawn to the character of Miranda simply because my heart ached for her and the mysterious past that she seemed to be very troubled by. Through much of the book, Miranda was afraid and alone. Though that was heartbreaking for me, it was also a very huge reminder of why I want to be a counselor myself. Psychologist Abby Cohen tries throughout the book to connect to Miranda, despite the fact that Miranda seems very frightened and alone. However, that’s all the more reason that I strive to connect with others. Though my past wasn’t as extreme as it could have been, it wasn’t easy. I spent so many years afraid, in pain, and surrounded by doctors and parents, and yet feeling utterly alone. When I was going through my intense physical therapy and 3 intense surgeries, I wanted someone who understood or at least could be there to remind me that I wasn’t alone through all the pain. Studies show that every person benefits from a strong support system. Though I had support from my parents and other family members, that wasn’t the kind of support I was looking for. Even though at the time there wasn’t a friend who was aching to understand, what I didn’t know at the time was that the support was coming.

My support came during my junior year at Salem Academy when I met my best friend, Skidmore. Skidmore was the very first person I completely opened up to in regards to all the details of my past. Every memory of pain, fear, loneliness….Skidmore knows it. Realizing that I had someone to share everything with was big, but once I began to understand that Skidmore longed to know so that she could understand who I truly was, I practically never stopped talking. I mean, it came out slow (the details of my past), but it felt so good to tell someone. Telling someone about my pain, fear, and loneliness and having them not judge me or feel sorry for me, but just love me….scars and all…that’s what I had been looking for, and I found it. Though I know have other friends who are an equal amount of support, no one knows as much as Skidmore does. Once I said everything single memory in detail once, it seemed like enough. I mean, my other friends know me really well too, but I guess you could say that since Skidmore was the first person who seemed to want to understand me for exactly who I was, that’s what she got: the stories of pain and fear that I carried around for so long without telling anyone. The stories that, though they don’t define me, are the truest form of the difficulties I’ve faced that I can possibly show.