“Running away from the pain and reality was more important to me.”
What is the meaning of life?
I’m certain that many, like me, ask this question. For some, they already know the answer while the others are still in the continuous process of unraveling.
My name is Joan and I am paraplegic. I was born normal. I grew up like a regular kid. I ran around, played with friends, and been silly at the most times that I could remember.
Life was simple and I loved it. But of course, like all other lives, it wasn’t perfect. Our family was torn apart because of unexpected circumstances. But happiness is a choice. My mom, two older brothers and me chose to be happy. The years that followed, the pain of brokenness was fully healed and we were happy but that changed after THE accident.
December 2007— I was 14 years old and I was in third year high school. My mom and I were riding in a jeepney heading home when we heard a gunshot. Unknowingly, the bullet didn’t get lost in thin air because it went straight to my spinal chord. It caused the paralysis under my chest all the way to my feet. We didn’t know to whom that bullet was for because it was definitely not for me. Later, we were told that the gun was fired by a member of a gang and the target was another person who was also in the same jeepney we were at.
The physical paralysis that followed after that dreadful incident changed my life and all of our lives. I had to quit school because of my situation and the compounding financial debts due to my hospital and medication bills. At first, I was never disdained or embarrassed with what happened because I know it was no one’s fault. It was a pure accident, just another case of unfortunate event.
It was not easy to adjust but I have a positive mind. “I will walk again”, I’d tell myself everyday. All the while, I thought that losing my ability to walk was just temporary and so I waited. I stayed inside the house waiting for the day that I could walk again. But it never came.
I’d quietly go outdoors and try to lift my body or my feet. But every time I do so, my body never responded. I slowly felt and realized my truth— I could not walk anymore! Day after day when reality would sink in, I’d get hurt. Pain would creep quietly and slowly, almost killing the hope I have. Whenever I’d see the lives of my friends on Facebook, I would again feel how the sorrow of missing out. Sometimes, I wouldn’t even open my social media so I wouldn’t be reminded how much my friends have moved on with life and I was not.
I started to hide from the world and kept myself inside my safe space—my home. For almost a decade after my accident, I lived my life by watching TV, listening to music, reading books and drawing. I was ok with my chosen seclusion. I stayed in my cave of convenience and it went on for years. I survived but it was not the quality of life I was asking for. There was something missing but I stayed still. Running away from the pain and reality was more important to me. I let myself be content with the things that I have and the things that I could do.
Eventually I went out of my cave and continued life. I decided to go finish my studies and enrolled at the Alternative Learning System (ALS). I also joined and completed the Virtual assistance training with Virtualahan. Virtualahan has introduced me to a whole new world that I will forever love and cherish. They did not only give digital skills training but also a family that understands the core of my plight.
Slowly, I am getting back with my life now. I am slowly and surely lifting up, not just my feet but as well as my being. I am more grateful everyday because God has given me life (and this disability) to learn its lessons.
I began to find life’s meaning with my friends, family and with God.