anniversary noun an•ni•ver•sa•ry | \ a-nə-'vərs-rē,-'vər-sə-\ plural anniversaries :the annual recurrence of a date marking a notable event
Within the world of spinal cord injuries and disorders there is often a “notable event” that changes your life; an accident, fall, sickness or a diagnosis. It's a moment that gets seared into your brain forever. We all have different names for it: “Paraversary,” “Alive Day,” “Rebirthday,” or “Survival Day,” the list goes on…. For some of us that remember the day's moments, it can be painful and hard to rehash each year. The neurons that store those memories are primed and easily fired to bring that day back to life in great detail. For many,those moments, though difficult to relive, can be motivational or a strong reminder that you are alive. There’s nothing wrong with either but it can narrate how you choose to lead your life. In this entry, I'm going to share a couple of ways that my peers and I spend our anniversaries of our notable event.
For myself, I remember every moment of my injury (just about) and it was very painful for me at the beginning. It took some time to be able to tell my story without feeling knots in my stomach and that overwhelming feeling of loss and lack of control… even though I had (and still have) positive hopes and goals. Each year it gets easier to spend March 6 as a day of reflection, happy that I'm alive, happy that I have the support that I have, and realizing that I've come very far since the beginning. I usually write a list about the pros and cons that I have experienced since 2011. I usually don't “celebrate” the day necessarily. I don't go out and party with friends. It's usually a very personal day for me. I use that list to learn more about myself and set goals on improving my next year. Because my anniversary is in March the weather is usually fairly cold, but on the rare day that it is above 50°F, I try to get out on my mountain bike. A bike that was made to go off-road and drives just like my power chair. Before my injury I was a cyclist and that is also how I got injured. When I'm in the woods, I'm In my happy place, so if I'm able to do that while reflecting on years passed and all of my accomplishments…that is ideal.
“In my almost 45 years, it has varied. In the beginning I would think about it, but never did anything. I never got depressed or angry. As I got older, I often forgot about it. Not kidding. A week after I would look at the date and think, “Hmmmm, I didn't even remember.” Now since I have aCan-Am Spyder, I make sure I go for a ride every Aug 21. After all,it was a motorcycle accident in 1974 that all started it. To be honest, it's my birthday that makes me think about being paralyzed more than my injury anniversary. When I was injured I was very young and had no idea how long I would live. I did not go to a big rehab center and never had a mentor. It was 35 years before I knew anyone in a wheelchair . Every birthday is a blessing to me and makes me grateful to be alive….After all, if I never had my motorcycle accident I would have never met some of the most impressive and amazing people EVAAAH.” It's important to note that a few of us have been injured long enough that there was no social media. So we kept it to ourselves and didn't tell anybody or just immediate friends and family. I don't bring it up every year on Facebook just at certain milestones.”
“I’m still so new [to my injury] that it’s a day I think a lot about it and like to think of what I’ve accomplished/overcome in that year. I have taken the day off work every year so far if it falls on a weekday so it can be a day of what I want to do and not work stress. I’ve always planned adaptive sports or swimming on the day and made sure to have meals with a close friend to focus on being happy & the good as opposed to concentrating on what I’ve “lost”.”
“I was in a unique situation that I had someone to share the day with. My co-pilot and I meet up every year on the day and split a toast amongst family and friends on the exact minute we made impact. Then usually we have some dinner celebration or something. We always thought of it as celebrating surviving rather than mourning what was lost.”
“I’m coming up on my seventh anniversary this May 17th... I have always considered it my second birthday... after all, I opened my eyes that day to a new world, just like my first birthday! I was in a different body, in a diaper, and I needed to learn and navigate my way in that world all over again... it’s not a day I celebrate, but I probably should... in so many ways it has changed my life for the better... I found out who my real friends were, how much my wife really loved me, and found new friendships with some of the most amazing people... I find it’s a day of reflection mostly... a day to remember to treasure my life and the people in it, for everything is ephemeral...
What though the radiance which was once so bright be now for ever taken from my sight, Though nothing can bring back the hour of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower; We will grieve not, rather find Strength in what remains behind... -Wordsworth”
“I normally party, but this year I’m falling out of an airplane (skydiving).
There are years that it passes without even a thought. However, as I’m getting older I find I kind of dwell on how things might have been different. That may be more so because I’ve been homebound so much lately.
Typically though it’s a day of reflection and a reminder that life isn’t a guarantee. It’s not the life I planned, but to continue making the best out of every situation.”
“It will be 28 years for me in June. I remember it every year, but not with sadness. I’ve never been one to get caught up in the what if’s. I love the term “alive day” that I’ve heard a lot of veterans use. Some anniversaries have been more thought provoking than others . The year I realized I had spent more years in a chair than not, was eye opening.
Facing death at a young age definitely gave me a different perspective and passion for life. I always felt that my injury was the better alternative than death. One quote that another wheeler said to me very early on that still resonates with me to this day is this, ”when life deals you a wild card, you can either play it as a joker or an ace.”
“The first year anniversary post injury I flipped out of my chair getting into the van. They called the ambulance and I was mortified. After this I decided to take it easy on this day. I don't celebrate but look at the clock at the time of the accident (12:14 pm) and thank God and friends who have been here for me, that I lived.”
One thing all these stories have in common is the person perseveres through it. No matter how you choose to spend your anniversary day, it's important that you do what you want, whatever may be therapeutic for you. Every beginning has a whole set of unique circumstances for each individual, and only you experienced them. So don't feel pressured, don't worry if it's a painful or difficult day for you. If it is, just know that you can talk to someone. Peer mentors of the GBC are always available to talk. You will find most of the contributors of this entry on our Peer Mentor page. We have mentors from all walks of life and with all different causes of paralysis. If you need help or are having difficulty please reach out.
You are not alone. If you are having thoughts of suicide please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.