Regardless of how you see yourself, it is important to define what you value and understand how that impacts your outlook on life.
I was recently asked what five words are most important to my world with regards to my spinal cord injury. I was unable to answer the question, when prompted with suggestions like spinal cord injury, neurogenic bladder, autonomic dysreflexia, et cetera. I saw what they were after, but still felt as though I could not answer the question. Yes, I use these words and others to discuss the needs of my care and clarify my diagnosis. However, these words are not important to me, I do not identify with them on a personal level, I do not feel like they define who I am. While they may be essential to defining my condition, that is such a small part of who I am as a person, what my life is like, and what is important to me. Yet, I was driven to contemplate how people define themselves and what it might signify.
I realize that some people may strongly identify with what happens to them, or in their life. Depending on whether what happens to one is favorable or not, this group might include those who are perpetually the victim, or those whom fortune smiles upon. Perhaps, such individuals feel defined by their fate. In another category there seem to be those who define themselves by what they do, whether it be their choice in career, causes they champion, or activities they love. Contrarily, these people must feel more in control of their destiny and that they are choosing how to be defined. Finally, others might feel that their identity is summed up in what they value, love, and cherish.
I feel as though I most strongly identify with the third category. If asked to produce a list of words that are most important to my world, I feel as though most of them would fall into this category. However, I struggle to ascertain what this means. Thus, a list of words that are important to my world would include: family, work ethic, my history as a dancer, scholarship, organization, an aesthetic appreciation for the arts, artisans, and beauty – which the loyal reader will know extends to the world of fashion. These words and concepts speak far greater volumes about my world and life than ones such as: quadriplegia, autonomic dysreflexia, ventilator dependent, diabetic, and wheelchair. The latter are merely affectations and indicate nothing about who I am or what is important to me. They are simply adjectives and tools used to communicate needs and functions, or lack thereof.
None of this implies that defining oneself medically or physically is in any way bad, it merely does not resonate with me. Regardless of how you see yourself, it is important to define what you value and understand how that impacts your outlook on life. If you truly know how you perceive yourself, and how that contributes to whether or not you are content or discontent, you have the power to change the things you choose to emphasize.
The views expressed by Loa are not necessarily the view of the Ventec Life Systems, its members or the clinical board. These blog posts are the personal experiences of Loa. The blog posts are not intended to provide clinical advice or training related to VOCSN. Always consult a physician or trained clinician prior to using VOCSN. Please refer to the VOCSN Clinical and Technical Manual for detailed instructions, including indications and contraindications for use. VOCSN is available by prescription only.