29th February 2020 was the day of my daughter’s 1st birthday party. I suddenly lost the feeling below the waist when I went to get out of a cab. I was experiencing a medical emergency, unknown to me, a rare form of spinal cord injury called Cauda Equina Syndrome.
I was hours away from permanent paralysis. Rushed to A&E by ambulance with my husband holding my hand, I had to undergo emergency surgery to remove a herniated disc that was crushing my spinal cord, damaging some of my major bodily functions.
Until this point, I was a busy self-employed Mom. I’d spent the last few years building an award-winning digital marketing agency (Digital Group Media) with my brother and our business partner. Now here I was, at the beginning of a global pandemic having sustained a life-changing spinal cord injury. I didn’t see that one coming.
Despite having urgent surgery I was still left with significant damage to my mobility, sensation and bladder and bowels. I had to come to terms with my new way of being, in total isolation from ongoing medical rehabilitation. All medical services became locked off and focused on the Covid outbreak.
It took 13 months for me to finally be admitted to a spinal cord injury rehabilitation centre where I learned ways to help me manage my new condition.
Despite having confronted some very dark days in the lonely months after my injury, I came to learn some important lessons.
- Just take the first step.
- Slow progress is progress.
- Life is too short and precious to waste time out of alignment.
- Your most difficult moments can teach you your greatest lessons.
1. JUST TAKE THE FIRST STEP
Taking the first step can move you closer to reaching your goals. I was abruptly discharged from the hospital just 6 days after surgery, barely able to walk. I was met with the challenge of having to climb 47 steps to get into my flat.
It felt like standing at the foot of Mount Everest. I had no alternative but to start the ascent. The only strategy I had was to take the first step, rest, assess my next move and take the next step. It was slow and steady and done in bite-size chunks.
This simple concept of putting one foot in front of the other meant that I was able to conquer the mountain to reach my goal of getting to the summit aka my flat. I decided I would apply this simple concept to other areas in my life where I felt stuck or didn’t know where to start.
Whilst recovering from my injury I decided to finally start the Curl Power podcast. It had been something that had been on my mind for a while. I had a vision of amplifying the extraordinary experiences of black and mixed-race women that have created businesses, despite growing up with a lack of representation. I also wanted to share my personal experiences of healing from trauma, overcoming anxiety and depression and working on realising my potential.
I had been putting off starting the podcast before that because I didn’t know where to start. Over the last year, the podcast has been listened to in over 20 countries and the listnership is growing daily. It hit no.5 in the personal journal charts on Good Pods and women are reporting that the podcast helps them to feel motivated, inspired and seen. Well worth getting it started.
What’s that one action you can take right now to start the momentum you need to make an impact? Perhaps a call you need to make a call, or is there a book you need to read? Is there a course you need to take?
Challenge yourself to take action today and commit to taking action again tomorrow. Sometimes getting started can be the hardest part.
2. SLOW PROGRESS IS PROGRESS
Overnight success is a myth and sometimes progress can be so slow that you can’t see it. I’m two years into my healing journey. I still have some way to go, but by taking small steps and consistent action I have seen vast improvements in my mobility and strength over the two years.
Sometimes action doesn’t look like huge spectacular displays of activity, it can be simply getting out of bed and moving on a bad day, or slowly increasing the difficulty of activity during physio overtime. It could be writing that first blog post or recording that first episode, but the key here is to be consistent and patient to get to the results. Rome was not built in a day.
Taking consistent small actions over time results in a compound effect. There’s a great book I read in hospital by Darren Hardy called The Compound Effect which explains the concept of taking small incremental actions to build up to big results over time.
It’s not always wise to go hard, although it can be tempting, it can lead to burnout which can be counterproductive. Perhaps you’re a busy parent with little free time but you’re not happy with where you are currently, taking an hour of your day for you to work on your goals will help to get you there over time. You won’t get there tomorrow but revel in the comfort of knowing you are on your way, simply by taking consistent small steps.
When you look back at your life one year from now, what will you see? Will you see the fruits of your small and consistent action, or will you be exactly where you are now because you decided not to make a change?
If you’re happy where you are that’s great. If you know inside there is somewhere else you want to be in life, today is the day to start taking those small, manageable, incremental steps to your ideal future.
3.YOUR MOST DIFFICULT MOMENTS CAN TEACH YOU YOUR GREATEST LESSONS
When you’re in the thick of a challenge or personal crisis it’s hard to see beyond it. What I have come to understand is that there is always something to be learned from our hardest hitting life experiences.
In some instances, the lessons are immediately available, in other situations the trauma and the shock might be the overwhelming experience for a while.
I found journaling effective in helping me to process what had happened. Alongside talking therapies and coaching, I was able to express myself, release the energy of the traumatic experience and move beyond it.
I also practice gratitude. There is nothing better to make you realize how blessed you are than to write daily lists of the things there are to be grateful for, despite the less than ideal things we are growing through.
My injury forced me to slow right down, it reinforced my appreciation for simple moments in nature, such as the way the sunlight hits the room at a certain time, or how simply sitting in a seat near my kitchen window allowed me to observe the growth cycle of the trees outside, reminding me that everything is cyclical. If times feel super hard right now, this moment is temporary.
Nature doesn’t care about what’s happening in the news, or if an obstacle gets in its way, it finds a way regardless.
Spinal cord injury in a pandemic showed me what I was really made of. The voices of doubt that had held me back in the past were drowned out with unwavering self-belief.
If I can survive a life-changing injury in a global pandemic with a toddler in an unadapted 3rd floor flat and still start a podcast, launch merchandise, redefine my purpose, and build a business with the empowerment of women at its heart, what else is possible?
I’m wondering, what else is possible for you too?
4. LIFE IS TOO SHORT AND PRECIOUS TO WASTE TIME OUT OF ALIGNMENT.
Whilst I loved the work I was doing before my injury, I have been feeling a stronger call to work in empowering women. Spinal cord injury wasn’t the first trauma I have had to overcome. The things I have experienced in life give me a unique perspective and insight. I know what it’s like to be a woman striving to reach her potential despite the challenges we face.
I’m passionate about seeing other women thrive despite the odds. I am now dedicating my service to helping other women reach their potential. For the last decade, I have straddled the worlds of personal development, projects and marketing. I also graduated with an HNC in counselling and counselling skills from the Birkbeck University of London. Now I’m combining my experience and sharing the strategies I use to keep me sane, purposeful and productive after trauma.
In overcoming my injury I have been able to develop an integrative practice that has helped me to transform my life and sense of purpose. Now I’m building a consultancy that helps women to uncover the unconscious blocks that are holding them back while developing an action plan to help move them closer to their ideal lives.
This is my purpose. Every day this is the energy that gets me going and creating despite my pain and the challenges I live with daily. Having a sense of purpose means that work doesn’t feel like work, it feels like service, a higher calling if you will.
I am utilising my pain, challenges and lessons so that I can help other women to overcome challenges. I want to help them to break through the stories of their trauma so they can live purposeful and happy lives too.
Do you wake up with an energy of purpose? Or are you stuck doing unfulfilling work and dreading what the day has in store?
Do you take the time to visualise what a happy and fulfilled life looks like? Or do you feel stuck on a hamster wheel of dissatisfaction?
It’s time to be bold, it’s time to have courage and be brave. It’s time to honour yourself and your potential and it’s time to start living with purpose today.
While living with spinal cord injury brings its daily challenges, life still goes on. I am the master of my destiny so I chose not to let my injury limit my potential, but instead to look for all the powerful lessons that I have been able to harness and use for good.
What is that one thing you’ve been putting off that’s going to help you unlock the next step to reaching your potential? Tell me in the comments.