From Stairs To Ramps: How Paralysis Affected My Mental Health


The interesting thing about my recovery journey is that I was discharged and I came home without any education about spine injury and how significantly it was going to affect my life. I came home with the misguided belief that if worse came to worst, I would at least be on crutches for my scheduled clinic appointment which was six months away. I thought I had suffered a dislocated neck, all this business about paralysis didn’t even reflect on my radar.  The Beginning; The Accident That Changed My Life

It became apparent that I needed more than six months to recover when my cousin placed a laptop on the side of my bed so that I could watch stuff as I lay down. It was the movie 300 “this is Sparta!!” the story of a valiant group of 300 hundred men who went toe to toe with a strong Persian army.

After a good three hours of thrilling action, it was time for me to change my sleeping position and face upwards. My body was turned but my head still faced sideways. My neck was stiff, and I couldn’t move no matter how much I tried. I have titanium rods screwed to the back of my neck and at the time, the rods hadn’t quite harmonized well with the body. My cousin had to manually and delicately turn my head for me. A process that was both painful and enlightening, this was something serious, more serious than a dislocated neck.

I asked for my discharge letter, its contents explained that I had fractured my C5 vertebrae. Like a good millennial, I googled what this meant. It was then that I came to know about spine injury. “Can you treat spine injury?” I nervously typed. The search results were vague, but the general consensus was that there is no known cure for spine injury. I spoke to no one about my findings, I gladly allowed the pain to devour me at night when no one was looking. I blamed no one but myself for what had happened to me. I faced the music and made sure that no one else was invited to the party.

I dreaded the night because night meant darkness and darkness meant dancing with my demons. I slept only when my body got tired, not when I wanted to sleep. I’d stay up till 4 am, when my parents asked, I told them that I enjoyed watching tv but that wasn’t the truth. It was my mind, something was wrong with it.

I couldn’t be sane in silence, too much chatter was coming from my mind. The tv or radio always had to be on, otherwise I would sink deeper into the unknown. I cried for help but never loud enough, I couldn’t allow myself to make my troubles known I felt like this was my dance. So, I told no one.

Oddly, the only thing that seemed to ease the pain was dipping myself into more darkness. I searched through the internet and I found people just like me; unhappy, demotivated and tired. I read about their despair and related to the pain in their words. Sometimes damaged people need to be around other damaged people. Familiarity and relativeness can be surprisingly effective in recovery. That’s why Alcoholic Anonymous meetings are so effective because it’s a couple of troubled people speaking one language. Illness And Infections Made My First Months Home Unbearable And I Got Depressed

I would be lying if I said that I have been strong throughout the six years that I have been on this wheelchair. There were nights when I knew no peace, the chatter told me that life wasn’t worth living and I believed.

But I was always meant to live.

Upon experiencing any traumatic event, we are designed to go through a period of grief to mourn our losses. The duration of the grieving process is determined by how eager we are to get better. Getting better requires you to trust the process. Go through the pain, the guilt, the doubt…go through it all. What awaits you on the other side is a clean canvas on which you can paint any reality you choose.

Today, I am least bothered by my inability to walk. I feel like I have already overcome the greatest hurdle in the world. I danced the darkness out and now I bask in the sun. A sound mind that is clear and positive. It is all I could ever ask for. I hope people struggling with mental health issues can find a glimpse of hope from my experience.

From Stairs To Ramps: Why It Is Important For Me To Advocate For Accessibility

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Brian Muchiri is a passionate writer who draws his inspiration from the experiences in his own life and of those around him. He is candid and he seeks to inspire society to be more pro active and vocal about the social issues that affect us. Brian is also actively involved in pushing for awareness and inclusion of people with disabilities through his foundation; Strong Spine.