I loved being a Marine. It wasn’t just my job or something I did. It was ingrained into my being. Earning the title of United States Marine is still, to this day, one of my proudest accomplishments. So, when I was medically retired in 2015 for conditions that left me unable to continue serving I felt broken, defeated, and useless. I took out my change of circumstances on anyone in my general vicinity. I was lost, unsure of who I was, or what I had to offer anyone. The self-loathing and lashing out lasted far longer than I care to admit. It cost me my marriage, precious time with my children, and nearly my life.
Finding My Perspective
I was forced to take a long hard look at who I was and what I was allowing myself to be. I have never been one to give up and quit. Yet here I was, giving up. Resigning myself to less of a life simply because I couldn’t do all of the things that I used to be able to. I was victimizing myself. It may sound silly, but if I had to narrow my realization down to one word it would be perspective.
Even though I am injured it was my perspective that was broken not me.
The beginning of my medical problems that would go on to affect the rest of my life started in 2010 when I fractured my spine. It was misdiagnosed as a sprain and that led to bone spurs in my spine. Combine that condition with the multiple concussions I received during my service, and I was diagnosed with a history of traumatic brain injury and it has all culminated into struggles with anxiety and depression as well as short-term memory recall. This is why I record or write everything down.
I still struggle daily with my conditions, and there are some days where my injuries win. It is something I am continuing to learn to accept. Through different treatments and therapies, I have been able to make important discoveries like acceptance of my situation and workarounds to help me succeed in my business. Finding ways to adapt my life and the things I enjoy around my conditions has been an absolute lifesaver. Knowing that I accomplished something in spite of my injuries has actually become more satisfying than before I was healthy.
Aside from changing my outlook on my condition, there are a few other useful things that I have had to learn and/or accept to make myself as efficient and productive as I can be despite my injuries. All of these apply to the perfectly healthy as well. Although I have found them to be so much more important when dealing with my condition.
Before my injury, I could run for hours if not days (with appropriate levels of caffeine.) Now, I have to be aware of my condition and the signals my body sends before I push too hard and end up out of commission. Finishing a task or project does me little to no good if I can’t follow up on it.
I know that as hard as I try, there are going to be circumstances that require me to push myself beyond what I know I probably should do. It happens. I just have to make sure the risk is worth the reward.
I was fortunate enough to find a business partner who knows and understands the challenges of living with a disability. We keep an eye on each other and make sure that neither of us is pushing so hard that we end up in the hospital or bedridden.
We have all heard this one a million times. Time management is a make or break factor for anyone starting or running their own business. When you have a disability as well it becomes doubly important not only to apply it to your business but your health. Make sure to build in rest times as needed for yourself.
Knowing what you are and aren’t physically capable of while still remaining productive is essential. Finding the balance is a challenge even the exceptionally healthy face.
Running your own business is challenging regardless of the condition of your health. It can be even more so for those of us with disabilities. But, if you continue to work, adapt and seek out new resources, you may just find that your disabilities may actually end up being an advantage to you. At the end of the day, it is up to you and your perspective to make the changes and find your success.