The Grateful Journey
Writing this has been one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. I am not one for sharing my emotions publicly or dwelling on the hard moments in my life. I would much rather find the lighter side, joke around and put on a positive face. So where to begin….
November 9th 2014, I awoke in the middle of the night and walked to the bathroom, I never walked back. I had become paralysed from the waist down. Sounds crazy but it actually happened. I was diagnosed with a severe case of transverse myelitis, a neurological condition that has no known cause or cure. It wrecks havoc on your body and whatever state it leaves you in, often becomes your reality. For me, I went from being fully able to a paraplegic, a common outcome of the condition. To add to this on December 25, 2015 I was also diagnosed with MS. The combination of the two as rare as my story.
Before all of this, I was an actor and a corporate professional, a woman with it all. My first independent feature film was about to be released; In 2014 I was finishing a NIDA program and was on the hunt for an agent while planning to create my own films. It was an exciting time in my life and for the first time I finally felt like I was on the right track and embracing my passion!
For a long time after this moment I found myself asking “why me?”, “where did I go wrong?” “What karmic debt was I repaying?” I could deal with the pain, numerous long term side effects, unknowns, needles, the medication and even the transition to life in a wheelchair, but what I couldn’t deal with was the thought that I would never act again. To know what you love to do and not be able to do it was heart breaking and left me in tears back then and still now.
I searched for agents that would represent disabled actors, for role models who had achieved great acting careers in unlikely circumstances, for films where the actor at the end didn’t miraculous get up and walk and for authentic actors with the actual conditions being portrayed in the roles. Where could I go to find roles and opportunities? How could I still get to do what I love? When I found nothing, the harsh reality of the industry I loved settled in and I felt my purpose in life vanish.
They say there are times in a person’s life that define them, for me this was one of them. I refuse to believe that I will never get to do what I love again because of my circumstances. And although by any medical standard I have made a miraculous recovery and have left the wheelchair behind, I still have a long way to go. At this point in my life, inspired by the words of Janine Sheppard, I have stopped asking “why me?” and now think about “why not me?”.
My eyes have been opened to a new perspective of life and I believe that my new purpose is to raise awareness and ignite change within the creative industries. A person circumstances should not prevent them from achieving their dreams, it may challenge them but it should not define their possibilities.
So although I wouldn’t wish this on anyone, it is a journey I am grateful I am on.