Disable AND healthy.
I already know what you’re thinking… It seems like a contradiction. I know what question is going through your mind right now. How the heck can I be disabled AND healthy? I used to think the same exact thing. For many, MANY years. The answer finally came to me after 42 long years of confusion and pain.
FORCED TO BE AT A DISADVANTAGE
As I was growing up, the world around me consistently beat me down and made me feel that I was at a disadvantage. My exposure to the outside world was relegated to the good ‘ol “boob tube”. Yep, the television. Through that small electronic window I was constantly exposed to the media’s need to show sick people being saved by the heroes. Since I related more to the sick characters who were laid up in their hospital beds, these images and stories engrained the idea that I was in need to be saved by the heroes. And it went beyond the characters in television shows and movies. It was all over the news and talk shows.
Heroes saved the sick people and those who were sick (or disabled) were at a disadvantage. The outside world was defining my existence. And I had no idea how to think differently about it!
To compound upon my disadvantaged existence, I was discovering the multitude of activities I couldn’t participate in. Mostly because I literally couldn’t do certain physical things but also because, even if I could do it, I didn’t feel up to snuff. I was in a fight to define who I was physically and because I was limited and only being fed the downside to it all, I kept getting hit!
Having a disability held me on a lower rung in society and in my own mind.
I WILL NEVER BE 100%
Even as I started to grow up and naturally wanted to do more, I was stuck. I was going through life believing I was always just going to be less than. As I grew older, life happened. Normal things; school, work, friends, romantic relationships, and even fun. I was seeing everyone around progressing, but through it all, in the back of my brain, that nagging thought of being behind and always having to fight to be “normal” or looked at as “equal” stuck with me. I was also always looking for the hero to save me.
Having this mentality took a turn for the worse and I found myself disregarding my well-being throughout my 20’s and 30’s. I relished the idea that since I was disabled, I was never going to be a 100% human being, so why should I care? I ate whatever I wanted. I didn’t sleep well. I drank alcohol and did drugs. I smoked cigarettes. The idea of exercise never crossed my mind. I must admit, the thought of exercising would create an added anxiety because of my specific disability; Osteogenesis Imperfecta (a.k.a. Brittle Bones).
With O.I., the thought of lifting weights and moving my body to an extreme was completely out of the question. Doing things that were good for me did not interest me one iota. Why should I care anyway? I was never going to be up to snuff!
The knockout blow was delivered just before my 42nd birthday. At this point in my life, on top of having broken my bones nearly 70 times, having had 12 surgical procedures, and living with 4 steel rods in my legs, I found myself 40 pounds overweight, experiencing daily heartburn, and my legs were so weak I couldn’t walk up a flight of stairs without using the handrail. I was tired and in pain every… single… day.
After visiting the doctor and being told I might have had a small heart attack, I knew things had to change. I needed to find my hero. For the next few months, I struggled with these opposing thoughts of being at a disadvantage and figuring out how to become the healthiest I could be. I had been living in fear up until then; breaking bones and being scared every single day as I tried to prevent getting hurt. But this time in my life was the darkest and most scared I had ever been. But my fear couldn’t get the best of me. I couldn’t be scared anymore.
RE-DEFINING MY EXISTENCE
One day, it finally clicked and the next few months were a crucial turning point. I opened up about my thoughts and feelings. I started expressing to others how I felt and how I wanted to change. I asked for help and I got it; a personal trainer, a caring and loving wife who wanted me around for many more years, and a community of people willing to treat me as an equal. I was finally in a position to not be treated as someone at a disadvantage. I had finally learned how to re-define my own existence! I was now a person, a person with a disability, who wanted to make a massive change to live a better life!
Over the course of eight months, I worked hard on my mental shifts as well as my physical body. I dropped those 40 pounds, got stronger, and started doing things physically that I, and many others, never thought possible. The pinnacle of which was running in my first 5K race! I had been knocked down. But right before that final 8 count, I found the internal strength to get
up and fight back! Jab, cross, hook… uppercut! I won the fight!
And you can do the same! I know you might be scared right now. I know you might think you can’t be 100%. I know those innermost fears are what’s kept you safe up until now. But it’s time to not be scared anymore. It’s time to re-define your existence. It’s time to punch fear in the face!
GETTING HEALTHY WITH A DISABILITY
I’m not going to lie to you, when you’re starting out, the process can be overwhelming. That’s why I’ve come up with five things you can do RIGHT NOW to make the shift in your own life to get back up and win the fight to be the healthiest disabled person you know!
Change your mindset. This is the toughest part of the battle. This takes exercising your mind. Examine your past and re-evaluate your thought patterns. Do you have past beliefs that don’t work for you anymore?
Express your fears and desires with others. It’s important to get these feelings out beyond yourself. By sharing with others and outwardly voicing your thoughts and feelings, you’re allowing for answers to come back to you from every angle. You never know where certain answers will come from.
Ask for help. This can be a tough one because our pride gets in the way. Asking for help means we can’t handle it. It shows our weakness. But this is the farthest from the truth. Asking for help is one of the most powerful steps we can take. To accomplish our goals quickly, efficiently, and win beyond our wildest dreams, having a team will make this happen.
Focus on what you CAN do. Unfortunately, having a disability automatically makes us put on display the laundry list of things we cannot do. This is the biggest block to getting physical. It limits us and keeps us still. The only way to burn fat, build muscle and get our blood pumping, is to get moving, so start focusing on the things you CAN do! The movements won’t be the same as everyone else’s, and that’s ok. The numbers will not be the same either, so do your research and find out what’s going to work for you and your body. No matter what, get moving!
Get to work! This isn’t just physical. I mean get to work on all these steps. Work on your personal development. Work on building your team. Work on your body. Work on changing the internal thoughts about being at a disadvantage that has been holding you back throughout the years.
There’s more to this story and many resources to help you jumpstart your journey. I wrote a book about mine (Disable Your Disability) and I am a personal trainer/coach helping others overcome their struggles with getting and staying healthy with a disability.
Our hero is always with us. The hero is the shift in our mindset. We are the hero. We don’t need anyone to save us because we are 100%. I am disabled AND healthy. And you can be too!
Tony Jacobsen is the author of “Disable Your Disability”, a personal trainer/coach, and he hosts 2 YouTube channels as well as a podcast. You can find out more about him at his official website, http://www.tonyjacobsen.com
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