No regrets: How I feel on the tenth year since I became disabled

An illustration that is split into two sections. On the left, the author Virali is sitting on a wheelchair, with a white background and confetti flying in the air. On the right, on a light blue background there is a quote which says 'At 25, I am wiser, more mature and prepared for life than I was a decade ago.'

My disability is what makes me the person I am today.

I remember this like it happened yesterday: I was sitting with my aunt and uncle, while my dad was feeding me. My mom had made dosas, one of my favourite things to eat. I was eating as though I hadn’t eaten in a month – which was true, because I had just spent over a month in a coma, and could not be fed solid foods in that time.

Suddenly, my dad asked my mom, ‘How many dosas have you given her?’

‘I don’t know,’ she responded nonchalantly. ‘My child’s hungry, so I’m making them for her. I haven’t kept count. Why?’

Alarmed, my father said, ‘This is her sixteenth dosa! She couldn’t ever eat more than three before!’

As if in slow motion, everyone stopped what they were doing, and looked at me. My mom sat in front of me and asked, ‘Dear, are you still hungry?’

‘Mom, I don’t know,’ I responded.

I was shocked, because I’d just realised that I had no sensation in my stomach. I could have just kept on eating without knowing whether I was full. This was scary, because of course it mattered how much I consumed, even if I couldn’t feel it. That’s when I realised the severity of my situation.

I was dependent: I couldn’t eat, brush my teeth, defecate, bathe, or dress myself without assistance. And I had assumed that I could overcome paralysis if I just worked hard. It was excruciatingly difficult to understand what the problem was, whether it was with my brain, or spinal cord, or muscles.

We found out that it was with my nervous system, and it had affected my body in deeper ways that I had assumed. I had imagined it would take me a year to fully recover. Little did I know that it would actually take more than a decade to recover at 80% of the capacity I wanted to reach.

This year, my birthday on September 29 marked ten years since I started using a wheelchair. I’m grateful that I survived and that I’ve recovered to the extent that I have, and I remain optimistic that I will continue to recover.

What makes me sad is that I didn’t have enough of an understanding of my condition all those years ago, which could have helped me to cope better.

Ten years: it took me all this time to develop a positive attitude, become independent, to distinguish my true friends and family from the fake, and to understand that the most important thing I can do for myself is to love myself. To respect myself, no matter the situation.

Ten years of pain, sorrow, despair and self-hate – during which I attempted suicide a number of times – taught me that I must be grateful for the life that I have.

At 25 years of age, I am much wiser, more mature and more prepared for what life has in store for me than I was a decade ago.

My disability is what makes me the person I am today. Despairing about it would be equal to despairing of the ten years that it took me to discover myself. Today, I have no regrets.

Featured image credit: Upasana Agarwal