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How I’ve Redefined Success Since ‘Failing’ by Traditional Standards

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“Choose hope and anything is possible.” ~ Christopher Reeve

When I was a kid, I wanted to save the world. One day her mother found me crying in her bedroom. She asked what was wrong, so I said, “I haven’t done anything yet!” I couldn’t wait to grow up so I could make a difference.

When I was 14, I joined a youth group that helped adults with disabilities. We hosted dances and ran buddy programs. I helped out on a project with a state agency and was saddened by the situation of the residents. I was planning to work for a state agency.

As a high school senior, I was voted most likely to succeed. Like many things in my life, it was unexpected. I wanted to find meaningful work that would help others.

In my first year at Ohio State, I fell head over heels in love and married the boy next door. A month after her wedding, when she had just turned 19, she started her first full-time job as an administrator at a group home for men with autism. I never graduated from college.

At 23, after my first child was born, I was formally diagnosed with depression, but my doctor wouldn’t tell me. Years later, I read the diagnosis in my medical record. I grew up in his 60s with negative stereotypes about mental illness. I didn’t understand it and thought depression meant being weak and ungrateful. did.

At our first high school reunion in ten years, I was a stay-at-home mom with three young children. A brochure for the event included a biography. In my case, I didn’t feel successful in the traditional way, so I wrote something a little defensive about the value of being a mother.

When I was 30, I experienced my first daily headache. I attempted a natural cure and refused all medications, including over-the-counter medications, but the headache progressed to a steady mild level. I have worked hard to teach reading and writing to residents with multiple disabilities. I thought I understood the challenge.

At 40, I went to a pain clinic in Ohio and received another diagnosis of depression. This time it made sense. The diagnosis still left me feeling vaguely ashamed and weak.

Which came first, the depression or the headache? Maybe the headache was the cause. An antidepressant was first diagnosed and it managed my depression. Until then…

At age 42, I fell asleep while driving with my youngest daughter, Beth, in the passenger seat. She suffered a spinal cord injury that left her paralyzed from the chest down. I quit her job at her facility and became her 24/7 caregiver.

Beth was only 14 years old when she was injured. but, she Transported myself Because between the two of us she was emotionally stable. She focused on regaining her independence despite her quadriplegia. I let her make decisions about her own care and her future. Sometimes you need someone strong to pave the way.

Every day, every hour, every minute of our new life felt incredibly uncertain. Newfound guilt and anxiety merged with my old issues of chronic pain and depression. There was no light at the end of the No hope of light.

I kept a tight lid on my feelings. It was a challenge in itself. I didn’t want my loved ones to worry anymore. I also felt that if I gave in to my emotions, I would not be able to function. And I needed to help Beth. That was the most important thing.

I started counseling months after the car accident. In my first session, I thought I would find some peace. It wasn’t that simple. I felt like a failure and didn’t improve for a while, so I thought the counseling had failed too.

Weekly counseling and having my husband always by my side helped me. But it was Beth who taught her how to choose her wishes. I have seen her succeed after failing over and over again in her attempts to stand on her own.

Beth and I have shared unexpected adventures from small towns in Ohio to Harvard and around the world. She has had the most exciting life of anyone I know. She is also the happiest person I know because she finds joy in her ordinary life and that is her greatest success.

Since I was voted most likely to succeed in 1976, I’ve learned that success is much more than I originally thought. Kind of like being married to my best friend for 45 years. Raise 3 wonderful children. Do meaningful work and help others. Volunteering and mentoring. And learn to meditate to better manage chronic pain.

Today my depression is mostly managed by prescription, which also feels like a success of sorts. It’s part of who I am, knowing the fact that I’m not weak or ungrateful.There’s a bright light at the end of the tunnel.

Hope is an incredibly powerful thing. And if you never give up? hope wins.

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