Spinal Cord Injury Community

Overcoming Fear of the Unknown – Life and Work After Spinal Cord Injury

Spinal Cord Injury Survivor, Advocate, Zen Warrior Training Founder
08/31/18  11:05 AM PST
Fear of the Unknown

One of the most common challenges in the spinal cord injury community actually has nothing to do with being physically paralyzed. It has to do with insurance and financial independence. When we are injured, we are immediately eligible for SSDI and Medicare as long as we don’t exceed the monthly income level, which is not very high. As soon as we begin to make a decent living, those entitlements quickly disappear, leaving us with potentially catastrophic medical expenses. This puts not only those of us with paralysis but also our families in a terribly challenging state.

For several years following my own injury in 1999, I relied on a combination of financial support from my family and my monthly disability checks. Due to circumstances outside of my control, I was in and out of hospitals for many years with pressure injuries and surgeries, spending a total of over two years immobilized in hospital beds. Without insurance coverage, I could’ve been in debt for the rest of my life. My situation is hardly uncommon, and I’m sure many reading this have experienced much worse (for those readers who are newly injured, I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to take your pressure checks seriously).

I wanted nothing more than to be successful on my own terms in life and to be able to financially support myself and have my part of the American Dream. But a deep fear of the unknown kept me from making my life happen. This became my real paralysis. In my experience, paralysis has very little to do with how much sensation or motor function we have in our bodies. It has much more to do with the disruption of movement in life itself.

It was fear, not function, that kept me paralyzed. At a certain point, I decided that enough was enough. Living off of passive income and disability checks wasn’t going to contribute to a meaningful life for me. I had to step out on my own and make my life happen.

After years of unemployment, my resumé was pretty unimpressive, especially for a guy with the equivalent of an Ivy League education. I worked a few random full time jobs that produced some income, but hardly enough to justify taking the leap and losing SSDI and Medicare. It was then that my coach had a life-changing conversation with me. I will never forget the words. She said, “Sam, your job resumé might not look very impressive, but your life experience resumé sure does.”

My life experience resumé. It had never occurred to me that it was my life experience, not my job experience, that held the most weight. After all, I had conquered challenges that most people would consider unfathomable. I realized that my life experience had a value that far surpassed what I had ever considered.

It was then that I started my coaching practice, Zen Warrior Training, to train high performers in how to use their life’s greatest challenges as a catalyst for personal growth. Since making this choice, I have trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, professional actors, spiritual leaders and athletes to take their health, relationships and businesses to their next level of potential.

As I look back on my life, I can see that all the suffering that I endured not only created the man that I am today, it also gave me the ability to help other ambitious people like myself to conquer their own challenges and to create the life of their dreams. And that has value. A lot of value, both spiritually and financially.

When I overcame my fear of the unknown, I overcame my paralysis. While the function in my body hasn’t changed, my outlook on life and my perspective on my injury has changed dramatically.

You can read more from Sam on his site, Zen Warrior Training.


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