When I was a little girl; I trained to be an Olympic track and field athlete. I began competing in preschool and training at the gym at 5 am by age 7.
By 9th grade: I didn’t care. I lost my dreams. I found alcohol, drugs, and eating disorders. The Olympics was no longer even a thought.
At age 23, I attempted suicide and rather than passing away, suffered a massive cerebellar stroke that confined me to a wheelchair. Fast forward to 2019 I was then diagnosed with ataxia. I have 1/4 of my cerebellum left. 75% lead physical ability as others.
I have had countless people inspire me. Encourage me. To keep going: no matter what :don’t give up.
Being told that could “never” do anything , due to judgements and labeling terms made me give up on life. At some point, I thought: I CAN! I’m going ignore the labels and “nevers”. That it was time I started feeling good about myself. Not “proving” I was enough. And I have found support in some unlikely places. People who love me for myself. People who do not have my labels and are simply phenomenal human beings.
They support each other, unconditionally, because of their awareness that at our core we are all the same. Human beings. And I am adamant about accepting differences and the world knowing that people are literally willing to sacrifice their lives because of the unbearable shame of being labeled with words.
I would absolutely never change the fact that I am faced with my current Issues. They have changed my life for the better I certain ways. They have taught me responsibility, a sense of awe of how difficult things are for some people, and gratitude for literally everything. Every minute I exist, everything I am, is a gift. I absolutely REFUSE to waste it. When everything you believed was important and everything you took for granted is taken away from you, you realize at some point that you are at a crossroads. Either give up and literally die or accept your lot with dignity and grace. I do not know what my future holds, but you can be damned certain that I am not going down without a fight! We all have choice. Many things are beyond my control, the effort I put towards myself is up to me!
And when I was at that meet: the spotter behind me, the other athletes, and the crowd: the entire USAPL conglomerate: reinforced what so many had told me.
My incredible coach always telling me she believed I could do what others believed impossible. And knowing she and my team in Michigan were cheering for me. My fiancé constantly pushing me to do things: luckily.
So I did.
His was the last face I saw before I stepped onto the platform. He was communicating with my coach. And I know they were thinking this:
Have hope. Believe in the impossible. Just keep going. Go. Just do it .
And leaving a USAPL meet with 2 gold metals, was something beyond anything I thought possible. And I couldn’t wait to tell the world.
How all their unconditional love has changed things. That it has quite possibly changed labels and perceptions . How simply supporting another human being and inspiring them to believe in themselves did the seemingly impossible.
Coach Melissa O’Keefe
More of my story: Surviving and Thriving After Cerebellar Stroke – Hormones Matter
The coach who coached me to where I am with blatant positivity and encouragement:
My fiancé who always told me I could do this. To stop second guessing myself. That he always knew I could: to believe in myself. Because he has known this from our first conversation : https://instagram.com/moriginal.melissa?igshid=NTlmMWMyMzg=