A State of Mind

by Anna

After two busy twelve hour shifts I awake tired and achy, unwilling to move or do anything for that matter.

I force myself out of bed at 10am only to get back into it less than three hours later. There I lie, reading a few pages in my book, before I loose the rest of my concentration and focus for the world and roll over in an attempt to sleep a little more.

Just sleep doesn’t want to come. I waft in and out of a dozing half-sleep state, a few thoughts making their way through the processing centre of my brain.

I actually enjoy this state of interbeing, being one with everything without actually doing anything. In fact, I was way too tired to sit upright and meditate and even my yoga practice was abandoned prematurely due to a slight sensation of light-headedness and lack of limb control.

As I lie there, one of the patients I was looking after over the past two days came into my mind. He has tetraplegia, paralyzed from the neck down, with just a little uncoordinated movement in his arms.

Once again I try to put myself into the position of such an individual, which is impossible, and unfortunately I don’t see it as acceptable to ask such an individual how they feel about it, especially not from my position as the care-giver.

However, the question has been with me for years and since I can’t find an answer it comes up again and again: how is it to be unable to move?

Even if I was to ask an individual and would be invited to gain an insight into his/her thoughts and emotions, it would only represent this one particular individual, not all those who are paralysed. Books  like “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” or stories like Tony Nicklinson’s case help to gain an insight, though both of them were unable to communicate verbally.

What I always find remarkable is the contentment I encounter in individuals who are paralyzed but still able to talk. Rarely have I come across someone who represents a difficult individual with a negative mindset. The majority are witty people with a wicked sense of humour.

Is it vital for us humans to communicate in order for life to make sense?

In cases of those who are paralyzed and able to talk, apart form the fact that they can’t mobilise, they seem to enjoy a mentally engaging life. Some learn languages, others travel abroad, and a lot of those I had the pleasure of meeting talk about their state of the art TV set that they can control with the blink of their eye which offers them much more than just TV and internet. As the story goes, some care homes even arrange escorts on their resident’s wishes. (watch “The Sessions“)

Dare to smile?

Another burning question: are they really happy?

As I blissfully enjoy my lazy state of interbeing, my legs all heavy and my back achy, I wonder if this is what it feels like for a paralyzed individual. Are they happy that they don’t really have a care in the world beside requiring others to look after them and enduring the processes of manual evacuation and washes under the constant eyes of others? Dare I wonder if they enjoy not having to move, having to go shopping, having to cook? Or is this too patronising and violates their dignity and respect?

Their sheer joy for life seems to stand out. It must give them something, otherwise they would have given up by now, like Tony Nicklinson, for example. I have seen the process of simply giving up so many times, that I can say that if someone loses the will to live, they usually begin to loose their appetite first, followed by a physical deterioration resulting in poor health and unless they can bring the spark back into their lives, they will simply cease to exist.

This does apply a lot more to the older generation, who have lost partners, most friends, don’t have many family members, have a physical ailment and are tired of being ill and don’t want to be a nuisance to others. It is quite sad to watch, but I can also emphasize and understand their point.

In paralyzed individuals who are able to communicate effectively, I observe a gist for life and a very healthy appetite. I would assume that it means that these particular individuals have accepted their condition to be part of their life and make the most of it.

I suppose all the above questions and contemplations refer back to myself and my very last question: would I want to live like that?

Considering I am a very intellectually active person, loving to teach and spread my acquired knowledge, and also bringing in my awareness of a much subtler world around us that can be engaged with by thought, I think I would be happy to still have the chance to be able to share my knowledge, even if my physical body wasn’t any longer following my mental commands.

In the case that I was unable to express my thoughts properly, I think I would rather like to go back to the state where I came from before I was born, in which the physical world doesn’t play a part, wherever that may be.

I have developed a huge respect for these paralyzed individuals followed by an ever increasing compassion towards them. And at the end of the day I have to say that I see this as the purpose of living, to learn about ourselves as much as we learn about others. And when we are able to understand others, we will also be able to understand more about ourselves.

And vice versa 🙂