Each Day is a Gift

At 45, I’d always been extremely motivated, active and physically fit. I had worked hard to become a high-level manager at my company, and was very successful in my career. I also enjoyed running marathons, working out, and volunteering in my local community. All in all, I was very happy and satisfied with my life and my achievements.

Then I suffered a head injury in 2007, and all of that changed in an instant. While I was out jogging, I was hit by a car and suffered craniocerebral trauma.
I don’t remember anything about what happened to me. I was hospitalized in a coma for 2 months. After I came to, I spent more than a year recovering at a rehabilitation center for head injuries, recieving physical therapy. I had to learn how to read and write all over again. All of my memories from around the time of the accident are pretty much non-existent.

Besides the loss of memory, I also suffer from balance problems. I can walk, only with a cane. I am on disability since I can no longer work.

After I was released from the head injury rehabilitation center and went back to my home and my real life, I became very depressed. I began contemplating suicide, since I could no longer work or lead the active life that I been used to. Sometimes I would spend all day in bed. I just didn’t have the motivation to face life anymore. My thoughts were very dark; all I could focus on was the accident and what I had lost. I often wondered why it had happened to me.

I decided that I needed to get some psychological help. My counselor did his best to help me think positively and I began to feel a little better. I tried to look on the bright side and accept what had happened.

One of the things my counselor urged me to do was to write about what had happened to me. Instead of starting a diary, I began keeping an online journal. One of the early readers of my blog chimed in with the quote:

“When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive - to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.”

The quote really resonated with me and I kept thinking about it. When I looked it up online, I discovered that the author was Marcus Aurelius. I realized that Stoicism was very similar to what I had been doing without knowing it. The experience inspired me to read the Meditations and eventually the works of the other Stoic authors.

Now instead of being sad, each day I try to celebrate the fact that I’m still alive. After all, the head injury could have easily killed me, yet I’m still here. I still have this time to make use of as best I can. Even though I walk slowly, I’m lucky that I can still walk at all. I could be confined to a wheelchair for life. I like to take early morning walks outside on the country roads near my house. I look at the beauty of nature and feel a deep sense of reverence and well-being.

It might seem strange to someone looking in from the outside, but the accident has actually given me a much fuller life. I now volunteer for a suicide hotline. I try to talk to callers in a non-judgmental way because I have been where they are, I understand that they are suffering. I’m also taking online courses in psychology. I have made new friends through the various support groups that I attend on account of the injury.

Since I could so easily not be here right now, I do as Marcus suggests: I get up, watch the sunrise, enjoy a coffee and feel joy for the opportunity to live another day. When I start feeling down, I try to remember to feel grateful, even for simple experiences like having a good meal or meeting with a friend. I’ve come so far since my accident when I was just starting to learn about Stoicism. It truly has been a life changing journey for me.