Leslie Ostrander: Consultant, Mother, Wife, and Quadriplegic
Q: How do you overcome challenges?
A: I am often asked by people in my audiences – they will come up to me privately – and they may have a family member or someone they love that is injured. Perhaps, not even a spinal cord injury – something different – and they truly want to know, how do I get them out of depression? Or how do I get them active in life? How did you, Leslie, overcome these challenges? And my first heartfelt answer is faith. You have to have something that grounds you. Something that points you in the right direction. I have spent a lot of hours and a lot of time by myself and a lot of tears – trying to overcome certain obstacles in my life. And it wasn’t until I truly knew who I was and what I stood for, that I could overcome certain challenges.
Q: What do you do when you have a bad day?
A: I’ve come a long way with that one and I believe that my husband – I can give credit – to reminding me that everybody has bad days. It is very easy when you are a quadriplegic, or when you are in a chair, that you want to kind of point your fingers and say I am having a bad day because I’m paralyzed. Or I am having a bad day because I’m a quadriplegic. And when my husband will step in often times, if he hears me, alluding to that – he will say, no – you’re just having a bad day cause it is a bad day. Simple as that. So, I think it is very important that we remind ourselves that everybody has bad days. It’s not always associated with the chair or our paralysis. It could simply be just a bad day. It’s part of life.
Q: What would be your advice to someone newly injured?
Make Connections. I have been injured for 36 years. I still have a vital need to connect with others that have spinal cord injuries. My personal resilience is strengthened when I relate with others. Civic groups, faith-based organizations, or local support groups can assist in regaining hope.
Move toward your goals. Develop some realistic goals. Healing takes time but can be achieved by making small attainable goals.
Nurture a positive view of yourself. Developing confidence after injury can be a bit tricky. Nurture yourself by practicing positive “self-talk”. Quickly remove negative thoughts and do not give adverse reasoning any authority in your life. It took self-evaluation for me to realize that negative tendencies robbed me of joy and strength. Letting go of false perceptions was very liberating and allowed me to grow in a positive direction.
Maintain a hopeful outlook. An optimistic outlook enables you to expect that good things will happen in your life. Reframe your thinking and focus on the positive. This will allow you to look for opportunities for self-discovery.
Emotions shift over time. As an individual progresses through the rehabilitation process towards a return to their community they may experience a lessening of negative emotions. When independent living skills are learned, proper resources are put in place, and home modifications are incorporated, there is a shift towards positive emotions.
Fear is an ever-present concern. Fear is a prominent emotion. However, fear is an emotion everyone deals with--injured or not--it’s just part of life. What is important is to not let fear take over. Put it in its place and learn how to use fear as an emotion that can propel you to overcoming.
Q: What has 38 years of living with a Spinal Cord Injury taught you?
A: Life is full of changes. Your journey should be guided by a plan--a strategy-- that you develop and tailor to your needs. You can gain courage and insight by successfully navigating your way through your challenges with trusted companions. There will be stretches along your journey that are unwelcome, but forge on. In the end you will be strengthened by it all.