The Power Within to Overcome

Minister Stilwell#Superhuman #Superheroine – that’s how I feel about the Hon. Michelle Stilwell, MLA for Parksville-Qualicum. Minister Stilwell holds the portfolio for Social Development and Social Innovation, but she is so much more than her political career.

Minister Stilwell broke her neck at the age of 17 when she was being piggy-backed by a friend going down a flight of stairs. Her friend slipped at the bottom and she came crashing down on her neck. I am sure at the time Minister Stilwell had feelings of  ‘life is over’, but it takes but two minutes of listening to her speak that one can determine if she did feel that the moment was fleeting.

Minister Stilwell spoke at The Cridge Centre for the Family’s Survive Strive Thrive 2016 event. This educational day shines the light on our heroes who work hard every day to overcome the challenges they experience following a brain injury. Minister Stilwell fired our inspiration and hope for a better life for everyone living with such challenges. Oh, she didn’t make it sound easy or that she just bounced along getting better and stronger every day. She was clear that from the moment of her injury, her life has been focused and disciplined to make not only a better life for herself, but a better life for others too.

Determined to shape her life into more than a tragedy, Minister Stilwell worked hard in her rehabilitation. She took up wheelchair basketball and eventually had to retire from that due to complications of her spinal cord injury. She now competes in wheelchair racing. Every day, Minister Stilwell still works hard on managing her life and keeping her body in the best shape it can be. She is married, she has a son, and she serves in British Columbia as an MLA. She demonstrates daily how to pick yourself up and move on!

Minister Stilwell is the only female Paralympic athlete to have earned gold in two separate summer sports. She has competed around the world including Beijing and Sydney. She is competing in the 2016 Summer Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. I wish her much success in this endeavor.

I learned five important things about overcoming tragedy from Minister Stilwell. The following are not her words, but rather my interpretation of her presentation. I hope she agrees with me on the following:

  1. Feeling sorry for yourself only keeps you stuck in the muck – I totally understand how tragedy is often a tremendous blow in one’s life. I experienced the gut-wrenching, soul-ripping, heartbreak when my brother-in-law was murdered, when my father was killed, when my brother and my husband died suddenly. I get it. But like Minister Stilwell, I had to choose to survive. I had to choose to work through the loss and to find a way to pick up the pieces and go on.
  2. Take control of your thoughts – mindset plays a huge part in achieving great things in life. It also is an integral part of overcoming adversity. So getting off the pity party train is only part of it. To overcome adversity, one must shift their mindset to believe that they can move forward in life. Believe that the resources (people, places and things) will be available to them as needed. Believe that they have the courage and strength to do the work of healing. And moreover, to take action every day to do what they need to do to get beyond the current situation.
  3. Never give up – I am not implying that there won’t be tough days ahead. There will be. That’s a given. And it’s okay to have a response to it. But in your heart, know that today is today and if it’s a bad day, it’s just a bad day. Tomorrow will be new.
  4. Help yourself by helping others – I encourage my clients to do this. It’s something I have done and will continue to do until the end of my time. Help other people. Help them to be who they want to be. Help them to achieve what they want to achieve. Help them find strength, courage and hope. Help them to see the beauty in the world that abounds even when tragedy hits. Help them and you will feel better. Help them and you help yourself.
  5. Be the best you can be – be the best you can be wherever you are in life with whatever you have. Work hard. Be good and do good. Be happy. Share a smile. Master every task before you and watch opportunity and abundance come into your life. Life is fluid and our situation, albeit many times life-altering, will change again. Work on being the best you can be and it will bring the best out in others too.

Photo (left to right): Pamela Sylvan (Mojo Maker), Hon. Michelle Stilwell, Janelle Breese Biagioni (Hope Generator)

Photo Credit: Dale Breese

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