Since I got hurt, I have seen myself change in so many ways. Not only did I have changes in my appearance and physical abilities, but also in who I am, my outlook on life, and my desire and courage to overcome challenges and face my fears. Before, I used to be a very quiet person who tried to avoid any attention on myself… but when you wake up and realize that your injuries, your story, and your face have been all over the news world-wide, that all changes.
As I layed in a coma, trying to heal my body, those who knew me best were not only worrying about my health and recovery, but also feeling worried and sad knowing how I would be feeling about this lack of ability to take care of myself, lack of privacy, all along with the attention that was now on me.
I remember letting my family and friends do all of the interviews in the beginning, not only because I was still critically injured, but because I didn’t want to be in the spotlight. I remember being transferred to the hospital in Boston and creating a “code name” that people had to be told if they wanted to visit me in my room. The name put on my hospital room door and physical therapy schedule was only “PATIENT” and not “Stefanie Schaffer” because the press had camped out at my first hospital, and we wanted to avoid anyone even knowing where I was. We did everything we could do to keep as much privacy from those we did not know as we could.
Until soon after all of this, I felt a change in myself. I had grown more confident as I began advocating for myself in the hospital. I realized that I knew my body better than anyone else could, I knew what medications I needed, what wasn’t working, and when something was wrong and if I didn’t speak up, it might go unnoticed. I had to speak up.
Then I realized that everyone was telling my story for me, and I wanted to speak for myself and put my own thoughts and words out there, so I did my first interview in the hospital in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Through the difficulty of answering hard questions and trying to keep the tears back, it went well. I realized then, that I was strong enough for what had been thrown at me.
Every time I did something that felt out of my comfort zone I became a more confident and capable person.
Last week during my first ever public speaking event, was the first time I was able to test to see just how much I’ve grown. It was terrifying to get up on that stage, but I was able to share my story and show my vulnerabilities as I opened up about the hardest time of my life.
So, if I’m afraid of public speaking, why did I decide to do this? I decided to do this for so many reasons. I am doing it for myself, and I am doing this for those who may be listening. Keeping the nightmare-like experiences I have had to myself, is not healing, it only causes more frustration and anger and sadness. Talking openly and vulnerably is what is healing for me. I think back to how angry I was when I first became aware of what had happened to me. Out of all the tour companies in the Bahamas, all the different available tours, all the different boats used, all of the different times we could have signed up to go…how did I end up on the one that would explode? And how did I end up being the one to choose the seat that would cause me the most injuries? There is no way to explain this or make sense of it.
It was such a terrible thing to happen, that if I wanted to, I could sit home every single day thinking of nothing else but this. I could feel sorry for myself all day every day, and I don’t think anyone could even blame me for doing that. But it wouldn’t let me go back in time and change it, it wouldn’t heal my injuries, or get me closer to the life that I want. If I did this, I would be living a miserable life, and then I would be losing just one more thing to that day. Enough has been taken from me, and I won’t give anything else up.
Now I make sense of this all, by seeing that I am a person who was able to handle all of this, I have so much support around me; and maybe this all happened to me, out of everyone else in the world, because of these reasons. Because I was able to survive and be loved, and love those around me.
Maybe this is my new normal, my new purpose. To help show that no matter how hard life is there is always something good. No matter what life throws at you, don’t let it take anymore from you than necessary by giving in to it all. I hope to shine a light for people, meet new people, and to continue to live and be inspired by life and all the miracles that come with being alive. Every time I have faced my fears, something amazing has been the result. I know that facing my fears of public speaking and getting on to that stage will result in opportunities for me, a sense of accomplishment, and only good things. I am so happy to be grabbing each opportunity coming my way. This is what life’s all about.
#StefFindsNewRoads #StefStrong #NorthCountryChevyDealers
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