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Courage to Come Back Award Winner Answers My Questions

Courage to come back inspiration pain management chronic illnessPain, fatigue, depression, anxiety, disabilities, injuries, and chronic illness. Every day I work with people who are suffering. And the question that sometimes comes up is, “Will I get better?”

I believe that our bodies are designed to heal, so yes, I do reply that things will get better. Does that mean 100%? Sometimes, against all odds, yes. Sometimes not 100%, but better.

Courage to Come Back

I was recently honoured to get to watch someone I know well received a prestigious award, the Courage to Come Back Award. Tom is a man who doesn’t do things for awards or accolades. In fact, in this video, you can see that he says he doesn’t know if he was a good social worker (I’m sure he was!), but that he felt he could do his best to do little things to help others. 
 

He has many major health challenges—legally blind, kidney transplant (twice), chronic pain, and more—but despite them, is one of the more active people I know. He curls, does yoga, and walks everywhere. He travels, he volunteers, he writes articles, he advocates for people in need, and his home is a regular gathering place for parties. 

So, what does Tom have to say about overcoming and dealing with challenges? I interviewed him for his perspective a week after receiving the Courage to Come Back Award.

Support of others

Tom was born with severe vision problems. Nearly blind, he could see the blackboard at school, but couldn’t see the words on it. He asked his teachers to read aloud what they wrote on the board. In university, his friends read his textbooks to him.

So, it’s no surprise that when I asked Tom to name some of the things that have helped him through his life, despite his health challenges, he said that support is the most important. Find people you trust, respect, and can rely upon. And know that it’s a two-way street, so be trustworthy, respectful, and reliable to them.

But then I asked him how to ask for help. Because sometimes it’s hard to ask. He said that his experience is that most people want to help. And that when people care for you, they don’t want to worry about you. It’s more of an impediment to worry than to be able to help. And sometimes people don’t simply offer to help without you asking because they don’t want to intrude.

Coping management

Sometimes pain continues. Sometimes things don’t get better or more challenges arise. So, how do you manage? What do you do?

Tom’s suggestions? “Pain is something you may not always be able to get rid of, but you can work on reducing it. Your body and mind can adjust to pain. If you can just get better bit by bit, even chronic pain can feel less painful. And remember, it usually took a long time to get to where you are now, so it takes effort, commitment, conviction, and hope to make changes for the better.”

Though this phrase may not work for all, Tom remembers with a chuckle, a time that he was really struggling and a friend said to him, “It’s better to be above ground than below.” For him, that was motivation to push forward.

Positivity

If you get to meet Tom, you’ll find out he has a great sense of humour. He says he’s always perceived things in a “zany way,” and that has helped.

One of the main messages he’d like to share is that it takes courage. It’s no surprise that the award is called Courage to Come Back. “Everyone suffers some type of adversity, struggles in their life. And the most important thing is to take steps forward, one at a time, and keep trying. Don’t give up. Stay positive, even when it’s hard.”

What you can do to help someone in need

What if you’re on the other side of the equation? You may know someone with chronic health issues, and perhaps you want to help, but you don’t want to mistakenly offend. Tom told me that a simple question to ask is, “Can I help?” That way a person can say yes or no to assistance.

Also, try to avoid saying, “you should…” as that can come across as overbearing. But, Tom says that it’s important for all of us to remember not to take things too personally. Most of us are well-meaning and are just trying to help.

Additionally, sometimes it’s better to just listen instead of offering soothing words, suggestions, or a pep talk. “Silence is very important. It shows you are listening and thinking,” Tom says.

And, when you do talk, Tom told me of advice he received from one of his mentors, “It’s not always what you say, but how you say it.”

One more quote

One more bit from Tom, “Healing is not a sprint; it’s a marathon.” And he would know. Tom has been beating the odds for more than 70 years.

For more about the winners of the Courage to Come Back Award, check out their site here.

 

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