Choose Your Path: The Power of Making Choices and Creating Your Own Destiny – Part 2

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In the first part of this article, I described some of the challenges I faced just before our world changed.  When Covid hit, I was still recovering from my injuries and deciding how to proceed with my career path.  Things were about to get dark.

By the end of the lockdown, my physical injuries were improving. But my mental state was not good. I was in a deep depression (self-diagnosed) and could not see a way out. Additionally, I was overweight and out of shape. I remember feeling that my ataxia was progressing at a rate I was always fearful of.  My anxiety was high, and I had to do something before it was too late.

Change, how do I do that?

This would be one of the most important points in my life. Major changes had to happen! There was no more choice unless I wanted to end up in a wheelchair or worse. But I still was down mentally, and I didn’t know how or where to start. “Was it even worth my time?” I remember thinking to myself.

I’m sure you have heard or read this before, but every change starts with a small step. I was concerned with so many areas that I was almost frozen. But as hard as it was, I was making a choice for my future. I created a rough outline of the areas I need to work on. This is my actual list:

  1. Losing weight: I was around 250 lbs., and I knew that had to change.
  2. Movement and Mobility: Strengthen my core and build more flexibility.
  3. Balance and Coordination: Physical Therapy and eventually back to the gym.
  4. Improve my mental wellness: Reading and watching motivational speeches. Getting back to who I used to be.
  5. Speech Therapy: Slow down the slurring and build voice strength.
  6. Eastern Medicine: Explore and learn what this is.

Weight loss

My entire life, I have struggled to gain weight.  This was completely new to me, and I had no clue where to begin. throughout my research on nutrition and proper diets, I kept reading about intermediate fasting. This made sense to me, and I was feeling as though I could follow the plan. As with everything else though, I wanted to find out what exactly worked for me. Knowing this would be a long process, I started on my diet transformation.

This is amazing and I could not have been happier! Roughly 10 months later, I was around 40 lbs. lighter.  Don’t get me wrong, this is a slow and difficult process. But because of my improved eating habits, I have not had any issues keeping the weight off without fasting. In fact, I recently noticed I have lost too much, and I have been adjusting my diet to gain a few pounds. I do believe that our bodies constantly change as we age and that must be reflected in our diet. It’s a lifelong process.

Movement and Mobility

This will constantly be an issue for me. I am lucky enough to have ankylosing spondylitis along with ataxia. What does that mean? AS is an inflammatory disease that, over time, can cause some of the bones in the spine, called vertebrae, to fuse. Because of that, flexibility will always be an issue for me. 

Stretching was my focus. I started with just 10-15 minutes per day to loosen my joints and muscles.  Today, I still do the same stretching activities, but I am doing it twice a day with more variations.

Balance and Coordination

Physical Therapy continually teaches me what I need to be doing. The key here is to find the right therapists and programs. I am blessed that I found two amazing movement therapists close to where I live.  You can learn directly from both as they are Guest Contributors on this site!  Research for yourself and find who is available in your area. 

Mental Wellness

This is probably the most difficult as it constantly changes. Reading about how to change my thinking along with various videos on motivation, overcoming obstacles, and general happiness, was what initially got me through this time.  But everyone is unique, and you will need to discover what is best for you.  Remember, life throws you a lot of curves. Just because you start in one direction, doesn’t mean you have to stay there!

Don’t get me wrong, I am still challenged, occasionally, with my mental health. Most days, I feel good and am excited to find out what is next. However, I do have down days and when that happens, I look inside of myself. With some internal investigation, I usually find the real cause. When I know what the issues are, I can attempt to adjust and get back on track. 

Everyone is different and you may be dealing with some real struggles. Find out what works for you individually.

Speech Therapy

I just recently started speech therapy. So far, everything is going great, and I am working on speech clarity and voice strength. Currently, my words are often mumbled and slurred together. Therefore, my goal is to slow down the progression and hopefully build some strength back in my voice.

Eastern Medicine

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) or acupuncture. The power of this is something I did not expect or could imagine.  Here again, I was looking for someone that could address my various issues. And I found an outstanding practitioner that studied under some of the best movement specialists. 

I am going to detail my experience with acupuncture in a later article. But I will just say that the results for both my back pain and my movement, are incredible.

My hope is that everyone will realize that no matter how hard it seems, it can get better. 

Ultimately, it is going to be up to you. I welcome any comments you may have. And if you are part of our Ataxia community and want to tell us about what you are doing, send me a message. I would love to feature you in our community voices area. 


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2 Responses
  1. All comments and reflections are worth reading from time to time. It’s important to know there is a group of us with ataxia diseases/disorders. I miss the kind of active life I used to have but I have managed to keep my friends and family still part of my life.

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