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  • Tasha Schuh

Why We Are Important To Each Other

The older I get the more aware I am of the importance of the people that I surround myself with. I see the importance of a support system and people who believe in my vision and dreams for the future and how crucial it is. Actually it doesn’t take much to look back in my past to see how it has always been that way. Upon reflection, I have seen a support system that has not only supported me in the good times but also in the most difficult times that I’ve ever been through. Research has proven over time the power of support systems when disability or disease occurs and it shows how people with a strong support system have a much higher possibility of overcoming and succeeding in life. According to Corey M. Clark in an article published by the Rochester Institute of Technology, “Social support is one of most important factors in predicting the physical health and well-being of everyone, ranging from childhood through older adults. The absence of social support shows some disadvantage among the impacted individuals. In most cases, it can predict the deterioration of physical and mental health among the victims. The initial social support given is also a determining factor in successfully overcoming life stress. The presence of social support significantly predicts the individual's ability to cope with stress. Knowing that they are valued by others is an important psychological factor in helping them to forget the negative aspects of their lives, and thinking more positively about their environment. Social support not only helps improve a person's well- being, it affects the immune system as well. Thus, it’s also a major factor in preventing negative symptoms such as depression and anxiety from developing.” I truly feel today that I am living proof of this research. Many people use the quote, "It takes a village…” But I know that it’s true. Here are just a few of the people that have stood by me and supported me over the years and what they have done to help me become the person that I am today:

My parents - My mom and dad have stayed by my side indefinitely over the years. From having multiple ear surgeries as a child, many broken bones from being the klutz that I was, to when I fell through the trap door and all of the challenges that have come since then (surgeries, hospital stays, doctor appointments, along with the countless hours of caring for me.) Through all of these challenges I have always known that my parents would stick by me and be there if I needed them. Eight years ago I had to be hospitalized because my hemoglobin was dangerously low and when I arrived at the hospital I could not stop crying. Many people thought I was crying because I was upset that I had to be in the hospital, but actually I was crying because of the gratitude that I had for my mom dropping all of her plans to stay with me. My dad came later with my favorite meal (I have never done well with hospital food), and I was overwhelmed by their continuous love and support. I could write pages and pages of what my parents have sacrificed for me and it still would not share everything that they have done over the years. They took the brunt of my frustration in my darkest days, they encouraged me when I felt down, and I always knew that no matter what happened they would be there to love and support me. Because of this, I grew confident in trying new things, developed a positive attitude, and began to see myself overcome things that I never thought possible. To this day, 18 years after the accident, my doctor still says that if he could clone one mother for his other patients to have, it would be my mother. That says a lot! Thank you mom and dad! :-)

My siblings – for those of you do not know, I have a sister who is eight years older than me and a brother that is five years older. Angie and Ryan have also been through so much with me and have stood by my side over the years. From offering advice and wisdom to making me laugh, I know I would not be where I am today without them. Similar to my parents, they have encouraged and cared for me, as well as helped me to overcome many challenges. They’ve even stepped out of their comfort zone from time to time; like the time Ryan had to do my eyeliner! He did well. :-) There were times I was uncomfortable asking my sister for advice, as I felt I had asked too much; every time, however, I was thankful that I asked because she always has the right words to say. Knowing they would always be there by my side has helped me persevere and believe in myself. I don’t know where I would be today without them!

My friends:

Jesse – She was one of my best friends in school. Despite our friendship waning a bit before the accident, she still made many sacrifices for me. Jesse stood by me when other “friends” didn’t, and really helped in my quest to become independent by teaching me not to care what others thought. She got me out of the house and involved when I was afraid to step out of my comfort zone, and she truly helped me see that there was so much I could still be a part of. I think of her every time I put on my tenodesis splint; she encouraged me to see that independence was so much better than worrying about what other people thought when they saw it. That splint has been the difference between only a few hours of caregiving per day vs. 10 or 12 hours!

Stevie – His love and support over the years has truly amazed me. We were already friends prior to the accident, but it was his continuous visits to the hospital that placed him in the upper echelon of my support system. He taught me that laughter can be a powerful tool to get you through the tough times; thanks to Stevie I practically memorized the movie “Tommy Boy”. That detail may seem trivial, but hours upon hours of torturous therapy every day can drive you crazy unless you have an outlet like laughter. Stevie taught me that laughter could overcome so much sadness, and that there was so much power in a simple smile. The seemingly crazy antics that he did just to solicit a smile truly set me on the road to success, and taught me that sometimes you just have to laugh at yourself!

Brooke – Like Jesse and Stevie, Brooke and I we were friends before the accident; the main difference, however, is that our friendship actually grew more AFTER I moved home from the hospital following my rehab. She had a heart of gold and was very mature for her age. Honestly, the main reason I was so excited for my freshman year at Winona State was because we decided to room together. Knowing that Brooke would be there if I needed help gave me the confidence to step out and take the chance of moving away from home. What made this even more special is that Brooke sacrificed many of the normal freshman activities in order to do my cares and help me in other ways, like taking notes for me in classes. I’m sure this became a bit overwhelming at times, but she never complained. She played a role in helping me learn how to drive again with my hand controls (and even hid her laughter when I got pulled over by the police). Finally, she also taught me the importance of a good laugh, as we spent many an afternoon playing jokes on each other and our neighbors. Two of the first accomplishments that I list when I speak are graduating from college and driving; every time I do I am reminded at how thankful I am for Brooke. Her sacrifices early on in my college days helped build the belief that I could succeed just like anyone else, and gave me the strength and determination to overcome no matter what the obstacle. It’s hard to even imagine where I would be today had I not gone to Winona State. Thank you, Brooke, for being the catalyst to get me there! :-)

I could easily list many other people who have helped me become the person that I am today: From my friend Mary who encouraged me that I was not going to be single my whole life when I felt alone, to Doug who has taught me the true meaning of love by sleeping in the uncomfortable cot in my hospital room last March so I did not have to be alone. It truly has taken a village of people for me to get where I am today. Unfortunately time and space prevent me from being able to list every single name, but please know that I am so thankful for you!

As I reflect on each and every one of these people I am constantly reminded that we cannot do it alone! We all need a team of people to encourage and support us, as well as have our back during the difficult times. Pride made me feel uncomfortable to ask for help, but I am so thankful that I did because there was always someone willing to step up to the plate and help me to persevere. Today, I challenge you to reflect on the people that have been there for you in your journey of life. Be sure to thank them for their encouragement and support. Think of ways you can cultivate your love and selflessness towards others. I truly believe that we can all grow in this and I am SUPER excited to talk more about the PITCrew Movement; it is our way of encouraging everyone to have that strong support system to help them navigate the many laps of life.

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