I would be lying if I told you it was easy

I’ve been asked a bunch lately why I don’t write in my blog anymore, and it’s a good question. Writing here seemed to be therapeutic for me through certain stages of my injury and rehabilitation and I think it still is, just realistically I don’t have a lot of time in my day-to-day to give a lot of thought to my overall situation, or maybe I avoid it. As of late when I do get the chance to communicate with friends, family and coworkers I’ve found myself really trying to make this all out to be no big deal, something that’s easy for me to handle and that not a whole lot has really changed. I guess it kind of intimidates me to write here very often, as it’s a sort of self-exploration that I don’t always have the emotional strength to deal with.

I would be lying if I told you it is easy for us to get settled in to our new life in Oregon. The challenges that come along with being a quadriplegic significantly cut down our options for housing, and it has become an incredibly frustrating situation that not many people could hope to understand. As a result we have now lived in a hotel room, completely on top of each other, for six months. The majority of my time with Katrina is spent brainstorming about our housing situation, looking for a better situation or listening to Katrina download what she has found out in that regard (she spends a lot of time on this).

I would be lying if I told you it was easy to have chosen my career over my rehabilitation. I consider myself extremely lucky to have the job that I do and to work with such an amazing and inspiring group of people. I’m completely engaged on a day-to-day basis and I love doing what I’m doing. There is a positive aspect in that I feel normal when I’m at work and I don’t feel anyone I work with sees me as being any less capable because I’m in a chair. Realistically I don’t think if I would have chosen to not pursue my career it would have led to any more focus on rehabilitation, as rehabilitation is expensive, hard to find and consumes not only my time but that of my family. It’s not like when I broke my neck I received some sort of settlement that would have made it easy for me to go focus on my body for the next couple years and living on an income stipend from Medicaid doesn’t necessarily allow a focus on rehabilitation.

I would be lying if I told you it was easy to not feel humiliated and helpless being totally reliant or my loved ones for my care. The times during the day when I have to ask for help or medically require help are definitely the times when the impact that this injury is going to have on my life hits home the hardest for me. You never realize how many things in your day-to-day life you take for granted until they are lost.

I would be lying if I told you it was easy to listen to the stories people tell me about “their friend in a wheelchair who is so amazing because they can do this or that” only to find out their friend is a paraplegic and they don’t know the difference. All I can do is shrug and say wouldn’t it be nice. The challenges I face not being able to use my hands or having full strength in my arms has definitely become the most annoying aspect of this injury.

I would be lying if I told you it was easy to sleep at night. The discomfort of not being able to move is one thing but waking up at three o’clock in the morning from spasticity and not being able to fall back asleep because my mind wont stop racing is another. I try my hardest to focus on making connections in my body and on the healing that still lies ahead but it’s a challenge to not get caught up in the reality of the moment that I can’t readjust without waking up Katrina (who deserves what little sleep she gets).

I would be lying if I told you I didn’t miss my good friend CR Johnson. CR and I had a long-standing relationship; I first met CR when I was 17 and my first filming trip was a month in Alaska with him, Evan and Tanner. Since then we’ve shared a friendship that is very common in the ski community and many were lucky to share with CR. When I got hurt CR immediately reached out to me and was such a powerful and positive person to share what I was going through with that we spoke often. I was lucky enough to have CR spend a couple days with Katrina, Tyler and I in Los Angeles this summer and the memories that came out of that brief visit will always bring a smile to my face. I spoke with CR the day before he passed away and he kept saying “after all we’ve been through think of what we’re going to be like when we’re 40″ (for those of you who don’t know CR suffered a traumatic brain injury in 05’ and just this past year reclaimed his place at the top of professional skiing). The thing we most shared in common was the mental growth that is a result of going through a traumatic injury; hearing about his death the next day was like getting punched in the throat and it’s still hard to swallow.

I would be lying if I told you it was easy to follow the world that I was once so much a part of on TV and the Internet. I miss making films and all the traveling, friendship, teamwork and good times that came along with it. I have incredible pride in watching my friends succeed at what they love but it’s hard not being there with them.
*Big thanks to Jossi Wells for rocking my sticker all season on his way to becoming overall AFP world champion!

I would be lying if I told you it was easy to stay hopeful after being paralyzed for over a year. I am constantly reminding myself that healing from this injury is going to be just as much mental as physical work. It’s so incredibly hard to not settle into the reality of my situation without feeling like I’m losing the hope that is going to change my situation.

I would be lying if I told you it was easy to stay in touch with all of you who are consistently and constantly reaching out sending your support. If anything I wish I had a few more hours in my week specifically for this. I usually get to fit in about one phone call a day on my way home from work so it’s a slow process getting back to people but I’m thinking of all of you constantly and feeding off your energy. When I do get the opportunity to read the comments here or log on to my Facebook it really energizes me to make the most out of each and every day. For those of you who find inspiration in what I’ve gone through, it’s humbling, and I’ve written this to let you know it isn’t as easy as I may make it look.

Riley

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