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Living beyond limits



This is an incredible talk by a young woman, Amy Purdy, who lost both her legs below the knee aged nineteen. After a long struggle she went onto become a professional and award-winning snowboarder as well as starting up her own business to help physically disabled youths participate in action sports.

I love her message here - that obstacles can force you to get creative and to come back stronger. I know personally that when I was passing out everyday (I've suffered with vasovagal syncope since last October) it made me more determined than I'd ever been. It's all about mindset. When I was depressed I would constantly miss class, turn up late and not engage with what was happening when I was present. When I was dealing with this physical condition, I had the mental strength to keep going. I was determined not to be seen as, or to become, weak.

I was cast as one of the principle roles in our final production at university but during the rehearsal period I realised I wasn't well enough to perform. It was bad enough having my peers see what happens to me, let alone a theatre audience. So I agreed with my tutor to step into a directing role. I was gutted. Although I knew I'd put everything into directing I was so disappointed I wouldn't be able to perform. This actually turned out to be a real blessing in disguise. I'd always wanted to get some directing experience but had always loved performing too much and this turned out to be the perfect opportunity - one which I loved and turned out to be pretty good at.

I was physically held back though. At times I wanted, and tried to, jump up and show the actors what I meant. I quickly realised this wasn't possible. I would become out of breath and unsteady - the repeated loss of consciousness left me physically weak and slow. So I gave more consideration to how I could articulate my ideas without leaving a chair. I slowed down and made it my priority to communicate the best I could to the cast, and I did.

I might have missed one class but otherwise I was there everyday, ready to work and loving it. There'd be times when I'd start to feel unwell and would lie on the floor with my legs on a chair. I'd continue to feedback to the actors from there. When life throws you a curveball like an illness or disability, you suddenly (after much wallowing and difficulty) find some determination and an attitude where you just have to get on with it.

This condition went away for a while. Through experimenting with medications it seemed to be finally easing off. I've now had a bad week and do fear I could be stuck with this thing once again but fingers crossed I won't be. All I want to do is curl up in bed and watch Peep Show but I know I've got to keep going. I've got to finish my dissertations and find a job.

Speeches like these really help. I don't have religion but I do have amazing family, friends and I often turn to books too - quotes and things that remind me to be positive. We spend a lot of time on Facebook, Twitter etc but you really should have a look at the talks on TED if you haven't before: might just give you that little bit of enthusiasm you've been looking for.

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