Thursday, December 6, 2012

Stages, part 2: Anger

Although I have a shelf exam next week, I thought it was time I finally finished the post “Stages”.  My talk at TEDxGeorgiaTech went alright but I know I could have done a lot better.  I really opened my heart and grew on that stage, so even if no one else was affected by my talk, I was affected.  I will post the video on here once it is posted online.

As I mentioned in the previous post on stages of grief, after denial comes anger.

My doctor and therapists sat down with my family and me one day, as they do with all patients at that hospital, to tell me about my injuries and my prognosis.  We were shocked.  I had no idea what some of the medical terms meant, but it didn’t matter.  I would show my doctors and everyone else that no one really knows what’s going to happen.  They can’t hold me back.  I’ll throw their silly statistics and prognosis back in their face and show them who’s boss.

Some people who suffer from a debilitating and life-changing injury become bitter, as I have previously mentioned on here.  I remember watching as a fellow patient became really mad at his wife because he thought she had misplaced his iPhone.  “My whole life was on there. That’s the last time I trust you with anything,” he said to her.

When misfortunes like this happen to us, it is perfectly reasonable to see why anger and frustration may arise.  We all like to have things the way we want them and the way we are used to having them.  Other people can’t do things the way we usually do them.  Mistrust and skepticism arise. “Why must things change,” we ask ourselves. “Everything was going so perfect, and then this had to happen. Ugh.”

Adapting to new things is hard.  Most of us do not like escaping from our comfort level.  What makes everything worse is when situations like this are thrown upon us without any warning.  Then, we have no choice but to adapt.  We have no choice but to once again relearn everything we once knew and learn how to do things in a new way.  It is in times of hardship that our true character is revealed.

My best friends who were and are always with me in my journey recall how scared I was when I first started physical therapy after I regained consciousness.  I was terrified.  I was on the edge of the mat and I was holding on tightly to the mat and the physical therapist.  My eyes were screaming, “Help me,” to my friends and family members.  I was convinced that I would fall off the mat and crack my head open.  Why was this so hard? What happened to me? Is this a dream? When will I wake up?

Several months later, a physical therapist gave me a toy Velcro ball/catcher’s mitt set one day during therapy.  She wanted me to sit on the mat and play catch with her.  The goal of this was to practice sitting up, moving my arms, and maintaining balance.  When a friend later asked me what I did in therapy that day, I was embarrassed to describe how I spent the day like a six month old child, learning how to sit and balance myself.

Why did I have to do all of this? What did I do to deserve this? No one I know has ever had to do anything like this.

A friend’s older brother one day gave me some of the best advice I was ever told.  He said, “Never ever ask, ‘Why me?’”  Asking myself, “Why me?” and becoming angry would not have gotten me anywhere.  In reality, it would have prevented my progression.

No, I wasn’t angry.  I was thankful.  I was thankful that although everyone in my family except my brother was in the vehicle, I was the only one injured. I was thankful that none of my friends had to experience what I had to experience.  I was thankful that through my injuries, I was rekindling old friendships, developing new friendships, and influencing my family and friends.

Admittedly, although I was never actually angry, I did become frustrated a few times.  It frustrated me that I had to put off future plans for an extra year.  It saddened me when I couldn’t play sports or go to certain places with friends.  It embarrassed me a year after my accident when the wheelchair elevator got stuck in front of all my classmates during the first day of medical school orientations.  But I never let it show.  In reality, I know that these things never completely bothered me.

If I let my hardship blind me and if I only perceived the difficulties, I would not be able to see all my blessings.  And if my situation affected my family and friends in such a deep and sometimes wounding manner, then I had to be the one to show them that even in times of complete darkness, the oft-forgotten and discarded candle brings light until the sun rises.

[It looks like I still haven't finished up with writing about all of the stages of grief. I may finish it up or I may move on to a different topic. My TEDx talk seems to cover the rest of it!]


  1. Came across your article on and was just amazed after reading the article.
    You have such patience and drive which is highly motivating. Was totally touched by your experience. Well, for now I only had time to read one of your posts but def. looking forward to read more.
    Praying for the best for you and your future!

  2. Thank you so much, Siddiqunnisa! Alhamdulillah. I really appreciate that :)

  3. Salam,
    I came across your article originally on emel too. I've been working for a while in Islamic organisations and feeling somewhat disappointed at the attitudes and perspectives of people. So, it was inspiring and refreshing to see someone with a wise head and such a positive attitude. May Allah grant you the best in this life and the hereafter. Ameen.

    1. Walakumasalaam, Zareen. Thank you very much! I appreciate that. Ameen.