Who Loves You?

It’s February! Meteorologists tell us it is the coldest month of the year, our history lessons tell us it’s the month of Presidential birthdays, and our gardens (hopefully!) tell us spring is coming. But retail stores and online shopping sites tell us it is the month of love! Everywhere we look, red boxes of candy abound, florists are gearing up for their busiest day of the year, and card shops are flooded with Valentines. We are bombarded with the clear and urgent message: buy something for the one you love!

one woman in chair, one able-bodied woman bending down beside her

Now I am no curmudgeon, and I can be as romantic as the next guy. I love celebrating Valentine’s Day, including giving and getting Valentine’s cards. But in the rush of romance, I offer another take: this February, show yourself some love!

Everyone needs care. Everyone needs to be loved. That is a human need and a human emotion. And some of that love needs to come from inside of our own hearts and minds. For those of us with paralysis, this love is even more important than for many other people. We need a special kind of love to help us doing daily chores, or just getting through our morning routines. Some of us need the love of those who offer medical or nursing help. Some of us cannot drive and are dependent on others to help us get around.

We must know our bodies, have a clear picture of our physical and mental abilities, and always take care of ourselves. We must be our own best advocates when we need care. If we don’t speak up and ask for help from the doctors, physical therapists, and other professionals, as well as our family and friends, we risk a decline in our health. But if we ask for help and follow good advice, many of us can make great strides to improve our quality of life.

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Each of us should take the time necessary to love ourselves: to relax, to think, to write, to listen to music or to meditate. Our wired world assaults us every minute with more stimuli than we can possibly absorb. Researchers have discovered a new syndrome of our modern lives: decision fatigue. Whether you’re making breakfast, deciding what to wear in the morning, or whether to watch a movie at home in the evening, your brain is making more than 35,000 decisions each day. So take time to do something, or do nothing, to allow yourself time to relax and recharge. Breathe!

More and more books and websites implore us to be “mindful”, to be calm, to adopt spiritual practices. You may feel it’s a bit “touchy-feely”, but I know that in my life it has made a big difference. When I was injured, having spiritual tools I could call on helped me immensely to avoid a deep depression. It takes practice, but it pays many rewards in the end.

But above all, surround yourself with people who love you. If there are toxic people in your life, try to avoid them, or limit your exposure to them. Negative or abusive people only drag you down, and seriously affect both your physical and mental health. Find the people who have a positive outlook, who support you, people you know you can depend on, and those who freely express their love to you. Wrap yourself in their love, knowing they are there for you. It is a proven fact that every moment you spend with them improves your life and your health. And as an added benefit, when you receive their love, you will be able to give more love to others.

Everyone has difficulty in their lives. Our paralysis creates challenges others can never imagine. So take care of yourself. Love yourself. Heck…go buy yourself flowers or a box of candy. After all, it’s February, the month of love!

About the Author - Howard Menaker

Howard Menaker is a retired communications and public affairs executive, with over 30 years of experience in international corporations and trade associations. Previously, he worked as an attorney, specializing in civil litigation. He now devotes much of his time serving on non-profit boards of directors, including a prominent theater company and a historic house museum in the Washington, DC area. He and his husband split their time between Washington and Rehoboth Beach, DE.

Howard Menaker

The opinions expressed in these blogs are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation.

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $10,000,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement by, ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.