OneStepStories-JessicaGI used to be physically fit—I could handle anything, climb that hill, move those ridiculously big items—then it was over in a flash. I couldn’t pick up my kids or even lift a gallon of milk.  I was furious and frustrated.

Being in the military had made me tough mentally and physically. I could run 3 miles in 15 mins.  I could lift, move, do anything I could put my mind to.  After being honorably discharged from the military, I transitioned into the civilian world and began embracing the Whirlpool mindset. In August of that year, I was involved in a car accident where I was nearly t-boned by a woman who was texting.

My car was totaled and I was rushed to the hospital. From there came the long, painful, and drawn out process of being in chiropractic care and physical therapy.  4 times a week, every week for 6 months. I couldn’t just sit in just any chair, because my leg would go numb from the shooting pain. I couldn’t sleep because my back was in so much pain. I couldn’t pick up my kids anymore. I couldn’t even lift a gallon of milk. I had to ask for help for everything—something that was a “no-go” for me. I was angry for being weak and frustrated because I was so limited in my movements. I also gained weight, lots of weight. I was considered obese for my age range. I was embarrassed and ashamed. It impacted the intimacy of my relationship with the one I loved. And that of course, caused problems with honesty, communication, and being true to who we really are as a team.

The first step was to get counseling through Whirlpool’s Employee Assistance Program to help me overcome the situation, sort through the emotions, and to re-prioritize. It wasn’t easy but it really helped me to refocus. Simultaneously, I went to chiropractic and physical therapy and did all the recommended exercises at home to rebuild my mind and my body.  I’ve started to focus on my diet by drinking more water, lots more water, cutting back on my portion sizes and by joining the Weigh-In program through Whirlpool Healthworks. I’ve also have started working out again, with the help of a friend.

I have more energy now. I can move, bend, and flex. I am more optimistic about my capabilities and my goals are realistic. I have also noticed that I plan more. I plan my meals and my snacks. When I walk in a room, I plan what chair would be best for my body, what shoes would be best for my back, what are the seats in the car are like—and how long will I be sitting in this seat. I’m just more aware now.

It is hard to find the courage to take that first step. To really look at yourself in the mirror and decide enough is enough. To make that solemn vow to yourself, for yourself. To appreciate the kindness of others and know that you aren’t alone. You are never alone. It is ok to ask for help sometimes. You don’t have to be the strong one all the time. If certain people, habits, environments need to be changed for you to grow—then MOVE!  All it takes is that one first step!

Jessica Gardner, St. Joseph, MI

March 29, 2016