A few months after my accident I began to occasionally have dreams that I was running. These dreams were very vivid and hard to realize that they were only a dream until I woke up. In these dreams I would be running full sprint through the yard of my moms house in Indiana and often I would jerk my self awake as if attempting to run away but as soon as I awoke I was back to the realization that I was paralyzed from the waist down. Initially these dreams left my very sad and depressed upon awaking but they kept occurring so often that I began to believe I was seeing my future.
As Ive talked about visualization in a previous post these dreams were another instance during my rehab that lead me to seek better understanding of what was occurring. Dreams have what seems to me as endless amounts of ideas for attempting to understand them. For me the dreams reassured the concept of visualization after later researching and learning more on the topic. I also learned that much of what you dream about is often close to what you go to bed thinking about. My mind was always on recovery and therefore my legs and how I was gonna get them to move again. Once I learned about visualization I found out that "visualizing" yourself say at the gym doing squats sends the same neuro signals throughout your body as if you were actually performing that function in real life. As I began to understand this better and then practice these visualization techniques I began to fully believe that even If I couldn't physically preform that function that I could visualize it and help to regenerate the nerves that were damaged from my incomplete spinal cord injury.
After practicing visualization for a short time I began to get better and then also find different ways to practice these techniques, example, visualizing while in the pool with my ears underwater and my eyes closed. Visualizing was something I could do anywhere I was no matter what was going on and I took advantage of this. I would also do techniques in which I lay on my back and visualized my whole spinal column, I would start at my tail bone and visualize my spine firing like a sparkler running up to my head and then back down over and over again trying to feel each vertebra as I ascended up and back down. Another visualization technique that I would do was an entire gym workout in my head. I used to work at LA Fitness as a personal trainer and therefore I could imagine the gym in its entirety in my head. I would walk through the doors and pass by the front desk saying hello to the attendant then I would make my way around the gym as If I would any normal day to perform a workout. I can see myself so vividly walking around the gym from one machine to another. Hitting legs extensions and hamstring curls and running on the treadmill.
I can not remember back to the exact day when I said to myself I know 100% that this is helping but I know I saw benefits quick because I was also going to the pool a few times a week and thats where I would realize the progress. I recall being in the pool and after every week once I began to practice visualization noticing a little bit more muscle function and that pushed me to continue working harder to visualize and then also continue exercising the latest recovering muscle functionality.
I credit so much of my recovery to learning, understanding and practicing visualization. Honestly with out the understanding and use of visualization during my recovery I don't believe I would be walking currently and this all goes back to the dreams in which sparked my attention to learning this concept.
Now days I use visualization to assist myself in so many different areas of life from visualizing myself speaking fluent Portuguese to visualizing myself climbing and jumping from mountains I wish to summit and jump from in the future. Visualization is such a powerful tool but it takes time and practice to develop and enhance its capabilities. Ive began saying this phrase, "if you can see it, you can be it". The key to having very strong visualizing techniques is to be very well informed on the person, place, thing, or idea that you are visualizing. When I have gone on remote mountain BASE jumps in the wilderness in the past Ive studied maps and then walked to the landing areas and exit points on the mountain that I want to jump, I asses wind conditions and how the surrounding mountains and valleys affect the wind patterns as I hike, I determine a primary flight plan and contemplate multiple alternate landing senarios. Once Ive done as much ground work as I can do before actually attempting the jump I then spend the day and night before the excursion visualizing everything from beginning to end. Before I have even left my bed Ive done the jump hundreds of times and the only thing left is to confidently make it happen physically. Every instance in the past when I have put this much effort and visualization Into a jump I have then executed it flawlessly just as I did with the rehabilitation of my legs.