This week’s #TalkTuesday is from Rachel. In her own words Rachel talks about facing daunting challenges and rebuilding her life in the aftermath of her spinal cord injury…

“I’m writing to tell you how much the Jubilee Sailing Trust helped me in my early years of my spinal cord injury. I was injured back in 1998 at the young age of 23. Having just graduated from university, at the time I felt my life had very much taken a turn for the worse and I was angry and disappointed for an awfully long time. All my friends were already climbing up the career ladder, whereas I was left knowing I was facing the rest of my life in a wheelchair, pessimistic about what my future may hold.

A couple of difficult years went by and I was suddenly introduced to the Jubilee Sailing Trust by a friend. I had loved the sea in my previous life but then became very wary as I had dived into shallow water in the Indian Ocean when I had my accident, banging my head on a sandbank and becoming instantly paralysed which meant I almost drowned and had to be dragged out to safety. I had steered clear of the sea since, so when my friend introduced me to JST and told me he would be my buddy on a sailing trip around the Canaries, my emotions were pretty mixed. After agonising over whether to go, I convinced myself I needed to face my fear and try to overcome it, that nothing bad would happen and to just go for it and with the help of my friend and JST, I did!

Looking back now, I’m so glad I made that decision. One of the best things about the trip was all the different people I met, including others with a whole range of disabilities. The other great memory I have is being terrified yet excited as I was pulled up into the crow’s nest by ropes attached to my chair! Since then, my relationship with the sea has improved to the extent that I am no longer scared to go in the water and I have been in the sea several times since with my husband and young daughter, much to their delight!

I’ve now been in a chair 20 years. Life has had it’s ups and downs, this year though, I have had a bad year health wise and have been on bed rest since February due to a pressure sore which is just refusing to heal. So I got really down and despondent. My husband saw what was happening & bought me some paints as a surprise to give me something to do. I thought he was mad as the only art I had done for over 25 years were bits and bobs with my daughter. However, I needed some way to occupy my mind so I started painting and I kept at it. My idea was if I couldn’t go places, then places would come to me through my paintings, so that’s what I did and it has helped me immensely and has given me hope back that I will get out there again and am currently waiting for a surgery date. All my paintings are done lying on my side in bed and as I part of my injury means I have no grip in my hands, I have to use two hands to steady myself. My paintings very often feature the sea and I am not only painting but selling paintings! Similarly to the ethos behind JST, when the chips are down in life, you have to keep trying to find the good and I have done this through my paintings just as JST helped me to overcome my fear of the sea all those years ago.”

Check out Rachels’ Blog, Facebook and Instagram for more of Rachel’s incredible paintings: