Resilience in Adversity

Sickness, accidents, mourning: all part of life. How can we confront the storm and learn to live again when these challenges shake our daily life? One young Quebecker, Juliette Décarie, tells her story of fighting against the odds. An inspiring message that may help you get through your own troubled waters.

By Véronique Trudeau

One beautiful winter’s day, Juliette, then 13, lost control of her skis and smashed her head hard at the base of the hill. In the days that followed, she learned, in hospital, that she had broken her spine, and would spend the rest of her life in a wheelchair. Once a teen for whom everything seemed possible, now she was a quadriplegic, deprived of the full use of her arms and legs. How was she going to get through this?

Young Juliette enjoying a day on the slopes…

“The first month and a half was a roller coaster of emotions,” she says. “But I quickly realized that I had to look ahead. I decided I’d do anything to give myself the best quality of life possible.”

Accepting the situation was a lot harder for those close to her. At one point Juliette felt the need to confide in a psychologist. “I didn’t feel free to tell my parents everything. I knew we weren’t getting through this at the same rhythm. I needed someone to console me, not to tell me all the pain my accident had caused. I needed solutions.”

After 17 months at a physical rehabilitation centre, Juliette went home. Her morale was high. Her parents had adapted their respective houses so she could get around on her own. She finished high school with gusto.  She immersed herself once again in the arts (singing, painting). She got back in touch with her friends. With a few exceptions, her friendships remained as solid as ever.

When asked if she misses her former life, her reply isn’t what you’d expect.

“No. I actually feel gratitude for my accident. It put me back on the right track before I’d strayed too wildly,” she explains. “I was going through my adolescent crisis and I was about to make a lot of bad choices.

“I don’t believe in fate, but I believe that some things happen to make you evolve, to make you re-evaluate your choices. It allowed me to get to know myself, to understand who I really am.”

This young woman of 18 is fascinated by how people always want to rewrite their past or control their future. While they’re busy doing all that they let the present moment slip away. “It’s important to have a goal, but we often forget to profit from the journey getting there.” Juliette is thankful for each day that ticks by. The COVID-19 pandemic has given her a chance to slow down and put her tools for well-being in place, be it through meditation or fitness training.

Her physical limitations haven’t affecter her view of life. Au contraire, she feels as alive as ever. She wants a tattoo of a phrase she sees every day at her rehabilitation centre: “Don’t limit your challenges, challenge your limits.”

Rolling along with Juliette makes you want only one thing: to love life even more.   

– First published in Reflet de Société magazine, vol. 29, no. 3, April 2021, pages 12 – 13

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