The moments that shape us

30.08.21 03:38 PM By Dan

In our Soul Food for Dark Days series, writers share responses to loss and reveal where they've found help when they needed it. Antonio Vecchio recalls the choice he made on a desperate day. 

Credited with an inspirational response to spinal cord injury, Antonio was profoundly affected by an unrelated event.
Story by Antonio Vechhio

Life can be seen as a series of moments that lead us to where we are now. Although some moments are inconsequential, others have a profound impact on every moment that follows. In those profound moments, we have to make a choice that will affect ourselves and those around us.

Let me share one of my moments with you.

I found myself sitting in a dark place, knowing that the world would go on if I stayed in this place forever and no one found me. I had transferred myself onto the floor and was sitting in a corner, with a lifetime of suppressed emotions pouring out of me. 

There is a pain in these moments that is unbearable, and only those who have been there can understand the overwhelming urge to make the pain stop.

How did I arrive at this moment? What had happened to get me to this point where I had all this inside me? 

When I look back through my life, it’s hard to say precisely when I started to feel not quite myself. Thinking about it, it was before I began to live with quadriplegia. 

No reason to change

After I sustained my C6-7 spinal-cord injury in a car accident in 2005, I just accepted it as normal to be feeling down about myself. I would often have people tell me how amazing I was, and that I was an inspiration, and that it was okay to have bad days given what I’d been through. So I felt no reason to change my behaviour. 

Time went on, and I lived an active life surrounded by friends and family. Yet I found little enjoyment in things that had once given me great satisfaction. Instead, I found myself feeling numb towards things that I knew should trigger an emotion within me. 

Again time moved on, and I was confronted with another moment. For many of us, sustaining a spinal cord injury is the most catastrophic thing that we could ever imagine. But for me, it was insignificant compared with seeing my dad take his last breath. 

A smile for the world

This loss was the moment that broke inside me in ways that I never thought I would recover from. But life went on, and I continued to show the world a smile and pretend to be the strong inspirational person that everyone thought I was. 

There was a pain inside of me that I would never wish upon anyone, and yet I taught myself how to suppress my emotions and get through the days and weeks. 

As I was sitting there on the floor in the corner, I was not thinking about any past moment that had led me there. The numbness that I had felt in past years had gone, and every tear was an emotion that I had kept within me. 

The thing about moments we are confronted with is that often we need to make a decision. These decisions are never easy. Decisions in these moments lead us to where we are today. The decision I made was to pick up my phone and call for help. 
Author note: Antonio Vecchio is a Peer Coach for AQA and the Consumer Engagement Lead for the Spinal Research Institute. He has been living with a complete C6/7 spinal cord injury since 2005.

If you need someone to talk to, call:
Lifeline 13 11 14
Beyond Blue 1300 22 46 36
Read more: Finding hope