ADVICE: I’m Paralyzed – Is It Possible to Live a Normal Life?

Every week, New York City’s own party messiah takes your life questions and sets you safely down the right path to a solution in his new weekly advice column in The Village Voice. Read the latest edition of Ask Andrew W.K. below or by clicking HERE.

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July 31st, 2015

Dear Andrew W.K.,

I write to you from a distant and cold Russia, where falling icicles ruin lots of lives every winter. Sadly, I was one of them. The lower half of my body has been paralyzed for five years. My life is limited to the walls of an apartment and a hospital ward. So, yeah, it’s no party.

I don’t know how to live. I have the huge support of my little family, but I can’t endlessly rely on them. I need to learn to live by myself. But I can’t. It’s hard to find a job or to learn something, mainly because I need to spend one-third of my day on different things related to my health. I rarely speak, because I have nothing new to tell to people around me.

And all this scares me. It makes me angry. And, most of all, it makes me feel useless. Sometimes I’m so ashamed of myself and my helplessness I literally want to isolate myself from the outside world. I know there are lots of people in worse condition than me who can live somewhat normal lives. But I still envy healthy people and can’t figure out how to overcome my current mental condition.

You gave some nice advice about dealing with suicide, procrastination, depression, lack of courage….They all were very useful to me. So maybe you could give me some advice for this exact situation. Is it possible for me to live a normal life?


Dear D.,

It’s not possible for you to live a normal life. Due to what happened to you, it’s now only possible for you to live an extraordinary life — an incredible, intense, meaningful, and inspiring life. This is your blessing and your curse. It is up to you to either commit wholeheartedly to embracing your non-normal life for all it’s worth, or to follow the feelings of fear and frustration into deeper levels of despair. I realize I can only imagine the feelings of unfairness, of hopelessness, of complete and utter sadness that must have come with the realization that your life as you knew it had ended. But I can, in my own lesser ways, relate to feeling overwhelmed by life. I deeply admire you for being able to reach out and write about a situation so few people can really understand. And when I share these thoughts with you, they are not coming from my own authority, but from the authority of what I think is an essential truth about life and existence: Each of us is being tested. And your personal test involves your injury and the aftermath you’re in now. This test — like all tests — is to bring out the best you have inside. This test is not here to break your spirit. It may feel that way, but it could build your spirit into something bigger and stronger and more beautiful than ever, all for the purpose of realizing your true self — your true greatness — and unleashing its light into the world.

You’re already triumphant in many ways, and you’ve been passing this test as you’ve learned how to keep going through these past five years. You have made it to this point. Many people would have given up before this. But here you are. You’re obviously thinking deeply about your situation and your life, and you realize that your life-test is continuing to unfold. Now you’re entering into a new phase of this challenge, a new part of the test that will require an even deeper surge of inner strength, effort, commitment, and almost unimaginable amounts of courage and focus. But it is in you. And this is all part of it.

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