After the attack that nearly claimed her life left her paralyzed on her right side, Becky Piper faced a tough road to recovery. Though today her friends and family know her as an unwaveringly positive, upbeat person, that outlook didn’t come easy. In addition to the physical therapy she underwent to regain her ability to walk,  she also had to work to overcome a lot of negative mental energy, too. Here she describes that journey and how others facing mobility challenges might learn from her story.

There are plenty of times when I’m feeling upbeat and cheerful, and then all of sudden, I start thinking about what I can’t do and not being able to move around like I used to — like running ultra-marathons. But in those situations, I try to go through all the positive things in my life as a way to balance out the negatives. I can’t run like I used to, but now I’m biking competitively, I can still swim…these things help me sweep away those bad feelings.

When I talk to someone who is in a similar situation—feeling depressed or regretful— the best thing I can encourage them to do is acknowledge their feelings. Acknowledge and accept the fact that you’re feeling down or feeling resentful of the situation. That’s the first step in healing because though you might not ever physically heal all the way, you will never heal mentally if you don’t reckon with your feelings first.

When I was first dealing with those feelings myself, I was very determined to get back to where I was and not let my injuries hold me back. But the more I acknowledged the struggle and began living in the present moment instead of imagining some distant future, the more I felt clarity. I had been saying to myself, “Alright, I’m paralyzed now, but in a month,  there is a race and I am going to run that race.” I was completely ignoring the present reality in favor of the future, which probably lead to a longer healing process and acceptance.

People nowadays will often ask me how I stay so positive, in light of all that I’ve been through. It’s funny, though, because one of my biggest drivers is actually spite. Those robbers who beat me left me for dead; they didn’t think anything of me or my life and probably never thought about whether I’d ever recover. So now I’m living my absolute best, most active life possible just to spite them! I’m going to stay positive and stay active and they’ll never be able to take that away from me.