Content warning: This post and book contains experiences that may distress some readers. It mentions obtaining a physical injury, trauma, and suicide ideation. If you require support, please contact the support lines listed at the end of this post.
“What if falling simply means having the remarkable opportunity to rise?”
Occasionally you will meet someone who will make you wonder what makes them glow so brightly that you can’t look away. Usually we are quick to assume that they are naturally happy and optimistic, have good things going on in their life and no worries at all. But it is almost always the case that a person glows so strongly because they know that darkness, they know tough times, they know what it is like to fight for the light. They choose to bring the light into their lives every day as they know how sacred, how grateful and how incredible it is to be alive each day. They know it only takes one second for your life to change. Emma Carey knows that all too well.
The Girl Who Fell From The Sky, a memoir written by Emma Carey, starts with this dedication:
For anyone who has ever fallen from the sky of their lives,
these words are for you.
For the girl who was lying on the ground,
hoping for it all to end, look at how good it got.
Emma became a paraplegic at 20 years old when her parachute didn’t open during a skydive in Switzerland. You might assume that this will be a memoir about skydiving but there was only one thing to learn from the accident itself – that life as you know it only takes one second to change forever.
The Girl Who Fell From The Sky is entirely about how Emma rose up from where she fell.
What makes this book, and her life, truly remarkable are the transformations that came after the accident; the lessons, the experiences she had shaped the way that she wanted to live going forward, and what she made happen in her life. It is the person that Emma chose to become after the accident that is the sparkling diamond energy of this book and ultimately, her life. The girl lying injured on the ground didn’t realise how amazing life could be.
It is an incredibly relatable book of experiences to anyone who has been through difficult circumstances, had their life interrupted, and gives a warming feeling of comfort that you are not alone in your journey, there is always someone going through what you are too.
In the early days of her injury, she reunited with her skydiving partner Sam, who bestowed this wisdom, which stopped my reading in its tracks:
“You have to heal your mind before you can heal your body.”
Emma leads with prioritising her mental and emotional health before her physical health. She didn’t choose her emotions and reactions based on what was happening or on a goal that may never eventuate despite her best efforts. She realised early on that she didn’t need to be walking to have freedom; a wheelchair could provide that perfectly. If she was going to get frustrated for having accidents, then she was going to be frustrated every day of her life and she didn’t want to feel that way, so if it happened, so be it. It is a remarkable lesson of acceptance and a reminder for us not to wait for something to happen to be happy.
Emma’s ability to walk even with a spinal cord injury is purely down to luck. Like most people who live with a disability, she shares that you can do everything right and it still may not work, and that it has nothing to do with not trying hard enough or being positive in rehab that is going to change your body to make it work as it used to. It is sometimes just plain luck.
Emma shows us to accept however your body works is ok and it is the least important thing about you. How we adapt as humans to whatever situation we are in or to whatever our ability, is our greatest strength. There’s a myth that we make a choice to be strong in these life changing experiences, but we have no choice; it’s our need to survive that drives us forward.
Part of Emma’s incredible strength comes from the ability to look for hope and reminding everyone to focus on what we already have and what we gained – not lost. Of course, there is still a need to grieve and let go of the losses in your own healing time frame. Which leads us to the words that Emma lives by:
“If you can, you must.”
Emma’s life and entire book is a call to action to live in gratitude for what we have and what is right in front of us every single day.
A lot of the content in her book is about sharing how she manoeuvres around the world, the various ways her body has changed and the reactions from other people based on ableism or beliefs about disability. Emma shares with us in a multitude of ways that disability discrimination has occurred to her depending on what stage of her journey she was in and the experiences that have happened to her disabled friends. These everyday occurrences are so common but rarely shared in public arenas, and we still have a long way to go before Australia’s largest minority group is no longer discriminated against. By sharing on social media all of the ways in which her disability affects her life and how she manages it, Emma has normalised the conversations that reduce the stigma of disability.
I attended that book launch event for The Girl Who Fell From The Sky in Canberra, and it was safe to say that the whole room was hypnotised by Emma’s presence and energy, the joy that she radiated and seeing her dream of becoming a published author come true for her.
I knew from the outset that this was a book that was going to shift something inside of me. I’d followed Emma’s journey for long enough to know what she had been through but only from a distance on social media. As soon as I finished it, with a deep sigh of awe and gratitude, I knew that it would be one of the top books that I would recommend to anyone in an instant.
Have you ever read a book and thought, ‘If I ever wrote a book, I would want it to be like this.’ That was exactly how I felt. It may be sharing the difficult experiences in life, the unseen parts of living with disability and chronic conditions, and the journey through hurt and healing, but with so much gratitude and joy that you leave people smiling with joy more than any other emotion? What an achievement Emma has created in the writing of this book.
I related to so many experiences throughout Emma’s book that I was recalling my own health journey the entire time I was reading, and realising how much I had grown and healed over the years too. We both had our carefree twenties interrupted. Our time frames of these experiences are a similar 9-10 year journey. We both encountered challenges that made us ask ‘Why am I going through this again?’ We had difficult battles to prove our disability and ensure our financial futures. And despite everything, we both strive to add light to the world because we know the darkness, and we don’t want to live any other way but by choosing to live in joy and light and gratitude. Sometimes we need to see our own journey and experiences reflected back at us from people who have been through similar events in their lives. Reading Emma’s book was a very cathartic gift I didn’t realise I needed at this time.
I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to hear Emma’s story, and I really hope that everyone picks up this book. It is a truly remarkable gift.
Thank you, Emma, for keeping the light on too.
Take care Readers. I’ll keep the light on.
You can find out more about Emma Carey on her website and Instagram.
Emma has also started a Facebook group for the book launch and as a book club so you can share your thoughts about the book with Emma and other readers. Check it out here to join.
If you or someone you know is affected and needs support, please contact the following organisations:
Beyond Blue – Beyondblue.org.au
Lifeline – https://www.lifeline.org.au/
SANE Australia – Sane.org
Black Dog Institute – https://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/
RUOK? – Ruok.org.au
Headspace – Headspace.org.au
Kids Helpline – https://kidshelpline.com.au/
MensLine Australia – https://mensline.org.au/
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