Reinfried Blaha – the way back to a happy life. He has been paraplegic since a serious skiing accident in February 2006 and is dependent on a wheelchair. Life has changed completely for the former ski instructor and freerider since then. Instead of ski courses on the Arlberg, physiotherapy, occupational therapy and psychotherapy were suddenly on the agenda – and the question: How is life going on?
As a friend and ski mate from my youth, the blow of fate hit me deeply. So I’m all the more pleased that Reinfried has found his own way back to a happy life. I talked to him about that – and about the fact that many things are possible even though you are sitting in a wheelchair. That you sometimes have to go to your limits in order to get ahead and that barriers sometimes only exist in the head.
Reinfried, the time after your accident was marked by the most difficult emotional states, how did your life go on then?
After my accident, I fell mentally into a very deep hole. Despair, grief, powerlessness were my companions back then – and above all the question of the meaning of life. The diagnosis of paraplegia was damn hard to deal with. I have always been defining myself by my mobility. Now, who was I without being able to move? I couldn’t answer that at the time. I had to completely redefine myself. After a few years, I was able to accept my new life situation very slowly.
You went on a year-long trip through Mexico and Central America soon after rehab. What did you experience and how did that influence you?
At first, traveling in a wheelchair for so long – only accompanied by my girlfriend at that time – was an absolute borderline experience for me. In countries like Guatemala or Nicaragua, the word “barrier-free” is not only a foreign word in terms of language. I was constantly dependent on outside help. However, I learned a lot through the trip that broadened my horizons. I’ve learned that nobody can tell me what I can and I can’t do. I have to find my limits myself. Clearly: there are real barriers. But I’ve also found that many of our limits only exist in our mind. And I have developed a basic confidence that somehow I will be able to solve every new problem that will come up.
At the time of the accident you were studying architecture in Vienna. Has your professional life changed as a result of the accident?
At that time, I had already finished my studies and was just about to get started as an architect. Of course, everything changed because of the accident – especially my attitude towards life and my values. Many things became unimportant, I looked at everything from a different perspective and found out what is really important to me. For example, the inner connection to myself – and the outer one to my fellow human beings. Out of this I have developed my current professional activity. On the one hand, I am a lecturer for accessibility in architecture at various universities in Graz, Austria, on the other hand I also teach communication and work as a coach, speaker and trainer for non-violent communication in Berlin, Germany.
As a speaker, you touch people’s hearts with your lectures. What would you say to a person who suffers a similar stroke of fate?
Hard question. To be honest, I don’t know. In this situation, all advice is out of place. Well, there is one thing I would do: listen. There is one thing I might share with the person. I know it is a long way to get to this point, however, from my experience you don’t have to be able to walk to be happy, happiness comes from within.
How do you get through the lockdown and how does the pandemic affect you?
In the beginning, I was actually very scared of Corona. I feared the virus might be fatal for me. This idea has changed over time and with the many new medical findings. I take care of myself as much as possible and I feel a certain inner strength now. I’m no longer afraid. With the first lockdown, the lectures broke off for me of course. Overall, I can feel a slowdown in society. I have been using the time for things that I enjoy doing: meditation, playing the guitar, drawing. However, one beautiful thing outshines everything! (Smiles) The fact that my partner and I are expecting a child soon. Accompanying the pregnancy is incredibly fabulous, fascinating, exciting.
Congratulations! Also to your new website that was just finished. What are your goals for the future?
Thank you! I am very happy that my page reinfriedblaha.net is finally online. With my lectures, seminars and exercise groups, I want to reach more people in the future, open spaces for connectedness and thus make a contribution to social change.
Anyone who would like to exchange ideas with me is welcome to contact me at the email address email@example.com. I am looking forward to hearing from you.
Big hug & Thank you, dude!
NICE TO SKI YOU
Reinfried Blaha – the way back to a happy life.
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