“I Was Convinced I Was Strong Enough to Survive This”: Quadriplegic Pens Book on Stoicism; Ancient Greek Method of Coping

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No longer being able to move and feel one’s own body may be one of the most terrifying things a human can endure. Cassandra Brandt, a complete C4 quadriplegic from Arizona, was faced with this reality in 2015 when she broke her neck and suddenly had to become reliant on others. She has been experiencing this for the last 9 years.

And Cassandra, a former steelworker and mother, doesn’t mince words about the losses she’s experienced and she admits she’s had a hard time after her injury. “Like many people who have recently been injured,” she says, “I was in a dark place mentally after I broke my neck. I didn’t want to speak to a therapist. I wasn’t ready to acknowledge what was happening, much less buckle down and start adapting.”

It wasn’t until her brother bought her a copy of the ancient book Meditations by Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius (which he would read to her by her bedside) that she would finally begin to feel better post-injury. “Something in that book resonated in my soul,” she says. “That Roman Emperor convinced me of what the many well-meaning and supportive people in my life could not: I was strong enough to make it through this.”

The Coping Advice of Stoicism

What Cassandra didn’t realize while she was listening to Meditations was that she was learning about was the philosophy of Stoicism; an ancient Greek school that teaches practitioners the endurance of pain or hardship without the display of feelings and without complaint. Stoicism teaches people how to focus on the things they can control such as thoughts, emotions and actions while accepting what they cannot change.

“The simple, rational, and virtuous tenants of Stoic philosophy taught me to rise to the challenges my disability presents, using tangible tools for practicing patience and mantras for making one’s own peace. In Stoicism, I found the cognitive behavioral therapy techniques I needed to learn to cope with quadriplegia, and I felt almost accountable to others, to share the path to some semblance of peace I found.”

To that end, Cassandra, who became a professional writer after her injury, decided to write a book on Stoicism and share how it helped her cope with her injury in ways that nothing else could. Titled Seven Secrets of a Sedentary Stoic: Pursuing a Path to Post Paralysis Peace, her book illustrates a path on how to live with paralysis; a path that so many people with spinal cord injuries are in desperate need of. The book was published July 2023.

Her Book

“My book focuses on my biggest takeaways from Stoic philosophy,” says Cassandra. “‘How do you cope with loss of control? How do you change your perspective when battles overwhelm you, see your inner strength? Can you make peace with anxiety about health and death, find peace throughout pain? How can you lead a meaningful and productive life from the position of power wheelchair and a bed?’” Throughout her book are quotes from important Stoics, the history about Stoicism and journal activities after each chapter for building Stoic strength.

To those who read Cassandra’s book, there’s one thing she hopes each person takes away: Our minds are much more powerful than we give them credit for. “The Stoics were all about training the mind to endure hardship,” she says. “They had modern cognitive behavioral therapy all figured out. Changing the way we think, reducing our own suffering, and existing in our flawed and failing bodies more efficiently is possible.”

– To purchase Cassandra’s book Seven Secrets of a Sedentary Stoic: Pursuing a Path to Post Paralysis Peace visit: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0C9SBTJTK?ref_=cm_sw_r_apan_dp_1KXCZSDPA89XP969VKXJ&language=en-US

– Follow Cassandra on IG at https://www.instagram.com/thereal_irongirl/


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