The overnight popularity that came with the loss of my arm was quite hard for me.
I think that it was more difficult for me than the actual physical change of doing life with one arm. I didn’t like being in the spotlight. I was thrust into the public eye at such a young age and I felt like I wasn’t super prepared for that.
However, one of the first things I said when I was lying in the hospital at age 13 was, “maybe God will be able to use my story to encourage others”.
I had a heart for others ever since I was really young. This gave me the willingness to take on the challenge and bear the burden of all the media attention because I wanted to use my story for good and to honor God. It’s been so amazing to see how God has used me to be a reminder to others that they can overcome and that there is a God who loves them.
It was definitely a rocky journey as I had to quickly adjust to having the whole world watch me live my life.
There was the constant tension of a love-hate type of feeling. On one hand, I really wanted to help others. On the other hand, I really wanted to go hide out in the ocean and be away from any type of camera or interviewer or something like that.
A funny example of this was when I was writing my first book, Soul Surfer. Our pastor friend helped me write it and my attention span was so short as a teenager that he would get maybe 10-15 minutes out of me and then I was completely worn out. I would have to go disappear and head to the beach to recover and rejuvenate. I’m so grateful for the people in my life like him who helped me to use my story to encourage others, while also allowing me to be a kid and have privacy.
Now in my adult life, I think I am a bit better at balancing out all the opportunities.
It’s been a bit of trial and error over the years to see how much I can handle. Sometimes I put a bit too much on my plate. I always know when I’m overdoing it because I get short with my family or I am super tired. So I try to pay attention to these signs and just slow down if I’m starting to feel burnt out.
I’m very protective of how much I’m giving with my time and energy because my first priority must always be with my husband and children. Then I find other ways to give and encourage others with the extra time. I try to plan it out well so I can do as much as possible without getting overwhelmed.
While living in constant media publicity has had it’s hard moments and frustrations, I still am so thankful for it because it allows me to connect with you all in such an amazing way!
It’s been so rad to see all the good and beauty that God has brought from something that seems so tough.
Thank you for all the support throughout the years! 🤍