The Highs, the Lows, and the Crummy Plateaus

From the time I was a year old, I spent a lot of time in therapy—physical, occupational, and speech. I can’t say I enjoyed it, but I never thought a lot about if, when, or how I’d be released from it. I guess I expected to be “normal” one day and take a victory lap out of there.

As I reached adolescence, my therapists started ending my treatment one by one. When my occupational therapist decided to terminate my sessions, she told us I’d ‘plateaued,’ a term I hadn’t heard before in my eleven years. My mom explained it to me, but at my young age, I didn’t care much. I was just happy not to have to go anymore.

A couple years later, my physical therapist had a similar conversation with us and used the same word. While I was still glad for my newfound freedom, the thought of having ‘plateaued’ troubled me more than it did before. I could only stand on my own for a minute at a time and walk about five feet without assistance. She didn’t think I was going to get any better? I wouldn’t be able to do a victory lap?

I don’t remember my exact feelings in the weeks after that, but I didn’t let the assessment dampen my outlook on what I could or couldn’t accomplish. I continued making strides to walk on my own—no pun intended. In fact, I started walking around a whole gymnasium within a year’s time. Plateaued? Not me!

Everyone encounters points in life when they feel they’ve plateaued or hit a stalemate. Some, like me, may even hear that from others. In our personal and professional lives, we have ebbs and flows, with stills in between. Do those stills mean we’re stagnant or that we’re failing?

When you go out to sea, you feel the ebbs and flows rocking your boat beneath you, which is pleasant in good weather. If you run into high winds or stormy conditions, however, you don’t want to feel those sways. Instead, you’ll find a spot to dock or throw down your anchor wherever you can to stabilize the vessel. Is that stationary anchor a sign of weakness? Absolutely not. On the contrary, it fights hard against the water pressure to keep the boat in place.

Similarly, when we feel like we’re not moving forward, we need to take into account that we also aren’t moving backward. Many times, that’s something to celebrate in itself. Especially when you’re facing adversity, holding your ground takes great strength. It’s all too easy to look at where we expected to end up, but we often neglect to acknowledge where we started. When we do, though, we might well realize we’re actually advancing beyond our notice.

In reality, plateaus aren’t all that crummy. They can give you a chance to take a breath and take in the view of both the past and future. We should appreciate them and use them to get stronger, rather than resent them and squander the opportunities they provide.

Most importantly, we can’t let other people—even ‘experts’—convince us that we won’t progress. Ten years or so after my last therapy appointment, I had to go back to the center to be assessed for insurance purposes. My former therapist no longer worked there, but the one who saw me that day and her colleagues watched me walk around the whole room, unable to believe how well I did. At long last, I took my victory lap!

Also See

A Proper View of Progress

Ugly changes Lead to Beautiful Transformations

My Walk to Remember

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