Well first let me clarify, that aforementioned wall was actually a car, and I didn’t hit it, it hit me, and hard.
In my previous life (my life is now divided into two parts: before the accident, and after the accident), I was a Marketing Manager by day working 50+ hours a week, and a student by night nearing the final semester of my Business Degree (8 years of part-time study later). Needless to say, my life was in high-gear at all times.
On a beautiful sunny day in June 2006, I had taken the day off work to study for my final Finance exam (ugh, the bane of my existence), so to procrastinate as much as possible I decided to go for a bike ride to clear my head. Little did I know that decision would end my life as I knew it and hurl me into years of pain and rehabilitation, and who knew what was next.
The next thing I remember is waking up from the accident in an ambulance with the paramedic standing over me while I was strapped tightly to a gurney from head to ankles. I had no memory of what happened or where I was, it was terrifying. Thankfully I could remember my husband’s cell number so he could be reached and informed at work that his wife had been hit by a car. I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy, and the thought of that still haunts me today,
That day I suffered a broken neck and a now permanent spinal cord injury that I was told later was less than 1 millimeter away from likely full paralysis. I had a severe concussion and required 7 staples to the right side of my head from the impact. Almost every muscle on the left side of my body was shredded to some degree. It was not until 10 years later in 2016, that the last of my serious internal injuries were discovered during abdominal surgery, which took the form of an intricate web of thick scar tissue covering every major organ.
The recovery was incredibly long and frustrating, and obviously excruciatingly painful. I was a person that strived to be in full control of her life at all times, and this threw me into years of uncertainty. I felt like every step forward was followed by 5 steps back and I did this dance for years on a seemingly never-ending loop.
I tried everything, and then even more. My new full-time job became chasing the symptoms in the quest for normalcy and hopefully some ounce of comfort. Two years into my recovery, I had had enough of listening to the endless doctors and therapists that I was seeing daily. No one seemed to have a solution, and the more I pushed for one, the more I was made to feel like this was all in my head and my slow recovery was my fault. Well, it was time to take matters into my own hands.
The next week I went to my physical therapist with a list of movement practices that sounded optimistic. Yoga was too much for my hypermobile neurologically-impaired body, so Pilates it is we decided.
Knowing nothing about Pilates at the time, I made an appointment at the closest studio to my home. I was lucky enough to have a wonderful teacher that first session who listened to me and picked exactly the right exercise to start with, pelvic tucks on a sitfit disc (still one of my faves). Five minutes in my back cracked so loudly that we both froze. The second after the initial panic, I realized that I was almost pain-free for the first time in years, just from that one simple movement.
Mind you, it took much more than that to make headway towards getting my life back, and I still have times of struggle today, but that one moment was enough for me to discover my true calling. The next week I signed up for Pilates Teacher Training with Body Harmonics, the same school that this teacher had certified with, and I never looked back.
I opened my first location of ReActive Movement a year later within that same Physical Therapy clinic where I had spent countless hours over the previous now 3 years. Within another year, I opened my second location, then a third a year after that.
Now in California for 7 years as of today, I have built my practice from scratch, opened a beautiful brick and mortar studio, and hired an amazing team of equally passionate teachers.
I had never felt more fulfilled, and to this day, I am reminded every time that I get to work with a client to help them move better, feel better and get their life back that I have absolutely found what I am meant to do. I also have the privilege of teaching the method that brought me back to life to aspiring teachers that have also found their calling to be of service to others.
If I can make even a small difference in a person’s life that is struggling in pain, I will be forever grateful that Chelsea didn’t look before making that right-hand turn on June 6, 2006.
…and that is the story of how ReActive Movement came to be.
Holly Wallis, Certified Movement & Rehabilitation Specialist, NCPT
Director of US Operations, Body Harmonics Pilates & Movement Institute
Owner/Director, ReActive Movement, 6200 LaSalle Ave, Oakland, CA 94611