“My Accident Pushed Me To My Purpose”

Recognize this woman? You’ve probably seen her on your social media feed. With over 100,000 followers on Instagram, any one of her posts, whether it be from a photo shoot with perfect lighting, or a sweaty gym selfie, garners thousands of likes.

Her wicked arm strength is impossible to miss, but what radiates even stronger is the smile she wears. Behind her Instagram personality, though, Tiphany Adams takes nothing for granted, knowing that gratefulness got her to where she is today. Finding her life’s purpose, and the healing process that resulted from a tremendous loss, made her exactly what she was always meant to be: unstoppable.

THE CRASH

“My last memory in the car was clicking the seatbelt—but I moved it behind my shoulder,” recalls Tiphany. In hindsight, this small action saved her life when in the year 2000, an intoxicated driver collided head on with the car she was a passenger in. Then just 17 years old, Tiphany experienced more loss that night than any teenager should. At the scene of the crash, Tiphany and her friends, as well as the drunk driver, were all pronounced dead.

After three weeks in a coma, Tiphany awoke. The 130 mph crash rendered her paraplegic, something she considers a small price to pay in comparison to the lives that were lost that night. She was told that if she had left her seatbelt in front of her chest, the impact likely would have decapitated her.

REBUILDING HER LIFE

While her family was mourning the loss of her ability to walk, Tiphany experienced very different emotions. “I couldn’t help but feel grateful that I had survived,” she says, remembering those first weeks after the coma. “Before the accident, I had just begun making better choices in my life. I had decided to pursue acting and modeling. It felt like divine intervention.” But while initially she took her miraculous survival as a sign, she later realized she wasn’t really processing what had happened to her. “I was internalizing survivor’s guilt and post-traumatic stress.” Over time, the weight of these mixed emotions and trauma took its toll on Tiphany. “Looking back, it wasn’t until about seven years after the accident that I truly healed.”

Tiphany remembers back to her childhood in California, where she was raised by her father; her mother deep in the throes of addiction. She escaped reality by reading books and joining theater at school—a foreshadowing of the life she was meant to lead. “Most people would assume the accident would hinder my plans. But it was a catalyst, literally pushing me into my purpose,” she says. After high school, Tiphany studied childhood development and psychology, and put her knowledge to use as an elementary school teacher. “After the accident, I needed to find healthy ways to cope with the trauma,” she says, adding that fitness served two important purposes in her healing process. First, it helped her stay physically healthy, but perhaps more significantly, it provided her with an outlet to channel her emotions. “It was my release.”

“I couldn’t help but feel grateful that I survived. It felt like divine intervention.”

FINDING STRENGTH

Luckily for Tiphany, adaptive exercise doesn’t translate to reduced strength. In the gym, where you can find her most days, she tackles upper body workouts (we’re talking wheelchair pull-ups), and often enlists the help of apparatus like TRX straps and a standing frame. Though sometimes experiencing added slowness because of atrophied muscles, Tiphany is able to get out of her wheelchair for a class or to get on her yoga mat, noting that with some modifications, she can complete most exercises set by an instructor.

Combining her knack for fitness and education, Tiphany created a coaching business where she takes a holistic approach to well-being, considering everything from nutrition and exercise, to stress and sleep. The responsibility of helping her clients through their battles is something Tiphany can attest to, as she admits that silencing her own negative self-talk and finding the tools to regain the ability to love herself after the accident was a challenge. It was when she accepted her wheelchair not as an enemy, but as an extension of her own self, that progress could begin.

Tiphany continues to advocate and share her story, speaking publicly in televised and online interviews and educational institutions. In 2012, she starred in the ground-breaking reality show Push Girls, which chronicled four LA-based women who had been affected by paralysis. Along with training clients, Tiphany also hosts a weekly live broadcast, and is in the process of writing a book based on her experiences. “I felt compelled to begin [these projects] in the hopes that my experiences would heal the hearts of others,” she notes. “I’m always looking for ways to share my story, to inspire, and to spread the message of inclusion.”

Written by Chelsea Clarke

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By | 2017-04-11T16:15:45+00:00 February 24th, 2017|Get Inspired, Home Featured, Motivation|