The End of My Journey

I finally did it! Last month after nearly 4 years of hard work, after 4 years of blood, sweat , and tears, I announced to my friends and family that The Wheelchair Chronicles was finally completed. At the time of that announcement, I didn’t know how to feel about it being all over. I didn’t know how to put my feelings into words so you all could understand where I was coming from. Sure I was joyous about this huge accomplishment in my life, but that was pretty much it. Now that I’ve had time to take it all in, I can now share my feeling in deep context than I could when the film was finished.

Let me tell you, this has been a wonderful journey for me but when I started it was completely different. In February 2012, I had no clue what I was doing. I had decided a month earlier that I was gonna focus the direction of The Wheelchair Chronicles from telling stories of people with disabilities to telling my story. I was worried because one, I had never worked on a film, let alone a documentary in my life. Second, I wondered if my life was too boring and that no one would care if my story was told or hell, no one would watch me tell my story. I didn’t wanna go through the process of working on this and no one not giving a damn when it was all finished.

As I started my journey I was getting guidance from of one my professors at DePaul who had experience in filmmaking  and that helped this first timer out immensely. I got a lot of early support from my friends and family at DePaul, my professors, my family, and my mom. That gave me the motivation to keep going. People were actually excited when I would tell them of my progress, I couldn’t believe people wanted to hear my story and felt like telling my story would help a lot more people with disabilities. To be honest, that was a heavy burden for me at times because I felt I had a responsibility to share my life with the world, to change people’s perceptions of people with disabilities, and to be an ambassador/advocate in the disability community.

As time went on, I started to embrace how I was going to present this film. I wanted this film to aid in how able-bodied people viewed the disability community, and to change the beliefs that able-bodied people had of us through misrepresentations of disabled people in the media. I felt that I could help in contributing to that change and let my voice be heard. In the last two years of this film being completed I became more active in the disability community, and more people became interested in The Wheelchair Chronicles and the work I was doing.

During the last year or two, I joined Access Living, I joined the Young Professionals Council, got an article written in the Sun-Times, joined another wonderful organization in 3Arts, doing projects for UIC, and hell, even being the head marshal of a big time parade. As I was nearing the end of this project, not only did I want this film to change the beliefs of able-bodied people but I wanted this to film to be apart of my disability advocacy, and my continued role as a disability ambassador.

Now that it’s all over and I’ve had time to think about everything, I’m so glad that I’m done with this amazing journey. I didn’t know when I started where this film was gonna take me, but it has taken me places I’ve never thought possible and where it’s gonna continue to take me in the future. I’ve met so many wonderful people through this journey and that I’ve developed great relationships with. You all kept me going when I wanted to give up, when I was questioning myself and my abilities as a filmmaker. I’m grateful to everyone who supported me on this journey, and grateful to everyone who’ll support through my next project.

Advertisements

Major Announcement

It’s been a while since I’ve written on my blog, but it’s been for good reasons. Today however, I wanted to announce that The Wheelchair Chronicles will be done at the end of September. I can’t believe I’ve finally gotten to this point. All the hard work, the blood, sweat, and many tears I put into this project and now it’s coming to an end. I will provide updates on all of my adventures very soon.

Thank you all for your support!

The Many Faces of Justin Cooper

WCIS (12)WCIS (6)

WCIS (18)WCIS (2)

Going through the editing process has been a grueling task, but as I’ve gone through hours of footage, I’m always amazed when I see myself on video. I go back to my interview session with Camillie DeBose in 2012, and it was the first time I was talking in-depth about my life. As I was editing, I can see all the different feelings and emotions I was going through at that time and it all came to a head in that session. I want everyone to see those feelings and emotions that I’m conveying, as I tell my story in this film.

I’ve Been Away For Too Long

It’s been a long time since I’ve actually written a post. With exception of the teaser trailer I posted for the film last month, I haven’t written a post about what’s been on my mind since September and that fucking sucks! When I first started this blog I wanted to at least provide some sort of daily content and I’ve been slipping. Even though I’ve been spending the last few months working and editing my film, it’s no excuse for me not providing you all with content. While working on my film is nice and all, this blog is where I really express myself and to be honest, I’ve missed it so damn much.

During the last few months a lot has happened for good and for bad. Recently I became a contributor for a group called NerdyEdge that focuses on gaming and I’ve been writing a few throwback/retro articles for them and its going very well so far. I’m continuing my work as a member of the Young Professionals Council at Access Living and its helped me open up myself more than I’ve ever done. I’ve been making new friends while showing my support to friends that have been supportive of my project. On the other hand I’ve been dealing with some not so good things in my life. Recently, I’ve had some medical insurance issues that at the moment is preventing me from going to RIC (Rehab Institute of Chicago). That’s a story I’ll talk about at another time. Overall, things have been going well.

There’s so many things that I want to talk about at this moment but I think it’s best that I stretch out my thoughts for future posts. What I will tell you is that my film is close to completion and it feels good to be done with this now five year project.

The Portrayal of Disabled People

I saw this quote scrolling through tumblr and this made so much sense to me and also in regards to my film. I want to show the world through this film a more real representation of a disabled person and that I have my own identity as a person with a disability.

The history of the portrayal of disabled people is the history of oppressive and negative representation. This has meant that disabled people have been presented as socially flawed able bodied people, not as disabled people with their own identities.

– David Hevey, 25 March 1992

An Awesome Week

This has been such an amazing week for me. It started off on Monday when an article I wrote in collaboration with Access Living  was published in the Chicago Sun-Times. Everyone I knew was proud of me for my work and now I’m finding out some prominent people in Chicago have read it as well and that’s so awesome. I forgot to share it with you all and I apologize for that, so I’m posting a link to the article at the end of this post for you all to read. I hope you all enjoy it.

Living Free

Unnecessary Pressure

It’s been over a month since I started doing physical therapy and occupational therapy at the Day Rehab Center and it’s been a lot of hard work. The work has been tough but I’m enjoying myself and having a good time. While my therapy has been success, I’ve has to once again put my film on hold and that’s something that has bothered me.

I was upset that I couldn’t finish my film because I had put myself under a deadline to have The Wheelchair Chronicles completed and sending it in to different film festivals across the country but that’s not gonna happen. At first, I was pissed because that meant I had let a lot of people who have supported me and this film down but then after getting some words of wisdom, I realized that my supporters will completely understand that due to working at Day Rehab and dealing with other issues, people will understand that my film is not finished.

I forgot that I have the best supporters in the world. People who love me and actually care about me and they are very understanding as well. I have to remember that and now I’ve also gained a whole new set of supporters from Day Rehab. I’m no longer putting myself on any unnecessary deadlines. My film will be done when it’s finished. Now I can relax and focus on giving you all a great documentary about my life in a wheelchair.

Rehab Chronicles: Getting To Know My Therapists

So Monday I started my first full week at RIC and my therapy was typical of the first couple of sessions but during Monday’s session I got a chance to get to know about my therapists. In my first session of the morning I got a chance to meet Allie, a new therapist that just started that morning. We hit it off very well, I found out that she was from South Carolina and had just moved to Chicago just five months so she was still getting use to the city. We talked for a little while and she was telling me that she was preparing for winter and I told her that winter here ain’t no joke so you better have all of your equipment to handle winter in Chicago. Well she told me she was “ready” but we’ll see as we get closer.

My second session was with the torturer Megan who once again put me to work. This time we were doing sit-up type exercises to work on my back and shoulder. Then we did forward sit-ups first with a medicine ball that worked my forearms and then second set of forward sit-ups were assisted by Megan and I’m glad she did because this second set involved bending completely forward (something that did frighten me because I rarely do that) and using my back muscles to bring myself back up, it was rough but I did it. To finish off my session we did a couple of transfers back and forth between the mat and my wheelchair and that ended my session with the torturer. I call Megan that but in all honesty she works me hard and I always feel sore after working with her and that’s a good thing.

My final session was with one of my favorite ladies Grace (no Bridget this time *sigh*) and Christina and for this session we did some simple tasks like working with buttons (buttoning and unbuttoning) and using my hands to roll coins in my hand and put them in a bank. During this session I found out that Grace is originally from Northern California and moved to St. Louis before coming to Chicago. She told me a funny story about experiencing her first winter in St. Louis where she mistakenly used table salt to actually salt the sidewalks. We both shared a laugh and I told her it was an honest mistake but you did learn your lesson the hard way and now she knows. To finished off the session I showed Grace and Christina how I put my jacket on and that was the end of our session.

I put in a lot of work yesterday but I got a chance to know my therapists and I had fun and I look forward to continue my therapy sessions.

Rehab Chronicles: Here Comes The Pain!

Day 2 and they’re already trying to kill me! I worked a lot harder today than my first day as expected. This time I was able to get here thirty minutes early so that really calmed me. I was more comfortable being around everyone and that made me feel good.
This time I started with occupational therapy and met Joanna for the first time to do some arm stretches. I was once again put on my back and I wasn’t hurting like I was the first time but it was still painful. Joanna made me feel very comfortable by helping me relax my legs (which were all over the place). Once that was all over, I had a quick break (still on my back by the way) and waited for the torturer Megan.
I know that when she shows up I’m gonna be put to work and the fun truly begins. Today we worked on rolling on my side and that was tough as hell. It’s difficult for me to roll from one side, then laying on my back and doing the same process over and over.
The torture was just getting started as I was rolled onto my stomach and had my back stretched out fully. The pain was excruciating but as time went on the pain went away little by little. Megan continued the previous stretches from last time and our torture session was over.
After a short intermission, then it was time to work with my two favorite ladies Grace and Bridget. We did some arm exercises that were tough as hell. I was laying on my side and alternating between my left and right arm which made the exercises a lot tougher.
I’ll tell you all something, after my three hour workout I was very sore but I wanted to keep going. I felt like I still had more to give and I want to get stronger. I understand that I have to rest in between therapy sessions. I can’t wait to get up on Monday to do it all over again.

Rehab Chronicles : Start of A New Journey

First off, I am so sorry for not posting anything in a long while. A lot has happen in my life and I just didn’t have the time or energy to write on my blog.

On Wednesday I started a new journey that’s separate from my film. I started my first day doing physical and occupational therapy at the Rehab Institute of Chicago. I’ve trying to do this for some time now and after years of holding off on it, I took a big step in improving my life. After talking to my doctor at rehab a few weeks back, she thought that this would be a good idea to get back into therapy especially after I told her about the pain I’ve been experiencing.

The first day kinda hit an early snag when the transportation was an hour late in picking me up (I learned later that he wasn’t late at all and that they wanted to make sure I was ready early). When I arrived there with my mom, I was really nervous because this was my first time there and I didn’t know what to expect. However, when I arrived I was welcomed with open arms and it helped ease my fears.

When I got there I immediately met my two physical therapists Grace and Bridget, two very lovely women who gave me the tour of the place before sending me into a room. The early part of my time there was spent answering questions (you know the usual stuff when you register for the first time). Most of the questions were kinda silly but I had no trouble answering them. I got a chance to get to know them and explain to them what I can and can’t do.

After the Q&A session was over it was time to start my occupational session with my therapist Megan. It was time to get down to business. After a similar Q&A session, Megan started on a few tests to see how flexible I was. It started off with a simple check of my ankles and then it was time to get out of my chair and lay on the mat right on my back. After getting a few pointers on how to maneuver out of my chair, I laid on my back and experienced a sharp pain in my lower back because I haven’t laid straight on my back in a long ass time. Megan did a few stretches and tests on both of my legs, I was thrilled when it was all over to sit back up and relax. Oh, during that time I met a lovely nurse named Sue who only took my blood pressure and I told her I liked her because she was gonna be the only person that’s not gonna put me to work.

After a quick break and signing a lot of paperwork, it time to work with Grace and Bridget again. Thus they worked with me on getting back in my wheelchair (which was a huge mission by the way). After we got back in the chair we did a couple of interesting tests. The first was the hand strength test. They give you this like gold handle and you have to squeeze it very hard (by the way this thing came in this protective black case for some strange reason like it was some rare treasure). The next test was to see how quickly I could put these tiny round sticks and put them in a hole and take them out as fast as you can. I did it with my hands and it seems that I’m more faster with my left than my right. Once the test were over my first day came to an end and it was time for me to leave.

My first day was a success. I was a little nervous at first and they worked me kinda hard, it was great. I know there’s a lot of hard work ahead of me but if anyone can do this and succeed is me.