Getting over the Fear of Vulnerability

by Maria DeSalvo 5 months ago in self help


Getting over the Fear of Vulnerability

Here’s a deep part of my soul that I normally share with very few… however, if I’ve taken this step to ask other’s to share their stories with me I’ve got to do my part and share mine too. So, while it’s scary to share—here is something I want people to know.

On June 9, 2007 my sister Alanna broke her neck on a family vacation. I used to think that if you broke your neck, you died. That’s what seemed logical in my young mind, but I soon learned that the actual result is a spinal cord injury… one that deemed my sister a quadriplegic and unable to live the independent life that she had been living. She was fifteen and I was about to turn twelve.

My family’s world as we knew it had changed in an instant and we had to adapt. My dad made sure our house was accessible for my sister when she would come home after four months in the hospital, my mom took on the role of Alanna’s primary caregiver, Alanna had to learn how to live her life in a chair, and me… well I was “fine.”

Everyone always asked, “How’s your sister?” and it became a reflex for me. I would say, “she’s good,” and give the latest updates in her life.


It wasn’t until I was 16 and at a math tutoring session, when my tutor asked about Alanna’s accident—although this time she asked me, “and how are you?” I remember that moment so vividly because it was the first time I realized someone outside of my immediate family had asked how I was, and even though I said I was “fine,” it was not the truth.

I was not fine. I was having daily panic attacks that left me exhausted. I constantly felt like I was going to throw up, or swallow my tongue, or stop breathing at any moment. I learned to carry brown paper bags with me so I could calm myself down from the anxiety that filled me. I was scared of everything because I knew all too well how quickly life could change.

Unfortunately, my way of dealing with my sister’s accident was through denial. I ran away from my reality and would distract myself with friends, sports, and school. I think I tried to protect myself from actually feeling the pain that I had inside and the immense amount of guilt I felt for being able to do things that my sister couldn’t.

At age 24, I can now see how those behaviors have affected me and my relationships. It can take me days to process my feelings and actually pin-point how I feel about a certain situation because I created that habit early-on to run away from the pain and distract myself with something else.

It’s a habit I don’t want to carry with me, and one that won’t disappear overnight, but one that is helpful for those close in my life to know. I am by no means perfect or healed from my traumas, but I am aware of them and I can try my best to use the tools that I now have to move forward.

Looking back on the past 12 years, I can only share my experience and my story because it has effected each member of my family differently. I can reflect on my childhood during that time period and have compassion for my 11 year old self because that little girl didn’t have the tools or the wherewithal to process what had happened.

So here is just a layer of my story—a chapter of my book. I hope that by sharing little things like this, you can feel inspired to find deeper connections and conversations.

With love,


self help
Maria DeSalvo
Maria DeSalvo
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