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The ‘Unbroken’ Scene That Motivates Me When Dealing With Dysferlinopathy

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There are days when it is hard to tell whether dysferlinopathy affects me more mentally or physically.

One of the most overlooked aspects of a muscle-wasting disease is the unrelenting mental grind. I find myself having to constantly adjust to my weakening body. I worry about whether or not the next step I take will lead to a fall, or whether a coffee shop where I’m supposed to meet someone has chairs I can get out of. This disease is always muddling my mind in some way, interfering with my thoughts.

There are times when my circumstances get me down, and I’m in need of something or someone to snap me out of my funk. I expend so much energy picking myself up (figuratively and, unfortunately, literally) that it’s easy to fall back into the convenient trap of sulking.

Every once in a while, however, inspiration strikes when I least expect it. This time, it happened to be from a commercial.

I remember where I was the first time I watched the trailer for “Unbroken,” a movie about the extraordinary life of Louis Zamperini. I was sitting on my couch at home, watching something mindless, when the trailer came on. For whatever reason, I was drawn in immediately, and when I finished, I went online and watched it again. Then I went and bought the book on my Kindle and devoured it within the day.

If you are unfamiliar with the story of Louis Zamperini, I highly recommend learning more about his life. Stop reading this if you have to and Google his name. His life story is applicable to anyone going through hardship.

“Unbroken” chronicles Zamperini’s extraordinary life — from his rough childhood, to competing as an Olympic runner, to being a prisoner of war in Japan during World War II. In the book, we also learn about how he fought and conquered his demons after returning home from the war.

There was one part of the trailer that spoke right to my soul. It was the difference between thinking to myself, “I might watch this someday” to “I need to buy this book immediately.”

In the scene, a Japanese prison guard demands that all the prisoners in the camp — more than 200 of them — punch Louis in the face. The evident tension as the first prisoner anguishes over having to punch his friend is both captivating and heartbreaking.

“Come on! Hit me!” Louis screams these words at the top of his lungs in order to ensure that his friends punch him with the necessary force. Otherwise, they would receive the same punishment.

He proceeds to get hit, over and over and over. By the end, he is virtually unconscious and unable to stand.

I think about what I have to deal with on a daily basis, and it doesn’t even remotely compare to what Zamperini had to endure. This event is one of countless indignities he faced as a prisoner. From a perspective standpoint, my issues are insignificant.

However, after watching this scene, I thought about my own circumstances. In its own way, dysferlinopathy punches me in the face day after day. I can never take a day off from this disease — muscle weakness is as much a part of my life as eating and breathing. It grinds me down, exhausts me and tests my threshold for pain. Right when I pick myself up after the latest punch, it knocks me off my feet again with a ferocious blow.

I am so thankful that I encountered this trailer. I often use Zamperini’s story as motivation when times get tough.

This scene and the accompanying message is an important one for anyone to internalize. We all take punches in life every day, in one form or another. If I’ve learned anything from my disease, it’s to take pride in persevering. To quote Rocky Balboa (in another scene I could easily have written about), “It is not how hard you hit, but how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward.”

Some days are worse than others, but by standing to take the punches of life every day, I know I am defeating this disease. Because someday, dysferlinopathy will throw its last punch as it withers away into irrelevance.

If I stand my ground and get up, no matter how many times it takes, I will see that day.

Follow this journey on Sidewalks and Stairwells.

The Mighty is asking the following: Describe a scene or line from a movie that’s stuck with you through your experience with disability, disease or mental illness. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Originally published: April 30, 2016
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