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The Line From the Movie 'Miracle' That Changed How I See My Dystonia

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I was diagnosed with dystonia in 2001. Riddled with pain and a distorted body, I was a miserable wreck. I lost everything as I knew it. I was disabled to the point that I could not function on my own. I was unable to work, travel, socialize, continue graduate school… anything I found fulfilling. I thought this was the beginning of the end. I saw no way out and hit rock bottom. For many years I lived in isolation with intense fear, anger, desperation and hopelessness.

I then heard a line from the movie “Miracle,” during coach Herb Brooks’ (Kurt Russell) speech to the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team before their game against the Soviet Union, which sparked something inside me.

“Great moments are born from great opportunity.”

It actually didn’t change me in that moment. It took some time because I was still very much living as a victim. But it stuck with me and I kept repeating it, knowing it would eventually click. I know that with all challenges come great lessons and growth, which provide opportunities. I experienced it before in my life, but dystonia was far different, so it wasn’t as easy to embrace.  It seemed insurmountable. I had no control over what my body was doing and the pain it caused held me back from living any kind of life that seemed worthwhile. I couldn’t wrap my head around any kind of silver lining… that “great opportunity.” How could this life of hell be an opportunity?

tom seaman wearing Might t-shirt
Tom wearing his Mighty T-shirt.

Then it hit me! I had a choice about how I wanted dystonia to impact my life. I could be its victim or I could have it as my ally. For too long I chose to be its victim and it wasn’t working. I didn’t even realize I had made that choice, but I surely did! I had to change and learn how to cohabitate with it and use it as my teacher. To my amazement, I began to see the many lessons it was here to teach me every day, among them being patience, perseverance, gratitude, empathy, resilience, compassion, balance and meaningful relationships. Wow… what a gift!

Everything always came so easy for me, especially sports and other physical activities. Now I had a body where I could no longer take part in any of those things anymore. It made me realize how much I took everything for granted. I now have a greater acceptance of my vulnerabilities and limitations, my relationships are better, and I value my friends and family more. I also have an increased sense of connection to others who live with challenges. I appreciate life so much more now, seeing more of the positive things every day.

Thanks to hearing that line from one of my favorite movies of all time (it still gives me chills watching the clip) I now see dystonia as something that provides me with opportunities every single day to help myself become a better person and help others who are struggling. I may have lost a lot of things because of dystonia, but I have gained even more.

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: March 23, 2016
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