Sebastian was just 23 years old when he quit his job, terminated his apartment lease and headed to India with a friend. The two of them spent their time backpacking, with nothing but a couple of pairs of underwear and a hammock on their backs.
From monasteries, to guest houses, to pitching up the hammock alongside the apes in the trees, Sebastian and his companion slept where they could. During the day they practised meditation and enjoyed long hikes and thrilling stunts and activities. They just couldn’t get enough of the freeing lifestyle they had found.
One night, when they were walking a trail in the Himalayas, Sebastian fell seven metres from the path. He fainted for all of five seconds, and awoke to find himself on a ledge, with a further 10 metre drop below him. It was as sudden as that. He was alive but noticed he couldn’t feel his legs.
”So I started focusing on the stars, wow it’s fucking beautiful up there.Sebastian WestinComedy, Adrenaline & Meditation Mix Master
It wasn’t until he reached the hospital that he discovered he had broken his spine, at the T12 level, and was paralysed essentially from his belly button down.
“In a way it’s a luxury injury because it’s so low.”
Lying there on the ledge, five drunk Indian guys came to his rescue – Sebastian remembers putting his arms around one of their necks and being carried as the man climbed up to a trail that could be accessed by an ambulance.
Well except it wasn’t really an ambulance, at least not in the traditional sense, more like a wagon, with the words Red Cross painted on the side. It would be another 40 to 50 hours before Sebastian would reach a proper hospital. It was then that he would find out his travel insurance had run out.
”We had been in India one week too long, my insurers back in Sweden left me to die essentially.Sebastian WestinComedy, Adrenaline & Meditation Mix Master
To cope with the situation he had found himself in, Sebastian started cracking jokes, with his friend, his rescuers, the hospital workers. And when it comes down to it, humour and comedy have always been important tools for him to keep his life flowing.
“Try not to take things too seriously, have a laugh and move on, this helped me a lot.”
Sebastian’s experiences of meditation and mindfulness in India prior to his accident also stood him in good stead for dealing with the aftermath of his traumatic spinal cord injury. He remembers having achieved a very clear and focused state of mind.
“I never lost faith or thought I would die, even though it took 50 hours to get to the real hospital… I didn’t pee for 50 hours.”
Not to mention the support Sebastian had from his travel companion, who became his everything, his lawyer, his contact to the outside world, his nurse and pharmacist.
Everything else aside, one of the biggest challenges Sebastian experienced was the transitions – from being injured in India and then having to return home to Sweden.
“It was a crazy contrast from being as free as can be in India, with just my underwear and hammock, sleeping where you want, suddenly boom, in hospital, paralysed from the belly button down.”
But Sebastian enjoyed his time in the hospitals where his natural charm and humour allowed him to get on well with the clinical staff. He was overstepping his boundaries, trying to do more in his rehab than he was allowed, which often surprised and impressed the doctors.
He also learnt how important it was to have no barriers. In the beginning Sebastian had no control of his bowels, and would find himself frequently excreting in his pants. When it happened he just burst in on the doctors and announced he thought someone should come and take a look in his underwear.
“I realised I had to say it anyway, they are here to help and I need to get help, I became as open as possible.”
Then it was time to return to Sweden, going back to his old room in his parent’s house, as he had terminated his apartment lease before leaving for India and the place he planned to share with his friend when he got back was on the top floor, and of no use to him.
The first night back home he was in bed, and suddenly realised how thirsty he was. His glass of water was just out of reach, he was super tired, but knew he wouldn’t be able to sleep until he had had some water. Eventually he got himself out of bed, did a transfer, got to his glass, and then got back into bed.
”This was when it hit me, how hard life is going to be, it took a few minutes just to get some water.Sebastian WestinComedy, Adrenaline & Meditation Mix Master
Sebastian began to pity himself, becoming incredibly insecure, wondering if he would ever find love, when he could see girls giggling at him and his wheelchair. He avoided seeing friends for fear he might have a bowel accident.
But with the help of his family, a German hypnotherapist he found on the internet, and mediation, he told himself he had two choices: lie in bed and feel sorry for himself or to make the best of the situation he was in.
“This was the point of no return, I was so focused on learning. I learnt how to optimise opening the door to the toilet easily, looking for solutions and trying not to be afraid.”
One moment he will never forget is the day he complimented a checkout worker on her blue hairstyle. The girl radiated so much happiness, that Sebastian couldn’t stop thinking about what he’d done for her for a whole week.
Then came the meditation, the reflection, removing negativity from his life. He started reading books, working out, and eating healthier.
“Our personality is an art, we have to kind of take control of who we become, rather than let ourselves become a victim of our environment.”
And then after this journey of self-discovery, Sebastian had his injury, which he says was one of the best worst things that could’ve happened to him. For one thing it reinforced in him a sense of gratitude for what he has – up until then he had thought he was immortal.
“I wasted a lot of time before, didn’t take responsibility and never thought about things.”
But after his injury, he took more responsibility for himself, his actions, and started to employ more self-discipline. Now he can’t stand feeling like he is wasting time.
”If I eat shit, don’t workout, waste my time then after a few days I feel like shit, it’s like fucking hell, I almost get mad, then I get back on track again and feel like a wasted version of myself.Sebastian WestinComedy, Adrenaline & Meditation Mix Master
Sebastian does admit he has the tendency to overdo things, but says he needs to keep himself disciplined to prevent falling into those downward spirals of laziness.
“Life is so finite, there’s so much I want to do, I don’t want to die yet, but dying in peace is the ultimate goal. I want to live so fucking much that I can die in peace.”
His love of adrenaline and challenging himself and his body certainly didn’t go away and Sebastian now finds himself as a paraplegic bobsledder, training up in Norway.
“I missed the speed and the adrenaline, living on the edge, I looked for that feeling again.”
He was good for a beginner, so someone suggested he compete nationally for Sweden. Sebastian got sponsorship to compete, which saw him travelling up to 130 km/hour down icy tubes.
“Most of us have broken our backs, now we’re like let’s fucking do bobsled.”
There’s no denying he has his fingers in lots of pies, including as a guitarist, creating his own music, developing himself as a wheelchair instructor, working with a friend on a company that optimises engines for trucks, and of course fitting in time for a workout.
Now he is dedicated to giving as much as possible, because he knows how valuable imparting lived experience is for people with similar injuries. He runs his own Instagram account @loopwhoop, where he makes posts and videos for his peers.
Instagram is probably also the best way to get in contact with him, where he says he endeavours to reply to all messages he receives.
For the future, he continues to look towards his goals, taking small realistic steps every day to make them come true.
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