I have conquered cerebellar ataxia and now I am conquering the world, one day at a time.”
These are the words of Ms Alma Chopra, an international inspirational speaker and an experienced life counsellor, who likes to lead her life by example.
Alma was diagnosed with cerebellar ataxia when she was just 10 years old. It is a disorder in which there’s a progressive loss of coordination and difficulties arise with balance and gait.
She rose up to her challenges to fight and emerge as one of the most
inspirational speakers of our time.
Her life story is an embodiment of hope, faith, and courage in times of darkness and
overwhelming uncertainty, we are delighted to have had the opportunity to have a conversation with her on her experiences and journey
Could you tell us about that one moment that changed your life and made you what you are today?
I think we are all a product of the moment that defines who we are today, but the one moment that has changed my life is, hands down, the moment I was diagnosed. Once the diagnosis was made, it was shattering and heart-rendering but it was also one of the biggest things, I won’t say the only thing, but definitely one of the biggest things that made me who I am today.
The compassion, the foresight, the empathy and the resilience can be attributed to this in some ways, I think having this disability has shaped me more than anything else. The way that I look at things, the way that I think about things, the maturity that I have had to develop as a 13-year-old when usually one doesn’t have to deal with circumstances that would instil that maturity until one is in their late 20s is something that I got at a very early age.
Could you describe the fundamental principle that drives you every day?
The fundamental principle that drives me every day, at least I try to let it drive me, is the power of love. Since I was in law school there were some things that stuck with me, such as ‘like what you do and do what you like’.
I believe that loving what you do and doing something with love then greater are the chances of it materialising. I believe in the power of love whether it’s loving a person or something you do goes further when it’s genuine and there is a heartfelt maturity to go along with it.
What are some thoughts that keep you up at night?
I have a couple of thoughts that keep me up at night but one of them is regarding my situation and how I can use it to help others, to affect the young generations, how I can impact and make a positive difference not only in lives of individuals but the society as a whole, what I can give from my life’s journey, my experience, what can I give to others so they can learn or it can help them in some ways.
When was your last memorable learning curve?
My last learning curve was when I think I was in the tenth grade, that’s the point when I started turning my energies inwards and started focusing outward as much. So after my diagnosis until the age of 14, I was very consumed with my disability and limitations it gave me, other people’s perceptions about me, how I was termed disabled affected me, at that point I was running to the doctor and trying to figure out the issue with me.
My parents were confused as well, because I had no etiology so they didn’t know the origin of my disease or disability. So my base learning curve was when I started focusing my energies inwards and even though school is the hardest part of anyone’s growing years I was in a way forced to go inwards, something that individuals don’t usually do until later in life when they are in their 40s or 50s.
I had the opportunity to do it at a younger age. This has helped me accept myself for what I could do and who I am, of course I didn’t start fully accepting myself just like that but the process started when I was 14 and that’s when I started to stop letting my disabilities and limitations stop me from doing what I put my mind to.
How do you deal with those lingering, creeping thoughts of doubts and fears?
Oh I have a lot of lingering doubts, the way I deal with them is having a great support system that I can rely on. But also I think since a younger age I had this intuitive belief in reincarnation and the purpose of the soul so this helps me calm my jitters, of course this belief doesn’t end all doubts but it helps.
There is this faith I have that there is a reason why everything happens and that everyone has a purpose. This faith, whether it’s right or wrong, is a huge helping factor in trying to get over any doubt because ultimately we win the present moment and to get over the nuances that interfere with the present moment, one has to cling on to something that helps them get over it. In my case it is faith.
If you could go back in time, what would you like to say to the 14-year-old Alma?
If I could go back in time I would tell her to be calm, I would tell her that what is happening is okay. I would tell her things like, whatever comes it is definitely going to be okay. I would try to soothe her because even though I started retracting inwards at that tender age of 14, teenage is still the most vulnerable and tender time of everyone’s life.
At that time there was a lot of booeing, stereotyping that went on, that really hurt me, so if I could go back I would definitely tell Alma to not let it get to her because there is a reason she is different, it makes her special and not disabled. At that time if someone could tell me all this in that situation, I think it would really help to know that we aren’t alone in this.
Alma is self-reliant, witty and an extremely positive person. She is also proficient in Hindi, Spanish, and English languages. In her free time, she likes to indulge herself in writing and singing. Alma, who is a devoted follower of Hinduism and deeply interested in spirituality, regularly chants and meditates for her emotional and mental well-being. Alma uses her painful journey towards recovery to inspire people and give them hope. Her story stands in testimony to what the impossible feats sheer grit, discipline, and determination are capable of achieving.
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