BC SCI Network Member, Musician
“For the first time since my accident, I felt completely welcome, accepted, and even understood.”
An invitation to an event hosted by Spinal Cord Injury BC marked the first-time singer/songwriter Kristina Shelden felt accepted after her injury.
“For a long time after my accident, I felt like I was too disabled to fit in with people who were able-bodied, and too able-bodied to fit in among people with disabilities,” she says. Kristina thought she wouldn’t be accepted in part because she was ambulatory. But arriving at the event, she realized it couldn’t have been further from the truth. “For the first time since my accident, I felt completely welcome, accepted, and even understood.”
From this first meeting, more connections were made. Life took on a new momentum and carried her back to a love she thought was lost—her music.
While attending physio appointments at GF Strong, Kristina noticed The Vancouver Adapted Music Society (VAMS) studio, run by the Disability Foundation, but she passed it by. “I was dealing with crushing discouragement because I could no longer play guitar,” she explains, “For my entire life, music had been my best friend, a vital therapy, my release—and now it was gone.”
“I thought my music career was dead and it was utterly devastating. At that time, my focus was entirely on physically and emotionally healing. But music was waiting for me—slowly pulling me in.”
Kristina’s world started to open up when SCI BC peer Dave Symington reached out to her and invited her to join the VAMS “Music Saves” music video. “I met incredibly accomplished musicians with varying degrees of disabilities and a number of local celebrities. I joined in and my passion for making music was reignited,” she adds, “How could it not be? It felt too good. I finally felt like I could allow it back into my life.”
Upon visiting a friend, she realized she could play piano. “Not very well, but just enough to write,” she says, “and then, I wrote my first song since I was injured.” This was a key moment for Kristina. It marked her realization that music had not left her. She felt at the very least, she could write and sing for herself, but also, she could sing her own material on the stage again. “This was a pivotal moment and VAMS was crucial in making it happen,” she reports. “It kept me engaged in rehearsing and playing shows. Time and again, it kept drawing me in, and taught me that even though I couldn’t make music the way I did before, I could adapt to a new way that I still loved.”
Currently, there are exciting developments on the horizon for Kristina. She’s producing songs and potentially, a full album. She looks forward to putting money into the Vancouver music scene, and using her art to advocate for people with disabilities.
“All of this wouldn’t have happened for me without these connections. I needed this human connection to heal. This feeling of belonging was a huge turnaround for me, in helping me find myself again.”
The BC SCI Network offers a full spectrum of programs that can touch a multitude of personalities and interests. “For me, it’s been music, but there’s also things like gardening, sports, movement or being in nature,” she says, “These programs provide the opportunity to learn from other people—they give structure and motivation to follow your interests and to heal in body and spirit.”