Perhaps my mother blessed me with a love of books and the written word by naming me after a book.

Being the namesake of Kathleen E. Woodiwiss's Shanna is something I've always been proud of. It was the perfect precursor for the strong love of books that developed within my book-loving family. My sister, as well, is named after a book - Forever Amber.

I had a regular, though colorful, childhood and a bizarre, often dangerous, early adulthood - which has shaped me into the person I am today. Someday I plan to write a book of my exploits; until now, suffice it to say I've gone from hitting rock bottom and being homeless to rising above it all and being successful and comfortable. Henry David Thoreau says, "Do not sit down to write until you have stood up to live." I believe in those words immensely.

I also have suffered from depression and anxiety since my teens, and am a recovering self-injurer. I think all true artists are constant companions with pain - whether it be physical, mental, or emotional. Most are good friends with all three; a category I must admit I fall into. You won't hear me complaining, though; we all have our demons.

The emotional and mental pains I've struggled (and am struggling) through I won't go into; these are covered in depth on my blog, Digitopus. Such things I've covered in depth already - if you're interested you can read them here:

Physically, I'm "The Gimp", a nickname stuck on me in childhood because of my "bad knee" that would pop out of socket at random intervals. It hurt like bloody hell - enough so that I simply ceased most physical activity besides walking. I could not run, jump or even skip. There was a bright side (there always is); I never had to take even one gym class!

The bad knee was a progressive thing, and by the summer of 2002, constant pain had limited my activites to nearly nil. I also had developed arthritis; I was 24. I was given a three-procedure surgery and sent home. Looking back, I am still in shock that it was an out-patient surgery. Naturally, due to the advanced dengeration of my knee before surgery, I did not heal as easily nor as quickly as I should have. Also, I tend to scar badly - something my doctor plainly could see from looking at the self-injury scars that cover my arms (I scar thickly and the skin pokes out instead of in). Though he said I was the second worse case he'd seen in 15 years, he expected me to heal normally and with no physical therapy. I did not.

I was out of work for three months, and was put back to sleep twice more for "manipulations" where they straightened and bent my leg to "break up" the scar tissue. Each time I was in excruciating pain afterwards, and, each time, I was never any closer to regaining full motion. Looking back now, the effects of being under complete anesthesia three times in three months has had a definite negative effect on my brain. My memory is not what it used to be, and I find myself not nearly as sharp as I once was. Certainly it isn't due to aging; as of this writing, I am only 28.

I gave up on hope - and that doctor - and went through a dark and terrible depression that lasted nearly two years. I had to get around on crutches (eventually, I learned to use just one so that I had at least one free hand), and was in constant pain. I felt isolated and trapped in my own limited body while the world went on around me.

In 2004, I went to another doctor and went under the knife again - coming out with 20 staples. He went in only to "clean out" the scar tissue I couldn't seem to break through. I was in the hospital for three days and started rigourous physical therapy; I was doing wonderful until winter-time, where the arthritis caused such stiffness I couldn't do anything. I went back to almost square one.

At this time in my life, I know I will never regain full mobility, or a full range of motion, in my right leg. My leg will never straighten, and it only bends to a certain angle and stops. I walk with a limp and a cane. Bright side? Lifetime handicap parking.

I've learned to be optimistic about my situation; reminding myself that it could always be worse. I've learned to live with my handicap, and I don't let it slow me down often. I push myself constantly and instead of crying that I "can't do things like I used to", I do them the best way I can and am thankful for the opportunity to do so.

Living through this has taught me so much about myself, about others, and about never taking things for granted. After many dark years, I find myself - once again - rising up from the ashes of defeat, and meeting the challenges I've been given head-on. I've lost everything, hit the absolute worst bottom I could imagine, and had to start over from scratch; I made it. I've suffered through physical pain and anguish and learned how to live with a handicap; I made it. I'm not yet even 30, but I've packed a whole lot of living and experiencing into my first ten years as an adult!

Not a second of it would I change - because it is these experiences, this pain, that has molded me into who I am today. It is these things that give me the insight, the passion, and the drive to put my feelings, experiences and thoughts into words and share them with others.

Thank you for visiting; thank you for taking the time to learn a little about me. If you'd like to contact me, you can do so at shanna.riley AT gmail [dot] com.