As a teenager, Mitchell fell asleep at the wheel on his way home, and the resulting accident left him a quadriplegic.
Today, Mitchell is an artist working on an abstract picture. This piece requires precisely drawn lines, which he accomplishes using a fine-tipped Micron pen clenched in his teeth. He uses controls to move the mount, so he can work on different sections of the picture.
Drawing is an outlet for Mitchell.
"It clears my mind, it gives me a sense of relief and a boost of confidence again. I just kind of get lost in it."
Art helped Mitchell regain his confidence and his identity following his injury. "Once I was able to use my mouth to draw, it made me feel like I still fit in with my peers,” he shares.
At first, Mitchell attempted pencil drawings, then moved to landscape renderings that require the precisely drawn lines he’s become an expert at, and eventually he graduated to animal drawings with looser lines. These days Mitchell works with ink pens on abstractions of traditional dancers and the Montana landscape.
"I want it to be good, and I want it to stand aside and not be the same as everybody else,” says Mitchell of his art. “That's what I'm trying to work for right now."
Mitchell recently earned degrees in Psychology and Forensic Anthropology from the University of Montana, and he wants to earn a master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. He wants to give back by helping others with spinal injuries with their recovery, and plans to focus on helping other achieve higher levels of independence.
“We’ve got our mind still … we can keep going. Use that knowledge to gain independence and do better.”
After his injury, Mitchell learned how to take care of himself and moved to Missoula where resources for independent living are readily available. Mitchell lives in a third-floor apartment, and commutes to downtown Missoula via an accessible pedestrian trail.
Looking back, Mitchell wishes he had access to resources earlier, so he could have found independence sooner. "I always wanted to be independent," he says. Now he is determined to help others realize their independence and share his positive outlook: “I may be in a wheelchair, but look at what I can do.”
Be sure to share this post with others to show them what’s possible with a positive mind set.