Life After a Spinal Cord Injury
The first few hours and days after your accident doctors test and retest. The injuries are assessed, and reassessed. Then the specialists start to make predictions. You hear a blur of words like traumatic injury, spinal cord injury, permanent damage, never walk again, and best expected recovery. Life is forever changed.
When you are in the hospital, or rehabilitation center there is support for you and your family. Friends and family check in with you and visit. Doctors, therapists, and specialists all start to prepare you to return home when your strong enough. Adjustments to your home, and vehicle are made. While you start your recovery process and learn self help skills, your family is taught how to care for you. Everyone is focused and determined to get you strong and healthy so that you can come home.
Finally, it is time to leave the hospital. Your ready, supports are in place, and it is time to return to life. Everyone is happy, smiling, and cheering you on. It feels good to be going home. But what you are not prepared for is what life will be like past this point.
When you get home, nothing looks the same. Your bedroom, that was on the second floor, is now in the living room. The kitchen table has been removed to make room for your wheelchair. What was once an inviting home, where you entertained friends and dinner guests, now looks more like a rehabilitation center. But its just for now, or so they say.
As time passes friends do not visit as often. Life for them remains unchanged and they carry on with the activities that you once participated in. Your body cannot keep up, but your mind can. You can no longer participate in the same recreational activities. You can no longer entertain people after an exhausting day of learning how to get around in your own home. The physical person you were before the accident is gone, but not your mind.
Everything in your life has changed and you find yourself having to reinvent who you are. Some friends will stay, others will move on. You may be no longer able to work at the same job. You may have to move from your home to a place more suitable for your physical needs. Nothing is the same. Who are you? Where do you fit in? What does your future look like? There is too much change all at once for anyone to manage by themselves.
Your New Life
In addition to adapting to physical and lifestyle changes there is so much paperwork. Insurance documents, medical assessment forms, doctor appointments, physio, home care, even your personal care needs to be assisted. All while trying to figure out how to just complete daily tasks. This is overwhelming for healthy individuals.
It may be difficult to stay optimistic about life after a traumatic injury. Depression, anxiety, and mood changes are very real and normal emotions. Your recovery is so much more than just physical. Change is hard for everyone even when it is just a small change. Give yourself time and permission to grieve.
The Grieving Process
The grieving period of the life you once had is just like someone mourning the death of a loved one. The stages of grief you will pass through include:
Reinventing yourself after a traumatic injury will take time be patient with yourself. Some things you can do to help you with your mental recovery are:
- Set goals: To keep focused on moving forward and staying positive, set short, middle, and long term goals. Make sure they are achievable. Praise yourself for the little triumphs. That little I did it moment will fuel the bigger goals. Do not give up. Learning a new skill takes time, practice, and perseverance.
- Keep your mind busy: Do something that interests you. It is easy to sit and worry or feel down about things when you are not engaged in an activity that makes you think, or gives you pleasure.
- Contact a local support group.
- Reduce your stress and find people to help with paperwork, schedules and assisting with care needs.
- Find things to look forward to. There are still many ways to be active. Local support groups will have contacts for people, organizations or activities that are inclusive. Look to the future with open eyes and an open mind.
Where to Find Help
We would encourage you to reach out to organizations in your community that offer services like counselling, support groups for caregivers and people recovering from injury. Slowly you will meet other people just like you. New friendships will form and slowly a new world will emerge. Please visit our client resource page for information about SCI networks. Always seek professional help for depression and anxiety.
The lawyers at Wishart Brain and Spine Law are here to help. You are not just a client you are a person with a family, a life, and a purpose. Let us guide you.
If you would like to speak with a lawyer about your injury, your settlement offer, or need help understanding and accessing funding or support from your insurance company, please contact us. Your first consultation is always free.