Managing Mental Health After Spinal Cord Injury

Always seek professional help if you think you are experiencing depression.

 

Is spinal cord injury (SCI) and mental health related? Does one affect the other?

From my perspective, Spinal Cord Injury affects the physical, social and psychological aspects of our lives.

 

Adjustments after spinal cord injury are an absolute. This includes cognitive, emotional, and mental adjustments. When my injury occurred, I was a toddler. The physical adjustments and adapting to a ‘new normal’ were my first priority. I was too young to understand mental health.

 

I have come to accept (42 years later) the challenges that come with my mental health journey.   My mental health begins with my personal biochemical make-up and with genetic roots. This is something I will never change. However, it is something I can improve with the proper medical care.

 

Do I win the battle-everyday? Absolutely not. In fact, I have concluded that my state of mind is an ebb and flow, nebulous in its nature. I choose to work on it daily.

 

Replace the negative with the positive.

I make an intentional effort to get rid of negative intrusive thoughts like:

“I am not worthy of being loved.”

“My injury makes me less than.”

“I am a burden.”

Add in a fourth bullet about being a wheelchair user

If left unchecked, I have found that this can become a mental block where all I do is diminish energy and hope. I have found it helpful to replace a negative experience with a positive experience to avoid emotional shut down. For me, depression cirumvents logical thought. That is why I record or journal my joyful experiences. This allows these moments of delight to carry me over the ones full of anxiety.

 

Limit screen time.

If I take ‘self inventory’ on the time I spend on social media, I do better in minimizing depressive thoughts. For years, I often dismissed the real-life consequences of ‘comparing’ my life with those in my social media network. My takeaway: comparing is never good and always leads to a negative pitfall. Now instead of comparing myself to others, I compete with yesterday to get me closer to my best self. Understanding the possible impact and/or the emotional risks associated with social media platforms can be helpful in beating the depression cycle. Unplug and experience real life! You might be pleasantly surprised.

 

Protect your self-image.

Let go of:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Self-blame
  • Intrusive thoughts/memories
  • Worry
  • Judgements/misconceptions about paralysis

 

In order to protect my mental health. I had to let go of self-depricating thoughts (untruths).  I had to learn how to perceive the world from a perspective of truth and forgiveness; not everything in this life is bad, there is so much good.

 

One of my favorite scriptures in the bible is, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Understanding that I am made wonderfully complex is empowering! The idea that I am designed by a Creator grants me the freedom to embrace my intricacies.

 

I found peace in my mental health journey when I made the complex simple. I am a creation of God, and in that alone, I can embrace peace.

 

Forget the stigma.

The ever-present stigma attached to people with mental illness can certainly mentally paralyze me if I allow it.

 

I have adopted two powerful truths:

  • SCI (and all of it’s secondary issues) could easily happen to anyone.
  • No one has the ability to hurt me unless I believe their words.

 

If you know someone that has expressed sadness, be a supportive friend. In all things, be one who uplifts others and spreads compassion.

 

 

Push on,

Leslie

 

 

The opinions and experiences presented herein are for informational use only. Individual results may vary depending on your condition. Always consult with your health care professional. This individual has been compensated by Bard Medical for the time and effort in preparing this article for BARD’s further use and distribution.

In order to keep you informed of new stories from Leslie, please click on the link below to 'Join Our Community'. All we need is your name and email address to keep you updated.