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Emotional Support & SCI

Emotional Support - What Can Be Done - Help Sources


Very few events in life are as devastating as a spinal cord injury, often referred to as a living bereavement.  In the early stages thoughts such as 'why me?' etc are very common and are usually followed by self blame in the case of many traumatic injuries.  The overwhelming nature of spinal cord injury and its impact on so many body systems is met by feelings of disbelief too.  The good news is that in most cases these feelings will be replaced with newer better ones as time goes by.  There is a lot that can be done to help a friend or family member through the emotional part of spinal cord injury as well.   It is very important to remember that everyone is very different and 'deals' with spinal cord injury in their own unique way.  If someone has been the life and soul of the hospital ward seeming to 'accept' their injury straight away they may very well become emotionally very low after leaving that secure environment. 

Thereís no question that spinal cord injury is a life-changing experience.  In most cases the injury has occurred suddenly and without warning in a second.  The effects of the injury will however last a lifetime.  It's also important to recognise that it is not only the person with the spinal injury that may become depressed but often those closest too them too.

People often feel a tremendous sense of loss, which can trigger memories of other losses, further magnifying feelings of sadness, frustration blame and anger. Itís common to have a grief reaction and to mourn the loss of your mobility and body functions. But for many people, actively seeking professional help is a difficult step to take. Itís not easy to admit you need help, and it takes strength to explore new and unfamiliar resources. For example, it may be hard to believe that taking medication or talking about your situation can actually make a difference or improve your life.

Clinical Depression

It extremely common for a person with a spinal cord injury or a close family member to feel down or depressed, your thoughts can easily turn to whether you or they are clinically depressed or not.

however, whether you 'fit' the depression diagnosis or not is unimportant. If you are feeling so down that you need to do something about it, that is enough. Usually, if you are suffering depression you may well feel one or more of the following:

  • Exhaustion on waking
  • Disrupted sleep, sometimes through upsetting dreams
  • Early morning waking and difficulty getting back to sleep
  • Doing less of what they used to enjoy
  • Difficulty concentrating during the day
  • Improved energy as the day goes on
  • Anxious worrying and intrusive upsetting thoughts
  • Becoming emotional or upset for no particular reason
  • Shortness of temper, or irritability

Not all people have all of these, and some have different signs, but if you are depressed, at least some of these will probably ring true with you.  Some of these factors may be caused by your spinal cord injury alone ie tiredness, doing less etc and will not be part of your depression

The individual signs of depression - the way you feel - are what are used in diagnosing depression. So it's easy to see why there is so much confusion, seeing as the signs are generally common emotions and feelings.


Many people gain support from their friends and family. This can be helpful, but they often have their own interests at heart too and however well meaning they aren't always the best people to seek advice from. 
A qualified doctor or trained therapist or health practitioner can formally diagnose you with clinical depression. However, how they reach this diagnosis gives an incredibly important insight into how to treat depression.

They will normally listen in an unbiased and uncritical way, and reflect back to you the way that you are feeling and thinking. So you get a chance for a new perspective. That may be enough in itself for you to see things more clearly. It may lead to you being able to work things out for yourself too.

People who are depressed may be reluctant to get help for a variety of reasons. Some people may not even realise that theyíre depressed. Others may feel that depression is a sign of weakness and may not want to admit it out of fear or shame. Also a number of people believe that they should be able to solve their own problems; or they may think that nothing can change how they feel because, for example, their spinal cord injury isnít going to improve.  There are also many misconceptions about what people with a spinal cord injury can and cannot do, which may prevent people from seeking help and discovering the possibilities. For example, many are surprised to learn that people with SCI maintain their homes, hold jobs, do volunteer work and continue favourite sports and hobbies too.

Emotional Support - What Can Be Done - Help Sources
 


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