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Managing Emotional Health

Following a spinal cord injury, people may feel a wide range of emotions including anger, confusion, sadness, shock and frustration. In this installment of the Living With a Spinal Cord Injury series from Jefferson Moss-Magee Rehabilitation, we offer thoughts on achieving and maintaining emotional health following a spinal cord injury.

The Living With a Spinal Cord Injury series is made possible by a gift from David and Barbara Loeb.  

View other videos in this series

Transcript of video:

Alysse: The first emotion I experienced was devastation that I couldn't feel anything below my rib cage and what that might mean for the future of my relationship or intimacy with my husband. That was probably the first and hardest.

Wayne: The initial thing is like everybody is traumatized. They go from seeing you walking and talking to basically being like just like a statue. That's how I wasthat first cut. I couldn't breathe. I was on life support. And I could just see it in their eyes.I could just see it in their eyes and hear it in their voice.

Jennifer: When something like that happens to you you're you're angry at yourself. What could you have done different. You're angry at the world, you know. And it doesn't help you know when you're in pain.

Danny: Someone always told me and I always knew it, but going through it now, they always told me God would never give something so bad and so horrible to someone that can't handle it So that helped me out a lot.

Narrator:Anger, confusion, sadness, shock, frustration, all completely normal reactions you may have following a spinal cord injury. You may also experience changes in your appetite, sleep patterns and other bodily functions.

Nutkowski: It is important to realize that even though you're feeling depressed and angry and and that your whole world is falling apart in the moment that that is not going to be what's gonna happen forever. That things are gonna eventually get better. As you enter rehab that actually is very reinforcing that you can see that you can regain a lot of those abilities and that ultimately has a very positive impact on a person's mood.

Duckett: Some days are better than others. You might sometimes experience dark places or have feelings of happiness that you've made some progress in your recovery, but it's always important to really identify what keeps you at that happy level and and also you know how to bounce back from that low level because it's temporary it's not going to last forever.

Narrator: Your emotions and your body may have changed but it's important to remember that a spinal cord injury does not define who you are. Focusing on the positives and the strengths you still\ have and learning to manage your own health will help you adjust to your new physical condition.

Danny: You just got nobody to learn about it. Don't be ignorant about it because you're not gonna help yourself out, not knowing anything about it and letting other people take care of you. Be aware of yourself and your own body. This is my body, it's my own body.

Alysse: Day by day, when you start to regain your physical strength, your emotional strength starts to come back, that one triumph builds on another and it's a very powerful incentive. You get really hooked on that first big accomplishment like learning to transfer without a transfer board was huge for me. Going grocery shopping the first time by yourself. Driving. Learning how to drive.

Narrator: Jefferson will always be here to support you in your recovery. We offer many types of assistance, including support groups and psychotherapy for you and your family. Most clinicians are here to help you cope with your injuries now and in the future.

Nutkowski: Support groups are invaluable because as providers of service, as caregivers, as professionals, we can only do so much to say, "hey this is what you're going to be going through." We understand how you feel. We can't possibly completely understand how a person's feeling with a spinal cord injury. It's really only until they experience through the support group that they hear other patients talk about their experiences and hear them say, "hey you know it'sdemoralizing when I have to have someone wipe my bottom. It's upsetting to me that I have to have my husband take ove the bills or take care of the children." Those types of things that only they're able to relate to. I think that really opens the door to their open communication about how they're experiencing the spinal cord injury.

Duckett: Family and friends of a person with a new spinal cord injury can be very important in their recovery. It's very pivotal for them to just be there, offer support, help them with anything that they might need. Even just listening to them and really understanding that this is a new situation that they're going through and they might not know how they're gonna get through it, but just knowing that they have family and friends that are there for them really is a big help for them to overcome some of the hurdles that might come with a new injury.

Alysse: The best way to help yourself is to help someone else. It sounds cliche and people say it to you when you're newly injured and but until you do it and you maybe mentor somebody for the first time and see that you really made a difference in their life you don't know how good it feels. And then one thing sort of builds on the other and before you know it you're back in life and a little surprised. It's not where I thought my life was gonna go but it's very satisfying and fulfilling.

Wayne: I put my feelings inside a song, put it to a beat and make it sound good.

What you know about waking up in intensive care.

There's docs around your bed, even they looking down at you scared.

There's four docs wearing gloves and sterilized gowns, told me I've been shot, paralyzed from the neck down.

Then it hit me, this really is a game changer.

Hour later I flatlined, now I got a pacemaker.

They shipped me out now I'm cleared to go to therapy.

They classify me quadriplegic and scaring me.

Please Lord show me a sign, I need some clarity.

Then it happened one day out of thin air, I move my foot,

smiling from ear to ear.

Narrator: Listening, learning, asking questions and following up with your rehabilitation doctor and the rehab team will provide you with the best education and recommendations to assure you stay healthy as someone living with an SCI.


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