A spinal cord injury is a life–altering, traumatic event. Everyone experiences it in their own way. Just like any trauma, spinal cord injury brings with it a whole range of emotional responses. Understanding these emotions will help you realise that everything is normal
Spinal cord injury results in many losses. You can suffer loss of function, independence, future plans and hopes. This may result in all the typical responses to loss such as shock, anger, denial, feelings of unreality, sadness, fear and grief. While you may experience some or all of these emotions, you may also experience a delayed reaction. If this happens, you may appear to cope well at first but then become overwhelmed by emotions as your rehabilitation progresses and the effects of the injury become a reality.
Some people also experience self-blame, guilt or rage relating to the cause of the injury. While for others, previous losses come back to complicate things. These reactions do not have a time scale. You also may not experience all or any of these emotions. As we say, everything is normal.
It is likely that you will have many concerns and questions about your injury, including some of a personal nature. As you slowly become familiar with your changed body and circumstances, it’s important that you feel comfortable discussing your concerns. That’s why our experienced health care professional is on hand to answer any questions you may have.
Talking with people who have been through a similar experience and who understand what you’re going through, can be really helpful and encouraging. To put people in touch, Spinal Injuries Ireland provide a nationwide peer mentoring program with trained peer support volunteers who have a spinal cord injury themselves. There are also trained peer support volunteers for family and friends to link in with, because they will often need support too. We can also arrange for a peer volunteer to visit you in an acute hospital or talk to you by phone.
Naturally, there is a lot of excitement around returning home after your rehabilitation. However, sometimes the reality of this transition can be challenging. Linking in with a peer volunteer during this transition period can provide you with valuable support at such a crucial time.
Research – The voice of experience
Research conducted by Spinal Injuries Ireland (Collins, 2014) interviewed a number of people with a spinal cord injury and asked the question: “What advice would you give someone being discharged about the transition out of the hospital setting?” The responses included:
- Have home adaptions ready
- Avail of all the support you are being offered
- Get counselling and have family members take counselling
- Take your time to adjust
- Work towards acceptance and integration
- Be positive and work on your mental attitude and health
- Build routines, get a hobby or go back to education
- Communicate with others and if possible get peer support from SCI individuals
- Get driving as soon as possible
Remember, whatever you are going through, Spinal Injuries Ireland is here to provide support at every stage of your journey.