Self image

Spinal injury changes everything. Not least the way you see yourself and your place in the world.

Our self-esteem can take a huge hit when we first emerge from the ‘hospitalisation’ phase of spinal injury. The way you see yourself can change dramatically, even if it’s a distortion of the truth. And you’ll probably perceive that people behave differently around you, and some people probably will. Many of us have noticed that people who you thought would be there through thick-and-thin talk to us less.

A new normal

It’s little wonder that many of us found it tough to adapt. Symptoms of spinal cord injury, such as losing bladder control, can feel embarrassing and diminish your sense of independence. You may find yourself using a wheelchair and relying on other people to help you move around, which is especially hard when you’re used to nipping to the shop or going wherever you like, whenever you like.

Being dependent on other people in this way is terrifying. It’s almost like giving up control over your life to someone else and just hoping they won’t do anything bad with it.

David Miller, disability campaigner [writing for Independent Living]

Then there’s the issue of sex and relationships, and you may feel that people assume that you can’t be romantically intimate because of your injury. Many people may stay away from things they don’t understand, and while things are improving some people can misperceive what a disability really means. Then there’s the awkwardness and reactions of other people, which can reinforce your own insecurities post-injury.

Acceptance and connection

Adapting to your new life takes time, and it’s common to mourn the ‘self image’ you had before injury. It’s a good idea to gradually shift your focus on living and enjoying life with a spinal cord injury. Make sure you get a good daily routine and connect with those who are close to you. And it’s so important to connect with people who have experienced, or are going through, the same difficulties as you. They’ll motivate and inspire you and show you how they overcame their challenges. Why not join the SCI Owners Club on Facebook, where you can post questions, get advice and make friends.

Help is here

All of our peer support advisers live with a spinal injury. They’ve overcome seemingly huge obstacles and lead fulfilling lives. They’re only too happy to chat with you and offer support: just click the purple ‘get support’ icon opposite to find a peer near you and book a one-to-one session.

You can also get a telephone counselling session with our counsellor Ian Younghusband. All you need to do is click on the link below and fill in a simple form below and Ian or one of the team will be in touch to arrange a phone call.