Dealing with Regret after Spinal Cord Injury

Dealing with Regret after Spinal Cord Injury

We all have regrets in life, but the kind of regret that comes with sustaining a spinal cord injury is like nothing else. It can haunt you, making your lif be a living nightmare. Whether you directly caused your injury or not, there is always some kind of regret involved when living with a spinal cord injury.

This doesn’t mean you have to live in misery. Believe it or not, you can get past something as major as a spinal cord injury, but it doesn’t mean your life will be the same. Here are some solid tips from mental health experts to help you find peace and move past that regret.

Give Yourself Plenty of Time
The shock and denial phase that comes after a spinal cord injury is huge. It can take weeks to months to get past these feelings, but the depression and regret linger years after an injury. And this is quite common. There is a consensus among people with spinal cord injuries that it takes around two years to come to terms with living with a spinal cord injury.

But we all know this is not the case for many. Some folks with SCI can live decades after an injury and still have loads of bad feelings and regret towards their injury. Since this is so common, always remember to give yourself time to get past this major life change. Don’t rush it, and do not feel ashamed. Reflect as much as you can. Hopefully, with time, your feelings of regret will subside.

Find a Peer Mentor Group
It can feel odd being around other people with spinal cord injuries when you are new to being a person with a disability. It is important to get past this feeling so you can reap the benefits of talking frankly with people who truly understand. This is the kind of experience you get when you meet with an SCI peer mentor group. You can find one at your hospital or local rehab center.

At some of these group meetings, you may hear some coping advice from people who have even more regret more than you do, and it may change your life. Therapists, as well as supportive family and friends, can be great, but when you are able to talk to other people who are going through what you are, it can really help with the coping and healing process.

Stay Away from Drugs/Alcohol
Many people with spinal cord injuries turn to alcohol and drug abuse. This is a common occurrence. Please don’t be a statistic and instead turn to exercise or something good for you. Drugs and alcohol will only cloud your mind, and prevent you from getting over the regret that you need to truly heal. From self-guided meditation and exercise to just calling up a friend, this is what you need to do to pull out of that black hole.

Don’t Bottle Up Your Feelings
While many people in the shock and denial phase will turn off their emotions to cope, this will not help you move past regret. At some point, you will need to turn your emotions back on so you can feel what needs to be felt and move on. Whether it’s crying or being angry, let it out in a safe manner. Do not let it simmer inside of you. It will only fester and prevent you from moving on to the next phase of healing.

Don’t Act Like a Hero
Many people will want to look up to you after injury, thinking you are strong and truly amazing for going through what you have gone through and surviving. Don’t feel pressured to act like everything’s okay. Do not fall into the hero complex to make you or your loved ones feel better. This will prevent you from healing and moving past any regret you may have.

See a Therapist
If you just can’t shake those feelings of regret, you may need to see a mental health professional. There are amazing psychiatrists with experience with spinal cord injured patients who can help you deal with serious feelings of regret. Ask your doctor for a recommendation. There are even online therapists if you cannot find someone near you. Remember to also ask about the possibility of being examined for PTSD too. Many people with spinal cord injuries have post-traumatic stress disorder.

Never forget that regret is not something you have to live with. Even if you never walk again, regret doesn’t have to be that ugly blemish on your day-to-day existence. Think positively and always have hope for a better tomorrow.

_Tiffany Carlson Spinalcord.com

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