Spinal Cord Injury

All posts in the Spinal Cord Injury category

Worthless

Published March 27, 2022 by zuzusays
Posted by Allen Rucker in Life After Paralysis on March 22, 2022

as posted in Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation

open road
I woke up the other morning hating myself. The best word to describe this state is worthless. Don’t ask why. I have absolutely nothing, long or short-term, to hate myself for or to condemn myself as worthless. I’m not the Hillside Strangler. This is simply a diffuse, underlying mental impulse that is always there, I think, but only pops up from time to time. For decades I thought the source was the loss and self-blame attendant to the accidental death of my father when I was only two. Maybe a therapist told me this. “Childhood trauma.” When I became paralyzed, I thought I had replaced that trauma with a new trauma, which of course, invites its own form of self-denigration. After all, you are permanently crippled and seen as lesser-than, in the eyes of many, and since there is no one else to blame, you blame yourself.

I had, at least initially, the exact opposite reaction. I felt a rush of confidence in how I dealt with the paralysis and consequently renewed confidence in other abilities, from personal resilience to home finances. This self-affirming phenomenon has a name and theory behind it, first noted by two professors at the University of North Carolina. They called it “post-traumatic growth syndrome.” You don’t just spring back, you spring forward. The idea has plenty of naysayers, but from personal experience and that of thousands of other trauma survivors, it’s real.

Which, of course, doesn’t preclude other consequences of trauma to coexist with whatever possible benefit is occurring. My own neurologist summed it up this way: “If you were a drunk before you became paralyzed, you’d still be a drunk afterward.” You may announce you are now getting sober, but you will no doubt be fighting the urge forever. Otherwise, paralysis is a miracle cure, which it isn’t.

I think my sense of worthlessness is set off by a specifically debilitating thought or image and being paralyzed only amplifies it. Every morning I wake up and say, “Oh, f**k, I’m still paralyzed!” Sensing your profound limitations only reinforces that no-good feeling. It’s irrational, but that doesn’t make it less real.

I don’t really care about the origin of this menacing impulse. I just want to cage it, deball it, and send it on its way. After all, it’s only a thought or thought-feeling, so if I bombard it with other thoughts or actions, I can at least nip away at its potency.

The first thing to do is do something. “Get up, get out,” as the disabled actor, Chill Mitchell, likes to say. Or as my good friend, John Lynn, a longtime veteran of AA, wrote me: “Get the hell out of yourself.” Don’t wallow in the state, like mental quicksand, trying to find more ways to chastise yourself. Find a focus. My best focus is writing. I’m not the first dufus to hit upon writing as therapeutic. Go online, and you’ll find plenty of writing-to-heal endorsements. I figured this out early on in my paralysis. It’s not so much what you write but the act of writing, literally, that can dislodge you from recurring mental traps. Maybe bowling has the same effect, I don’t know, but, hey, give it a try.

As far as counter-thinking, it’s always good to remember the famous three P’s immortalized by psychologist Martin Seligman. Don’t personalize – see it as “a” problem, not the problem you brought on yourself. Don’t think of it as pervasive. It is not a mental spell that affects every aspect of your life. That’s a hole we create ourselves. And finally, it’s not permanent. Don’t feel worthless for feeling worthless. A, you aren’t worthless and B, you will not always feel that way.

While you’re at it, try to cure yourself of the useless habit of saying “I’m sorry” when anything bad happens to you or someone close. I’m still working on this one. I continue to apologize for my paralysis ten times a day. “I’m sorry for being in this wheelchair and needing your help…” Don’t apologize for who you are. Let yourself off the hook. After all, the hardest person to forgive is you.

Allen Rucker was born in Wichita Falls, Texas, raised in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, and has an MA in Communication from Stanford University, an MA in American Culture from the University of Michigan, and a BA in English from Washington University, St. Louis.

Letting go

Published January 1, 2016 by zuzusays

Slide1One of the biggest challenges for me is letting go of the abilities I once had. Yes, I know it is easy to say, “but you can still do so many things”, but let me just say how devastating it is having to let go of functioning.

I am not talking about physical functioning, as I was and am very used to that happening. Needing reading glasses was the first major step towards that, and possibly giving up playing squash the second!

I’m okay about my hair going grey, I’m okay with my wrinkles that mean I have lived and loved, I’m even reasonably okay living with the ongoing chronic pain of severe arthritis and other chronic conditions.

Accepting that I can no longer manage medication, nor sometimes work out how to get dressed or make a cup of coffee is emotionally debilitating. My maths ability has been impaired for some…

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VISUALIZATION : Worth Looking Into

Published October 2, 2015 by zuzusays

Handihelp Blog

Visualization also known as imaging or meditation is a technique which has been used by amateur and professional athletes for a long time. It takes place prior to a game or an event in which they wish to perform at their highest level. Normally it’s done in a quiet area where there are no external stimuli, the individual mentally imagines their performance in the upcoming activity. While this has been used for years by athletes, it’s a wonderful technique for anyone who wants to improve their ability to function in everyday situations. While concentrating with your eyes closed you should visualize yourself interacting with the environment you’ll be in and performing at your best.

Last weekend professional golfer Jason Day could be seen, imagining a difficult chip shot he had to make out of the bunker onto the green. Once he was ready not only did he get out of…

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1st blog on feelings

Published January 2, 2015 by zuzusays

Labeled Disabled

11/10/2014 Current Mood: ANGER

Have you ever sat and thought, What would life be like if all your independence was ripped away from you in the matter of seconds? I never did either until recently, when just that happened to me. I just passed my 2 months anniversary to my accident that forever changed my life. Sometime when I am not sick of telling the story of how I became to know life in a different way, I will tell you.

To start off my name is Shena, and I am 31 years young. I am a wife to Jeremy and a mother to Justin (12), Kaylee (8), and Ethan (7). On September 6th 2014 my life was forever changed from an ATV accident that has left me with a spinal cord injury, that we still are learning the full extent to the injury. The accident was not my fault…

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