Overcoming Adversity: Spinal Cord Injury and the Journey to Recovery and Personal Growth
June 1, 2023 by Steve Kerschke, PT
The Shock of a Spinal Cord Injury
Imagine going through life grappling with a myriad of challenges – a relentless trio of addiction, depression, and anxiety – all seemingly insurmountable. Casting a shadow over every aspect of your being, you are faced with your most challenging obstacle yet – a life-altering spinal cord injury.
In the aftermath of a heated argument, your friend, impaired by alcohol-induced blackout, fires a gunshot leaving you lying motionless in your own driveway. In your journey to regain control of your life, you undergo grueling rehabilitation, triumphing with notable strides towards physical independence. However, your recovery is full of unforeseen health struggles and challenges because of the catastrophic spinal cord injury.
As your narrative unfolds, you have a choice to succumb to the profound tribulations or remain hopeful that you’ll emerge from the transformative stronger than ever. Unfortunately, the aspects of this story are all too familiar to many who have suffered a spinal cord injury. Yet, countless individuals reflect on the lessons learned along the way acknowledging the struggle is what leads them to a better life.
Get Back to Life After Spinal Cord Injury
1. Embrace Challenges with a Growth Mindset
Life can throw unexpected challenges at anyone. Face them head-on with determination and optimism, seeing them as opportunities for growth and transformation. Adopting a “growth mindset,” as coined by Carol Dweck, can help individuals view challenges as a chance to learn and improve rather than as setbacks.
2. Practice Gratitude
Practicing gratitude holds immense value in shaping a positive and fulfilling life. When we cultivate gratitude, we shift our focus from what we lack to appreciating what is already present in our lives. Acknowledge the little joys, meaningful connections, and even challenging experiences teach us valuable lessons to cultivate a mindset of positivity and contentment. The practice of gratitude empowers us to find beauty in the ordinary and cultivate a genuine sense of happiness and appreciation for life’s many blessings.
A simple way to start practicing gratitude is through journaling. Choose your approach based on whether you need structure or prefer a more freeform experience. The Five-Minute Journal is great for the former, while a blank journal best accomplishes the latter.
3. Explore Various Self-care Practices
On the path to self-discovery after a spinal cord injury, trying out different practices, such as meditation, writing, or physical activities, can help individuals find what resonates with them and cultivate a positive outlook. The power of mindfulness and breathing techniques should not be underestimated, particularly for those dealing with a spinal cord injury. These practices can foster inner peace and resilience during challenging times.
The Insight Timer app is a free resource that offers a wide variety of guided meditations, mindfulness practices, and breathing exercises.
4. Develop Small Habits
Building positive habits gradually is more sustainable than seeking overnight transformations, especially for those recovering from a spinal cord injury. By breaking down habits into small, manageable steps, you create a pathway for continuous progress and lasting change.
5. Share Your Story
Whether it’s overcoming a catastrophic injury, dealing with difficult emotions, or navigating life’s challenges, sharing your story can be a transformative and powerful process that leads to healing and growth for yourself and others.
Journaling your thoughts, recovery timeline, questions you have, and lessons learned along the way is a simple, private way to gain clarity and insight. Expanding this to a public blog, memoire or motivational presentation further acknowledges the significance of the experience while inspiring others who might be facing similar challenges.
6. Accept Help from Others
Seeking assistance is often misperceived as a sign of weakness, and hesitation to do can be tied to pride, lack of trust or fear of burdening others. Instead, reframing it as a sign of strength leads to deeper relationships, a sense of community, and personal growth.
7. Take Action
When faced with adversity, it’s easy to fall into patterns of avoidance and denial. Instead, the decision to take action is what changes the course of life. Simply taking a small step in the right direction is a great place to start. On the other hand, Tony Robbins suggests taking massive action.
The Silver Lining
The journey of personal growth and rehabilitation after a spinal cord injury is undoubtedly filled with triumph and tribulation. The silver lining is that times of desperation and crisis can catapult people into massive action resulting in massive change. The concepts discussed are simple to understand but aren’t always easy to put into practice. We hope you’ll remember these lessons and apply them to your own life as you navigate challenges and strive for personal development, regardless of the obstacles you may face.
Author’s note: Chad Arnold, a fellow team member at QLI, is an inspiration to us all and allowed us to draw upon his story and experiences after his own spinal cord injury. To learn more about Chad’s journey and his own approach to overcoming adversity, check out this episode of Kintinu’d Conversations.