5 Powerful Abilities Paralysis Will Never Take from You

Posted by Lauren Presutti in Life After Paralysis on October 19, 2021 # Lifestyle

An individual sitting at a able with their laptop and paper in front of them. Their hand is on their head and they are using a wheelchair.Many people who experience a spinal cord injury feel like so much has been taken from them. Paralysis means that mobility has been compromised, life has been turned upside down, and people need to learn an entirely new way of functioning with their bodies. Recovering from medical trauma can take a huge toll on a person’s mental health, especially when they feel consumed with enormous losses that are unfair and beyond their control. Sometimes it can be hard to remember the things that paralysis will never take from a person. Although a spinal cord injury transforms the body, there are numerous things that it will never impact. Remembering the abilities that you will never lose can be helpful when grieving the loss of physical functionality, or in general, when you’re feeling down.

Below are 5 powerful abilities that paralysis will never take from you.

  1. Your ability to pursue happiness: In the first weeks or months after being diagnosed with paralysis, it’s normal to grieve losses, experience trauma responses like anger or depression, and you may even find yourself irritable or becoming more easily frustrated. Always be patient with yourself through recovery, and remember these responses are allowable. Your feelings are always valid. At the same time, it’s important to remember that you don’t have to live in the space of emotional pain forever. Many people living with paralysis are living fulfilling lives full of joy, laughter, adventure, empowerment, and self-confidence. It is completely possible to pursue happiness no matter how your body functions. If you feel like your emotional pain is lingering in getting in the way of recovery, don’t be afraid to seek counseling help or talk to your doctor about your mental health. Your mental wellness should never be overlooked!
  2. Your ability to maintain the parts of your pre-injury identity and life: Many people who experience spinal cord injuries can attest to their “new identity” that formed after being diagnosed with paralysis. Acquiring a disability in the middle of life means that you are adopting a new minority identity as you become part of a community that is unfortunately subject to social misunderstandings and stereotypes. Individuals using wheelchairs often have to navigate barriers that non-disabled people do not understand, which plays into the feelings of having a newfound identity after a spinal cord injury. However, you can always maintain many parts of your identity prior to paralysis. Your hobbies, interests, personality traits, values, core beliefs, opinions, life goals, and other aspects of your identity are still very much a part of what makes you who you are. Don’t ever forget those very important parts of you, and remember there is so much about your identity that will never be changed by paralysis.
  3. Your ability to advocate for yourself: All people deserve to feel heard and in control of their bodies. You may not be able to use your muscles, that does not mean that you don’t have control over what happens to your body, how you care for your body, or how other people respect your body. Whatever rehabilitation plans, medical equipment, or caregiving assistance that you may need in your life, you always have the right to speak up for your needs and preferences. Don’t ever allow others to make decisions for you because they are not the ones living in your body. You are the expert on how you feel and what you need.
  4. Your ability to connect with others: Paralysis drastically changes your body, but you will always have the ability to bond with people and build strong relationships. Sometimes people who experience spinal cord injuries feel like they lose some prior friendships after injury due to individuals not understanding their new limitations. This is an especially painful part of adjusting to life with paralysis, but even if some of your social life changes after injury, it does not mean that you are losing your ability to connect with people. Rather, it means that your social life is changing and becoming centered on the people who truly accept and understand you. You can capitalize on building relationships with those who truly accept you and continue to expand your social network with people who genuinely empathize with you and validate your existence. One way to expand your relationships is to join one of our Reeve Foundation virtual support groups – check them out!
  5. Your ability to ask for help: No matter what physical limitations you face, always remember that you have the ability to ask for help. Paralysis can be difficult to navigate, but no matter what challenges you encountered throughout your life, you will always have the ability to reach out to ask for help, guidance, resources, and community support. Asking for help might just be the most important thing that you can do for yourself, so never underestimate this important skill.

If you have questions or if I can be a resource for you, please don’t hesitate to reach out. Your mental health matters.

To learn about River Oaks Psychology, visit www.riveroakspsychology.com and follow River Oaks Psychology on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn.

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,700,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.