​Don’t Let Paralysis Stop You from Building Strong Friendships

Posted by Lauren Presutti in Life After Paralysis on April 11, 2022 # Lifestyle

Two friends Building a strong support system can benefit anyone with or without a disability, but those living with spinal cord injuries may find that having numerous friendships is especially beneficial when the going gets tough. For example, catching up with a friend after a long day of health appointments may be just what you need to unwind. Having some good friends to blow off steam with can also help ease frustrations over disability-related barriers that you encounter in your community. For those with quadriplegia who may need caregiving assistance, having a friend step in to help when a caregiver unexpectedly no-shows can make a bad situation much better. Above all, having strong friendships helps you feel more connected to others, increases feelings of belongingness, guards against loneliness and is sure to bring some laughter and fun times your way.

For many of us, it can be hard to make friends. It’s usually easier when we are going through school growing up because classmates are quick to become friends. However, once we are no longer students, it can be harder as we are less exposed to people. You may have a job that you enjoy, but not everybody finds their coworkers to be suitable candidates for friends. And now, with remote jobs skyrocketing, you may find yourself not leaving the house much. Beyond these reasons, living with paralysis might mean that it’s harder to get out to join community groups and activities. If you have transportation barriers or experience chronic fatigue, going out into town might feel like a chore that you’d rather not have to deal with. That’s understandable, and your feelings are valid.

Thankfully, there are some strategies for building friendships that might be perfect for you. Below are some ideas that you can experiment with.

  1. Invite people to come over to your home, instead of going out. Stay cozy inside where everything is accessible for you and create an inviting environment for guests to come over. For example, maybe you want to have people over for dinner, to play board games, to watch a movie together, or to simply chat over coffee. Don’t be afraid to explain to people that although it’s easier to stay home, you still want to socialize. Together you can get creative and make your home the perfect hangout spot.

  2. Join online chat groups. Facebook groups are filled with thousands of people looking to connect. You can also try Twitter, Instagram, Tik-Tok, and all of the other social media platforms. Don’t be afraid to speak up and post about your interests because it’s hard to make friends without engagement. It might be intimidating at first, but the more you put yourself out there, the more you’ll attract people with similar interests.

  3. Join a virtual support group with the Reeve Foundation. Did you know the Reeve Foundation has free online support groups where you can video chat with other people living with paralysis or quadriplegia? We also have a group for caregivers. We would love to see you there. Sign up here.

  4. Talk about your interest in making more friends. Don’t be afraid to let your family and friends know that you’re feeling a bit out of the loop and you’d love to be introduced to new people. Word-of-mouth is the best way to make friends. It’s perfectly okay to tell others that you’re on a mission to make new friends and ask for their help. Everybody knows people who know more people, so sometimes the best way to strengthen your support system is to simply talk about your goals to meet new people.

  5. Always be yourself. No matter what strategies you adopt, the most important thing is to always be yourself. As a mental health therapist, one of the most common things that I hear from people experiencing loneliness is that they don’t feel connected to their friends due to a history of holding up a social image, putting on a façade, or pretending to be something that they are not. Being unauthentic won’t lead to intimacy. It’s better to be your true self, allow yourself to be open and honest, remember it’s okay to be vulnerable sometimes, and be patient in the process.

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.