How to Make Healthy Decisions to Maintain Control in Your Life

Posted by Lauren Presutti in Life After Paralysis on July 14, 2021 # Health, Lifestyle

Life is full of choices. Sometimes it can be daunting to manage the variety of life choices when we are often flooded with media information about how to make the right decisions, how to navigate our experiences, and what to think, believe, or feel. We may have biased friends giving advice about our choices, we may feel pressured by social trends and cultural norms, or we may even feel obligated to mold ourselves to the feedback of others to gain approval for recognition in some way. This may lead to feelings of overwhelm and self-doubt. We might feel confused about how to make the right choices for us when the array of options for any number of life circumstances is vast. This is especially relevant for those living with paralysis along with their family members and loved ones because this community is often navigating an increased number of choices while simultaneously receiving a larger amount of outside advice.

On top of the “normal” life decisions regarding one’s goals for education, employment, relationships, housing, budgeting, family, parenting, hobbies, travel, and more, those affected by paralysis also need to make decisions about rehabilitation, wheelchair seating, accessible modifications, transportation, ongoing health needs, caregiving support, and many other nuances of living with paralysis. Of course, it’s possible to lead a fulfilling and meaningful life after a spinal cord injury with the right tools and skills for healthy decision-making.

Below are some positive mental health strategies that may be helpful for you when having to make tough decisions.

Set Aside Time to Reflect

It is critical to learn from the wisdom of others – especially when doctors, healthcare professionals, and other service providers are sharing best practices for recovery and quality of life – but we also must take this information and consider how it resonates with us. It can be helpful to set aside time to reflect on what we have been told by professionals so that we can consider how we feel about the options before making decisions. Some questions that may be helpful to ask yourself after receiving advice from a professional might be:

What are the pros and cons of every option? It can be helpful to write these down.

Are there any risks involved? How do the risks compare with the benefits?

How might these options enhance my quality of life? How might my life change?

Would it be helpful to get a second opinion from another professional?

Would it be helpful to talk with others living with paralysis about these options?

What emotions arise for me when I think about these options?

Talk With Trusted Supporters

Perhaps the only thing more overwhelming than needing to make a variety of difficult decisions is having to make those decisions alone. When we feel alone, we are more likely to experience self-doubt, frustration, confusion, and increased pressure of having to deal with something by ourselves. Sometimes it might feel isolating after a spinal cord injury if there is an absence of regular interactions with others living with paralysis, so we must ensure that loneliness is not exacerbated by having to make important decisions alone. Most people find it helpful to talk with trusted supporters about the decisions they are facing in life, not only because it curbs loneliness, but also because we learn insight from the people closest to us, they may point out things we didn’t realize, or they may connect the dots in a way that we haven’t considered before. Don’t be afraid to share your honest opinions with others. Allow people to listen, empathize, and relate. With the right support around you, it might feel like a weight has been lifted off your shoulders.

Let Go of Social Judgments

Living with paralysis means that you are a part of the disability community, a widely diverse and multi-faceted population. With over 1 billion people on the planet living with some form of disability, everyone in the disability community can't agree on disability terminology, models of disability identity, adaptive modifications, appropriate wheelchair styles, or even disability humor. Decision-making among peers in this community will be unique to each individual. What may be comforting to one person may be offensive to someone else. While one person may rave about the benefits of using a catheter, another person may find the idea to be very upsetting. Some people may be excited to invest in a beach wheelchair, while others don’t see that as a valid purchase. One person might desire a whole team of caregiving assistance, while someone else may want to only receive care from one or two people. It’s important to let go of any judgments that you may feel from others, whether in the disability community or from those without disabilities who might not understand your needs. Remember, this is your life and your decisions are valid. You don’t need to explain or justify your choices to others who disagree. Give yourself permission to let go of comparisons, practice maintaining your confidence, and be proud of yourself for making the choices you feel are right.

Trust Yourself

To me, trusting ourselves means that we can take risks and step out of our comfort zones – accepting the unknowns that follow – while also taking care of our needs and safety. There is no one more important to trust than yourself. Sometimes we lose trust in ourselves after we make a mistake or receive criticism from others, making it more difficult to believe in ourselves or trust the opinions and decisions we make. This can lead to patterns of self-criticisms and insecurities – two roadblocks to positive mental health. Trusting ourselves starts with remembering that living with paralysis does not mean that we are small or insignificant. We must recognize the power that we may sometimes give to others – those we envy, those who judge us negatively, those who make us feel inadequate – and reclaim this power by recognizing that we do not have to prove ourselves to anyone.

We all have our own personal power to lead our lives however we choose. Although decision-making can be tough at times, we are all capable of believing in our ability to choose what will be right for us. I hope you will trust yourself as you navigate whatever comes your way in life, whether it is a paralysis-related health decision or simply a tough choice about where and how to spend your time. You deserve to maximize your life fulfillment by maintaining control over your life. Always remember that paralysis does not take away your control – this is still your life, and your day-to-day is not for anyone else to decide.

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.

Lauren Presutti is a psychotherapist and advocate for individuals and families affected by disabilities of all types. Presutti Counseling provides mental health services while Presutti Advocacy provides consultation and advocacy support services. Born with Muscular Dystrophy and using a wheelchair throughout her life, Lauren is passionate about helping others overcome barriers and reach their fullest potential. Lauren also enjoys writing, speaking, and providing education on subjects relating to mental health and disability advocacy.

This project was supported, in part, by grant number 90PRRC0002, from the U.S. Administration for Community Living, Department of Health and Human Services, Washington, D.C. 20201. Grantees undertaking projects under government sponsorship are encouraged to express freely their findings and conclusions. Points of view or opinions do not, therefore, necessarily represent official Administration for Community Living policy.