Managing Anxiety and Anger

Adjusting to the Shock of a SCI

Waking up with a SCI can seem like an out of body experience. Many people know they have a spinal cord injury the moment it happens: they instantly can’t feel their legs or arms, and they can’t move them. It happens just like that when the trauma occurs.

It’s terrifying and depressing, but even more than that, it’s shocking to the mind.

To be perfectly healthy and the next moment, not able to move or feel and be told you’ll be in a wheelchair the rest of your life can take the mind into an out-of-body place; and it can take a long time for the mind to adjust.

Most injured people go through this “shock” period, and it’s one of the hardest things you’ll go through after an injury. Your sense of identity is stripped away and you’re somehow supposed to rebuild it. How can you manage this? Your first step is through self-acceptance.

Self-acceptance means coming to terms with the fact that you are are still the same person you were before. The injury cannot change that. Not even the biggest wheelchair in the world can strip away your personality. Some people may think it will, but don’t listen. You’re just in a different body.

Many people say it takes around two years to finally get used to being in a wheelchair; to no longer have that “shocked” feeling overwhelm you whenever you wake up, amazed you can no longer walk. This feeling, though, may never go away.

Watch the video below from Blake Perkins, a paraplegic and SPINALpedia Video Maker, sharing his awesome tips on overcoming the shock of a spinal cord injury.

Video: Overcoming the Shock of Spinal Cord Injury (Part 1)

Takeaway Points:

  • It can take up to 2 years to get over the initial shock
  • You are still the same person as you were before
  • Focus on the “why not?” rather than the “why” (especially with doctors regarding your injury)
  • Focus on the “how”; focus on rehab, peer support, ask how people went from A to B.
  • Be patient with your body as your neurological system restarts; spasms may occur, but always be patient with your progress
  • Fully appreciate any support network you may have
  • Work as hard as possible in rehab even if it hurts. It will pay off


Spinal Cord Injury
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Phone Number: +1 703-795-5711