The holidays are a time for joy and excitement. Shopping, spending time with friends and family, eating good food, and traveling are all parts of the holiday season that brings people much happiness. However, for a population of our community the holidays are not so joyous and can bring feeling of sadness, depression, and loneliness. These feelings, especially for people living with spinal cord injury and other conditions/diseases can become out of control very quickly. Being able to identify the symptoms as soon as possible and address them is very important in preventing the downward spiral.
In “Managing Depression with a Spinal Cord Injury”, posted by lisagetsocial in Wheel:life, www.wheel-life.org, “Depression is an illness that affects one in 20 Americans, however it affects one in every five individuals with spinal cord injury causing isolation and negatively affecting interpersonal relationships. Depression in individuals with spinal cord injury is higher than average due to the physical physiological changes that occur in the body, and is not to be mistaken with feeling short-term sadness. Depression is not caused by personality issues, or lack of willpower, it is not the fault of the person who is experiencing it. Life stresses and medical problems can alter brain receptors called neurotransmitters causing chemical imbalance the brain. In people with spinal cord injury the risk for depression is highest in the first five years after the injury.”
In the article “The Symptom of Depression We Don’t Talk About” published on The Mighty, written by Jenna B, “People with depression can feel sad and empty much of the time, have changes in appetite or sleeping habits, be fatigued, have decreased feelings of pleasure in things that would normally bring them joy, and possibly even have thoughts of death or dying. But the one symptom of depression you probably don’t know about, and one of the hardest ones to deal with, is severe loneliness. Depression is a disease of acute loneliness, and connecting with other people can make all the difference in your recovery.”
If you feel any of the symptoms above, there are some ways to prevent these feelings from becoming overwhelming. Here are some suggestions on how to manage this type of situation.
(Please keep in mind that these are suggestions that are not to be taken as medical advice*. The suggestions below are not to be used in place of medical advice from a licensed physician.)
- Antidepressants (advised, prescribed, and monitored by your physician)
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (talk therapy, referred by your physician)
- Exercise (talk to your physician about any limitations on your exercise plans)
- Have sex
- Laughter, do something you enjoy
- Seek out and get support from friends and family
- Spend more time with your pets, perhaps get a pet if you don’t have one
- Turn on more lights, don’t sit in the dark
- Get some direct sunlight if you are able to, Vitamin D deficiencies can be directly related to depression (again, something to speak to your physician about)
- Talk to someone in your place of worship, if you have one (priest, pastor, rabbi, etc)
- Attend a peer support meeting near you (check our calendar https://pattnet.us/2BCQj5H to find a peer support group meeting near you )
- Find online resources. If privacy is a concern, look under the “help” function on your browser (Chrome, Safari, Firefox, etc) and learn how to use the “incognito” or “private browsing” option
- Get assistance from a hotline or advice line
Peer support is extremely important for individuals with spinal cord injuries. It not only allows for new ideas and management of the condition, it also validates the emotional aspects of our recovery. People often forget that our physical bodies are not the only part of ourselves that need to recover. Our emotional, psychological, and spiritual selves require recovery as well. People who attend these meeting truly understand what you’re going through because they’ve gone through it themselves.
According to Stan, leader of the Sonoma-Marin SCI Peer Support Group, (https://pattnet.us/2ANizil), “If you’ve never been to one of our meetings before, this would be a great opportunity to meet other people fighting similar battles like the battles that you are facing. Lots of our members have successfully overcome their challenges, and eagerly share their successful strategies with others.”
For Peer Support Groups in your area, take a look at our calendar at https://pattnet.us/2BCQj5H to see when and where the support groups meet. You can also check our list of peer support groups at https://pattnet.us/2oGVE6z
In the spirit of peer support it is up to us to make sure everyone in the SCI community is taken care of both physically and emotionally. Looking out for each other is important, especially because many of us relate to each other in different ways that others cannot.
*Disclaimer: This article is about a medical condition. The article is meant to be informative only and does not substitute for medical advice. Please consult a physician for medical advice for your specific situation. Depression can be a serious medical condition. If you think you are in danger of harming yourself or others, call 911 or a crisis line immediately.
The national toll free crisis line number is 1-866-427-4747 .
Remember, depression is treatable!
Read more about SCI and depression at the Reeve Foundation at https://pattnet.us/2CjeXVw
Read more about SCI and depression at the University of Washington’s site at https://pattnet.us/2yFbMVQ