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Self image

Spinal cord injury (SCI) often changes everything. Not least the way we see ourselves and our place in the world.

Our self-esteem can take a hit when we first emerge from hospital after a SCI. How we see ourselves can change dramatically, even if it’s a distortion of the truth. And we can sometimes perceive that people behave differently around us, which some may do. Rebuilding confidence can take time.

A new normal

SCI symptoms, such as losing bladder control, can feel embarrassing and diminish our sense of independence. We can find ourselves using a wheelchair and relying on other people to help us move around, which is especially hard when you’re used to nipping to the shop or going wherever you like, whenever you want. Little wonder that many of us find it tough to adapt to life after SCI.

Being dependent on other people in this way is terrifying. It’s almost like giving up control over your life to someone else and just hoping they won’t do anything bad with it

David Miller, disability campaigner [writing for Independent Living]

Then there’s the issue of sex and relationships. We can sometimes feel that people assume we can’t be intimate because of SCI. Some people stay away from what they don’t understand or misperceive what a disability really means. And sometimes people can be awkward around newly injured people, which can reinforce our own insecurities.

Acceptance and connection

Adapting to a new life takes time, and it’s common to mourn our pre-injury self image. Gradually shifting focus on living and enjoying life with a SCI can help. So too can having a good daily routine and connecting with those close to us. Speaking with people who have experienced or are going through similar challenges can also help. These people can motivate and inspire us and show us how they overcame challenges. We recommend joining the SCI Owners Club on Facebook, where you can post questions, get advice and make friends.

You’re not alone

Each of our support network coordinators has a SCI. They’ve overcome seemingly huge obstacles, and they lead fulfilling lives. They’re also here to support you. Find your local coordinator and book a one-to-one support session here.

We also have a SCI specialist counselling service. Sessions are offered over the phone or via video call, and each of our counsellors has a SCI too. If you think you could benefit from talking therapy with someone who understands post-injury life, let your support coordinator know if you would like to be referred to the service.

Please note, we have a waiting list for counselling appointments, but one of the team will be in touch with you as soon as possible.