A catastrophic spinal cord injury can change the course of your life. In a split second, you may go from being one of the healthiest people you know to someone who will never walk or run again. You lose hobbies, like sports you enjoyed, and you can even lose romantic relationships. It's daunting, to say the least.
When faced with these changes, many people encounter a second obstacle, which is mental depression. It's often very hard to adjust to this "new life" after the injury. Depression can also grow with time, as you move farther past the injury date and you begin to really realize that you're never going to fully heal and things are never going to go back to the way that they used to be.
Clinical depression hits everyone a bit differently. It can impact your:
- Mood: You may become withdrawn and angry, even with those whom you love. You may have trouble relating to the people around you.
- Ambition: You may not feel like your life is going anywhere, or at least like it's not going where you planned. This can take away your ambition in both your personal and professional life.
- Outlook: You may become more of a negative person, unable to see the good things in life that you once cherished. Even when these good things happen, your depression clouds your vision.
- Activity level: As noted above, many activities that you once loved -- running, biking, swimming, rock climbing -- may become impossible. A sedentary lifestyle can be depressing, and clinical depression can make it harder to focus on the activities you can still do.
- Problem-solving: It could become harder for you to devote the mental energy required to solve problems and move forward in life.
- Bodily processes: Depression can make you feel like you're not hungry at all, or you could stress eat. It could sap your energy and make you sleep more, or it could make it impossible for you to fall asleep at night.
Again, it's different for everyone, but this helps you see just how difficult it can become to live with a spinal cord injury and with depression at the same time.
For some, it can even lead to suicidal thoughts or actions. Experts with the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation note that the first five years after a spinal cord injury carry the greatest risks, as people with these injuries are still trying to find their way through this "new normal."
If you suffer a serious back or spine injury, it is important to consider all of the potential side effects and to carefully look into your legal options.