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Depression after Spinal Cord Injury

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    Depression after Spinal Cord Injury

    At the request of Peterf, I am starting a sticky thread on Depression after spinal cord injury. To kick of the discussion, I thought that perhaps a poll would be reasonable.

    No, I was not depressed and never took medication.
    Yes, I was mildly depressed and took short-term anti-depression medicaation.
    Yes, I was depressed and took long-term anti-depression drugs medication
    Yes, I was depressed but never took anti-depressant medication.

    I would answer "I was mildly depressed but never took medication" for my own history. One of life's little mercies, as I remember them back then, was that the things one could no longer do were not all noticed at once. Sure, sure, the big ones like walking and such were instantly absorbed by the brain, but there were moments when my brain seemed to block such information and it was not till I was actually at my first softball game post SCI did it really hit me that I would never be playing again. That sort of slow recognition happened over and over again for me at the beginning, which either means I was a little dumb or my mind was protecting myself from the total reality, and only releasing it in bits and pieces to be dealt with as they came up.


      I was not depressed, but I was afraid. I did not understand what was going on and nobody told me anything and I cried in my bed at the hospital and at rehab every night. Later I was only happy I was so incomplete and I wanted to do exactly the same things that my friends. Didn't work of course but still.

      The second time, when the aging started, I was afraid again and angry because nobody did believe me and nobody understood what was going on. I was very angry for some years. The doctors gave me all kinds of antidepressions but they did not work. I was still angry and afraid until I got the answer and an explaination and I understood what was going on. Thank you, Wise

      And when I say angry, I was not angry on anybody or behaved bad, I was only very angry inside. I can still be angry, but that is because I am bored of the whole thing.

      So, I have never been depressed but have taken a lot of different antidepressent medication, but not for years.
      T 12, 43 years post


        I got situationally depressed a few times, but a good cry usually took care of it. When they told me at the hospital that I had a complete injury at T3, an intern in a chair gave me the advice to concentrate on all of the things that I would still be able to do and not allow the small percentage of things I had lost to rule my life. That helped a lot.
        Don - Grad Student Emeritus
        T3 ASIA A 28 years post injury


          I was really depressed while still in Orlando Regional Medical Center while still in ICU or in a regular hospital room..........I cried every night and thought life was over. My cousin swears I told him (while on a morphine drip in ICU) that if I couldnt walk again that I didnt want to live. I dont remember that.

          Once I got to rehab, I was fine. I had excellent therapists that let me know right quick that life was not over and that I could do about anything I did before (besides the obvious things of course) I was paralyzed.

          In 2003, 10 years after my accident, I lost my dad and got REALLY depressed. Not only was he my dad but also my best friend. I took an antidpressant for a little while. Effexor.


            Started to take long term mild anti-depressant in 2003 (10mg ratio-citalopram so half a pill) but I went 18yrs without.

            I was numb for most of my teenage years and intro-verted believe it or not ... total opposite once I got out on my own at 18.
            Roses are red. Tacos are enjoyable. Don't blame immigrants, because you're unemployable.

            T-11 Flaccid Paraplegic due to TM July 1985 @ age 12


              I went 15 years without major depression and now I do take anti-depressants. Central Pain is a factor though.

              I also think that I go through stages of depression as I age and each set back I have.
              T12-L2; Burst fracture L1: Incomplete walking with AFO's and cane since 1989

              My goal in life is to be as good of a person my dog already thinks I am. ~Author Unknown


                I still take the drugs since another condition broke through with all of the spare time I suddenly had. I have severe PTSD and the time spent doing nothing but healing, being sick and getting more surgeries let my brain go haywire as my defenses were down from not eating and being in terrible pain.

                As a result of the PTSD, I then felt more defective and worthless and so on and so on into the whirlpool getting sucked down the drain to put it melodramatically as I look back on it now. I was bloody suicidal. A person cannot suddenly lose everything and including their livelihood without feeling some despair, but I knew mine was off the charts. I tried medication on and off over the years, but none of the normal stuff seemed to make a dent in the underlying depression I have felt since the 1970's. When I lost it all I was at the end of my rope and was lucky enough to find a doctor through the VA that finally found the right combination of drugs that worked for me. I am not over the moon happy all of the time, but for the first time in almost forty years I can deal with upsets without thinking of suicide all of the time. I take a very low dose of two things, but that death wish is gone from my "normal" (it was for me anyway) thought that dragged me down every day.

                Drugs for depression can be a godsend. It took many years to find what would work for me and if it is really necessary for someone else to take them I hope they find the right drug or combination that works for them. It can help. It gave me hope to go on and got rid of the awful destructive mantra that my brain was shouting at me all day long. It shuts off the noise so I can hear other things and new things that call to me now. My newest grandson, my quilting and machine embroidery hobbies, photography and reading. Things that were impossible for me to do before I could control the depression. Things I had no interest in before the drugs enabled me to go on.

                I know that there are people here who feel that drugging for depression is not a good thing, but for some of us it is the only thing.
                Anything worth doing, is worth doing to excess


                  Peter wrote to me, and we've been corresponding. This is a touchy subject for me, because I think oftentimes depression is misdiagnosed (by medical doctors- not in the psychiatric field) and all too often people are labeled as being depressed by unqualified people and often end up taking tons of unnecessary medication. Here's the gist of my responses (which I think can apply to many people):

                  Look, THIS life, with paralysis is a hard life. There's not many people that can truly understand what you're going through. People that were born with disabilities will never know what it's like to have lost all that we were fortunate enough to once have. Able bodied people (even those closest to us) will never fully know the hell we go through every day. You are justified in wanting a normal life. It's not crazy to want to swim, run, have sex, or do simple things (like wiping your own ass). No one knows exactly how it feels to be in your shoes, or the extent of what you've lost. AB friends and family mean well, but they'll never know how impossibly hard it is to have to adjust to an ENTIRELY new life (and to be a different person) overnight. It's not right & not fair that all doctors can do is patch us up, and say "deal with it." If most people really knew how hard life after a spinal cord injury could be, they wouldn't be so quick to judge, or dish out empty advice.

                  The people here on CC all handle paralysis differently, but in general we understand one another better than most people. I think it's good to be able to vent & to get feedback from other ppl who have been through similar experiences. People on CC might not always agree with what you have to say, but so what? Like you said, we're nothing more than virtual neighbors. Try & let the negativity or judgement roll off you & just pay attention to the people that DO get you.

                  I get annoyed when people on here (especially people that have been injured for decades) start to get all "preachy" or seem cold, or indifferent. I try not to take any feedack personally, because only you know what's best for you (and vice versa). I take comfort in the ppl that say, they feel the same way as I do. It sucks to know other ppl are out there struggling to move forward after their SCI as much as I am, but it also gives me validation & that I'm not alone.

                  You're not alone either (for what it's worth). I can't offer you much wisdom (in terms of coping), but I do think it's helpful to vent. You're not crazy, depressed or negative for wanting better for yourself; for wanting what you had. I miss my old life too. I try my best to get through one day at a time. One day I might decide I've had enough, and that'll be my right. In the meantime I'm sharing my story & hoping someone's out there listening.

                  I think a lot of people (in general) take honesty as being "negative." I don't think it's always the case. While some people in the CC community might very well suffer from depression, or anxiety related to their injuries, I think that people are too quick to jump to conclusions and label everything as "depression" when it is not always the case. Just because you (or I) might feel unsatisfied or unhappy with paralysis, it doesn't mean you (or I) are necessarily depressed.

                  There are a lot of things about life after a spinal cord injury that suck and that are forced upon on, by our limitations. I don't think it's negative, or wrong to be honest and say "this sucks," or "I hate this." In fact, I would argue that anyone who just accepts such a drastic, life altering change, without complaint or resistance is probably more mentally unstable, than those of us that are disturbed and bothered by all the loss & lack of freedoms that paralysis imposes on us. I think a lot of people don't like to hear the truth, because it's not pleasant, but there are many aspects of living with paralysis that are abnormal. I think you (and I) are justified by being bothered, or upset by the quality of life paralysis forces onto us.

                  I'd say, if you think you are truly depressed, and your issues are not founded on logical, rational reasons, then you should definitely seek professional help. I recently got a psychiatric evaluation done (I wanted to be declared mentally competent & have in in writing). I also wanted to rule out medication side effects, and depression. My psychiatrist said I'm most certainly mentally competent, with no active signs of any mental illness (including depression). She actually took me off the anti-depressant Pristiq I had been taking, and now I only rely on Remeron & Xananx at bedtime, to help with my insomnia. My issues with being unhappy, or unsatisfied with THIS life (being totally paralyzed) are matters of personal conviction. I feel that my life is being sustained through unnatural means (catheter, bowel program, medication, help from others to bathe, dress & eat). I consider this lifestyle to be a very low quality of life. No pill, or amount of therapy will ever change that.

                  I'm within my rights to determine what lengths I'm willing to go to, to keep extending my life. That doesn't mean I'm depressed. Not wanting to live THIS way doesn't mean I'm depressed. It all boils down to your personal standards, threshold for physical pain & discomfort and what you deem to be a quality life worth living. By all means, start a group. I think there are people who could benefit from it. However, I'd caution everyone to seek professional advice first.

                  It's easy for strangers (especially able bodied people) to dismiss your genuine concerns and valid, rational issues by calling you depressed. Often times, I think outsiders (even some medical doctors & nurses - not psychologists or psychiatrists) to use depression as a bandaid, or scapegoat. They can't fix the real problem (the paralysis) so they want to sugarcoat things, stick you on meds and take the focus off the root of the problem, because they are helpless to help you.

                  Anyway, I wish everyone luck & hope they find the help they need.
                  - Chrissy
                  Last edited by tskushi26; 18 Jul 2011, 10:52 PM.


                    I was depressed, and still am depressed thanks to worsening pains and other issues. Antidepressants have been tried, to no avail.

                    Proofread carefully to see if you any words out.


                      I did not have depression or take any meds. I did have some moments of rage at the sheer timing of it all. A slight change and I wouldn't have been in the wrong place at the wrong time.


                        Yes, but I have struggled with chronic depression since my early teens, long before my injury (and in fact is the cause of my injury). I know where my depression stems from and it is not a matter of chemical imbalance. I therefore choose to forego medication. After my sci I was told I would never walk again and my simple response was, "Okay". No tears, no self pity. Just life. Personally, I don't see how it's possible to be fully aware of your surroundings and the state that we all are in as a global unit and not be at least somewhat depressed. My depression is rooted in my own past, but it extends far beyond and encompasses much more than this tiny, fleeting little existence that is me.
                        Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known. - Carl Sagan

                        How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world. - Anne Frank


                          Still take them, but I think I'm through the worst of it. But I don't want to stop them just in case...


                            Six months post. This is about as much recovery as you will get, the rehab doc. told me. I don't believe him. But still it leaves out walking and building and lets down a lot of people who were counting on me. People I build for and my wife, for an income. I'm sure you all can relate to the sadness of watching ones large well develop muscles turn into skin and bones Trying very hard to stay positive. But in the background of my brain, there is this voice crying out shit I'm depressed. But I try not to listen, and keep positive. It helps being on CC. reading about every one Else's lives. Its very true about realizing daily more things one can not do, and weekly more things one can do. Every one says at least your alive, but I do not find as much comfort out of that as I should. No antidepressants so far. But the sun is out and its a beautiful day.
                            T12L1 Incomplete Still here This is the place to be 58 years old


                              I answered A) but I take absolutly no credit.

                              For some reason those demons never came knocking at my door. I cannot take credit for a war that I never had to fight.
                              I cannot claim victory over something that never wanted to fight me.

                              For whatever reason, I accepted what had happened to me right about the time it happened. This was probably because:
                              - I did this to myself, so no recrimination etc
                              - I always knew racing motorcycles was like playing with fire

                              Other factors:
                              - Loving family
                              - Loving girlfriend who became wife
                              - new loving step-children
                              - employer who continued to provide employment
                              - no lack of $
                              - no lack of health insurance
                              - no pain
                              - otherwise healthy
                              - at 34 was not too young and not too old
                              - some (limited) return
                              - sense of humor

                              Actually, when I read the list above, I'd be a fool to feel down on myself...... it makes me realize just how lucky I still am.

                              I think if I started losing any of those factors on that list, then life would be progressively tougher. And who knows whats in my future??? I got alot still to lose.

                              If I had no family, suffered pain, had no job and struggled with bills.......then those demons would be banging down my door day and (especially) night.

                              For all those who have my sincere sympathies. It ain't your fault; perhaps it's simply how long your list isn't.
                              Last edited by MarkB701; 21 Jul 2011, 5:02 PM.