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When it comes to big life changes, few things can be as shocking and difficult to get used to as having a spinal injury. Adjusting to your new situation when you’re still going through rehabilitation in hospital is one thing – people are usually around to assist you, there are tests and sessions and therapists to get through and often friends or family hovering around to keep you company. The hospital buildings are usually accessible, which makes it easy to take getting around easily for granted. It’s like a whole other world within that spinal unit. When you come home, though, that can be something else entirely.

When I first came home after my stay in the spinal unit, my first feeling was relief. It was so nice to be in my own space, to get out of the rigmarole of the hospital. Friends and family were around for the first little while and for the most part I was just very happy to be home. But when family goes back to work, and friends can’t come by as often, the real challenge sets in. That’s the challenge of getting used to life with a spinal injury, to facing yourself and the decisions you’ll need to make about where your life goes from here.

Those first few weeks getting used to being on my own, to being in the wheelchair I would rely on for the rest of my life, was a very challenging experience. I’d lost the physical side of things but mentally I was as active as ever, and having to work out how to live a full and happy life in these new and strange circumstances. I had wonderful family around for emotional support but deciding where to go from here was all on me. The reality of my situation started to sink in.

I got frustrated. I felt isolated and scared – I won’t lie, suicide was in my thoughts as well. But I am grateful for my personal belief in God. For myself, my faith helped me work through these feelings and gave me something to hold onto – it was simultaneously a thing that gave me escapism and a thing that gave me the courage to deal with things in my everyday life. I am lucky to have this faith, and to have a great deal of hope in the future, though not everyone does. Things may be dark today, but finding that one thing to keep you going and to inspire you for the future is very important. You must find a way to live and find the thing that keeps you going, whether it is faith, or a personal goal, or just a lot of self-determination.

For myself, I would not be here today without my faith in God. That belief and focus kept me going through some very dark times, and gave me the courage to pursue my life with renewed strength. Having something to fall back on in hard times is vital and only you can work out what that is, but that journey of self-discovery doesn’t have to be a lonely one. Next time, I will be talking about the struggles that I faced in making and keeping relationships with my family and loved ones strong, and what helped me to maintain my marriage, juggle family and handle everyday life.

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