They are immune to anxiety and depression, suicide and cancer. How preposterous does that sound?! Yet for years, social norms have almost encouraged guys to neglect their health.
To mark Movember, which aims to promote men’s health issues, we’ve asked our allied health assistant and ‘manbassador’ Hayden for an insight into his experience after a vehicle accident threatened to leave him wheelchair bound. He is testament to the strength in vulnerability and accepting support.
“I tried to make hospital as fun as possible and was often laughing. Crying, in my mind, meant I was weak. The morning was always a struggle. I had to be fed, lifted out of bed, wheeled to the toilet and shower, wheeled back to be lifted in and dressed. I had no control and no way to help. For toileting you get put on a commode and left over the toilet for about 20 minutes. I dreaded this time, left alone with my thoughts. In this time, I would think about just giving up. The thought of living with symptoms such as bed wetting and a left hand that hardly functioned made me feel like I was fighting a losing battle.
“I didn’t realise then that I didn’t possess the skills to deal with what I was going through. During my long recovery, my mental health suffered and I struggled with substance abuse, which was a desperate attempt to cope. I still suffer with anxiety and have worked with a psychologist to help overcome the trauma. But I also now have a fulfilling career, a wonderful family and a rigorous fitness routine. I now see vulnerability and humanness as virtues and strengths. It’s okay to struggle and to ask for, and accept, help.”
To coincide with Mental Health Month, we are delving into the very real and personal psychological challenges people face during recovery from a major accident or injury. Many of these challenges are also reported by those living with long-term disabilities. We asked former Soaring Health client-turned-allied health assistant Hayden to share his story of a life-changing road accident, from the challenges of maintaining hope and overcoming frustration during rehabilitation to channelling his experience into helping others and realising passions and potential he mightn’t have considered before the accident.
Often, the first major challenge is coming to terms with the event, from the initial shock and emotional chaos of sustaining major injuries and diagnosis of medical issues, to enduring an uncertain prognosis and considering its sudden impact on daily life and life plans. This may include making sense of what happened and why it occurred.
Accessing and utilising supports.
It is important to make the most of available support resources, from medical personnel and allied health practitioners to mental health professionals, family, friends and community supports. An all-in-one allied health service provider with integrated treatments and collaborative practitioners, from physios to occupational therapists and psychologists, may help a person to feel supported and ensure that treatment is as effective and efficient as possible.
It can be difficult to maintain optimism in the face of frustrations or setbacks. Perhaps it feels as though you may as well give up. It can be useful to shift your focus from these frustrations and work to adjust expectations and set new goals, both in the context of your current condition and in the case of the best possible outcome. (This may include harnessing your competitive or stubborn spirit and committing to ‘beating’ limitations.)
Strive to allow yourself to feel the breadth of emotions accompanying your injury or accident and compassionately accept that these are natural responses to unexpected life-changing events beyond your control. This may include grieving your pre-accident abilities and letting psychological processes run their course. It’s okay to feel sad or that your situation is unfair.
To support resilience, as recovery progresses or capacity improves, it is important to start integrating the experience into your life narrative -- especially when you are no longer a ‘patient’. It can help to become curious and excited about new aspirations brought about by your experience (e.g. a career change to health to help others facing challenges similar to your own). Integrating your experience into your continuous identity and returning to things you used to do within the context of your condition (e.g. attending social drinks with a mobility aid) may also promote resilience.