Body Image After Spinal Cord Injury

11.4.2016

There’s no doubt that an injury can change perceptions about so many things. One perception that Georgina’s injury changed for her was her body image. Georgina became a T3 paraplegic following a blood clot on her spinal cord, and the effects that paralysis have had on her body have forced her to change the way she looks at herself.

“Body image is how you see, think and feel about the way you look, and also how others perceive you,” says Georgina. She says there is often an ideal imposed by societal expectations on how a woman should look, and “post-SCI, perceptions of my body image changed, with the knowledge that my new body shape (which included the wheelchair) was even further away from the 'ideal.'”

Initially following her injury, Georgina says she felt she was only half the woman she used to be. She would hide her thin legs by wearing pants. She was also very self-conscious of her leg bag – another reason for wearing pants over skirts.

But time has begun to change the way Georgina thinks about and looks at herself.

“I have learned to look at the things I do have control over and concentrate on improving them. I would say to myself, 'how can I make my ‘living half’ be twice as good?'”

Now, her once “flabby arms” are toned and lean. She works them out both at the gym and by pushing her wheelchair. She’s also started to make healthier choices in the food she eats, and that change has had a positive effect on her life. “Not only does it make me feel great but I am also stronger and leaner, which helps to relieve the stress on the shoulders – especially for transfers,” she shares.

And while Georgina admits that things like a stranger’s stare or catching a reflection of herself in a shop window can sometimes cause self doubt to creep in on her self image, ultimately, she has learned to look at her new body through a new mindset.

“It has taken a few years, but I have accepted my new half paralysed body and so have my family and friends – and that is what is most important to me.”

How has your body image changed following your injury or diagnosis? Share your thoughts with us, and you could be featured on AbleThrive.

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