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Bouncing Back After Injury or Loss

Recovery from depression

Into every life, a little rain will fall. However, what happens if you—or a loved one—are hit by the psychological equivalent of a tornado? Toronto Canada psychologist, Sam Klarreich Ph.D., describes a case of a young woman who thought her life was over after a life-altering accident. She changed her thinking. She turned her life around. See how.

If you, or someone that you love, had a life altering accident or suffers from chronic pain, leading a relatively normal life can prove highly challenging. Jane’s case is inspiring. This seriously injured person suffered from permanent, immobilizing nerve damage and ongoing pain. She put rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT) principles to work for her with magnificent results.

Jane’s Story

Jane is a productive, energetic, socially active, independently minded, athletic person with a loving husband and two great children. She has a satisfying career where people looked to her for leadership. Many admire her self-confidence and tenacity. She loves to travel to new and interesting places with her family.

Suddenly, Jane had a very serious skiing accident. After numerous surgeries, therapies and medications, the medical experts inform her that the nerves on one side were permanently severed and that she will no longer have the use of her right arm and leg.

Jane’s independent life style is stripped. She has a permanent care-giver; she is severely limited in what she can do and how long she can do it. Her confidence has turned to fear. Her carefree lifestyle has turned to a cautious and tenuous fight for security which regularly evades her. Her career is on hold. Her marriage is strained. She feels alone and isolated.

A powerful, negative, reaction after a trauma of this nature is very common. After months of stumbling through her accident recovery, and with the consuming and overwhelming thought of never being able to use her right side again, Jane experienced a severe reactive depression.

Jane, and millions of others like her, can get past a serious handicap and mood disorder to go on to lead meaningful lives. However, this transformation typically comes about from doing considerable work, tenaciously persisting with rehabilitative efforts, and refusing to let limitations destroy your life. This is a formula for building resilience. However, this process could be especially challenging when you feel highly anxious and depressed following trauma.

It’s no revelation to know that pain and depression is unhealthy and debilitating. This joint condition interferes with the healing process and makes recovery and the use of those working limbs most difficult.

What did Jane tell herself about her limitations that could have contributed to her depression?

Jane’s accident was tragic. Unintentionally, she made a bad situation worse by catastrophizing about it. Jane told herself the following: “this should not have happened to me; I hate myself this way; my career is ruined; my marriage will never be the same; I’m a pain in the ass to everyone in my life; there is no point in going on”! With the underlying belief that life has no right to treat her this way, Jane remained depressed and curl up in her corner.

Like all of us, Jane has choices in life even with her limitations. From a REBT perspective, Jane can choose to think differently and act differently. I’m not talking about positive thinking and reflection, but profound logical and realistic thinking. This is the kind of thinking that promotes a healthier outlook. This outlook sets the stage for a healthier approach for loving and living!

Jane has the ability, as all of us do, to face up to tough realities and to challenge herself to think more reasonably and to engage life to the best of her ability. Through using REBT, Jane gradually and grimly accepted these transformational beliefs: 1. “This accident has happened to me through no fault of my own. 2. I am not the only one who has experienced a severe trauma and not the only one on the planet with limitations. 3. I refuse to let this ruin my life. 4. I will work hard at restoring my career, my marriage and my friendships. 5. I will look for new ways to make a meaningful contribution to my community in spite of my limitations.”

With this type of thinking and psychological commitment, Jane set about restoring her emotional health and discovered the resources that she thought she lost.

Jane proceeded with physiotherapy and strengthened her working limbs. She had her office at work and space at home altered to accommodate to her limitations. She sought out athletic endeavors that she could do. Swimming was a win! She volunteered to assist others who are going through similar experiences with their losses. She wrote articles about her experiences to help others with their recovery. As she actively engaged what she found meaningful, her pain faded into the background of her thoughts. With time, healing, and good medical attention, she no longer suffers from chronic pain.

Jane first moved at a sluggish pace. Gradually, she came out of her corner. It took about six months to break the bonds of her defeatist views and depression. Now her kids have her back. Her relationship with her husband is as good as the best of times. Aside from a depressed day, here and there, Jane is largely free of her psychological handicaps.

Dr. Ellis’s profound principles and practices are shining reminders of what we can do with our lives in spite of our limitations, whatever they might be!

(I am proud to say that Dr. Ellis was a powerful influence in my life. He was my mentor. He made it abundantly clear to me that you had better practice what you preach otherwise don’t preach it. Dr. Albert Ellis, one of the most influential and renown psychologists of our times, was a prolific writer with about 80 books and over 700 professional articles to his credit. He is best known for developing and evolving Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy. Among his many writings, one stands out for me: Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy: It Works for Me, It Can Work for You. In this book, Ellis candidly discusses his own physical limitations and how by applying the principles and practices of REBT, he overcame major restrictions. He has the credibility to write on this topic.)

This blog is part of the Pioneer of the Mind series to celebrate the contributions of Albert Ellis, the founder of rational emotive behavioral therapy and the grandfather of cognitive-behavior therapy.

Albert Ellis Revisited (Carlson & Knaus 2013) is the Albert Ellis Tribute Book Series centennial book. The publisher, Routledge, offers a 20% discount on the book. Control click on this link: Albert Ellis Revisited. Type the code Ellis for the discount. The book qualifies for free shipping and handling. Bill Knaus’ royalties from this book go directly to the Denan Project charity. When you buy the book, you are helping yourself by learning ways to live life fully, and you are helping bring irrigation, crops, and health care to destitute areas of the world.

For more information on rational emotive behavior therapy, click on Albert Ellis’ official website: Albert Ellis Network: http://rebtnetwork.org/

Special to this blog, Transformations PhotoArt image by Dale Jarvis, AreaOne Art & Design, Fayetteville NC.

© Dr. Sam Klarreich. President of the Centre for Rational-Emotive Therapy, Toronto Canada; President of the Berkeley Centre for Effectiveness, Toronto Canada. Author: Pressure Proofing.Co-author Fearless Job Hunting.

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