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Taboo Topic: Injury Level Envy and Jealousy

WAGSofSCIWAGSofSCI Moderator Posts: 384 Moderator
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Hello All! Its Brooke again  <3

I wanted to bring up a taboo topic that doesn't really ever get talked about in our community  - that is....envy and jealousy when it comes to other injuries. I may get some flack for talking about this, but I truly do not mean to be offensive or triggering. I am just being real about something I know is thought about a lot, especially (and maybe only) by quadriplegics who are not independent. My goal by writing about this is to be able to relate to someone out there who may feel these feelings, and feel guilty about them or who is struggling to come to terms with their lack of independence and the way they deal with it may include being envious of others. I want them to know they are not alone. 

Being the wife of a quad, I know that I am guilty of thinking at times "if only he was a para instead of a quad.. he would have so much more freedom." I then stop myself because not only can we not change the past or his injury level, but thinking this way is NOT helpful to anyone including myself. In fact, if I don't stop myself, I drive myself crazy. I immediately think about how perspective is everything, and my envy may not be someone else's envy. My husband has said similar things. "If only I was a para I would be doing this, and that" etc. He mostly has said these things when talking about how much I have do help him.. he feels bad and wishes that he could do more. He stops himself and says he has to force himself to not think like that because both types of injuries have their own unique struggles, and its all about perspective.  I always say "coulda woulda shoulda" back to him. The fact is, this injury IS what you make it.. you can have a good attitude or you can have a bad one, at the end of the day its a choice. 

Thinking thoughts about who is worse off, who can do something better, or who has less of a struggle with independence can eat at your brain, especially in the first little while of a new injury. You constantly are looking for mental games for yourself to get you into a more positive headspace. When my husband was newly injured he would be very envious of the paraplegics in rehab because of their use of their hands. He would talk to some of them about that, and the paras would respond with sympathy instead of taking offence, and say things like "i'm so sorry I cannot imagine not being able to use my hands.." He realized very soon afterward that thinking about this made him feel terrible.. but the thoughts still crept into his mind from time to time, especially when he was feeling low. 

For ALL people with Spinal Cord Injuries, the complications, setbacks and health issues that arise from paralysis and secondary conditions affect us all in very similar ways. We ALL have to be mindful and all face challenges that come with paralysis on a daily basis... it doesn't matter what level or classification you are. We are ALL in this together as a community.  Comparisons wont do anything but set you back mentally, but that doesnt mean that they dont happen.

The reality is - everyone on here can probably say they're guilty of feeling envy toward others who, in THEIR perspective, are "better off" than them or can do something better than them. Paras may be envious of other lower level injuries who can stand or walk; quads may be envious of other quads who can use their hands better or transfer alone.. it doesn't matter who you are, envy can overtake us all.

I think talking about these taboo things can help bring forth comfort and community. Knowing we all get these thoughts can make us feel more human, less isolated in our feelings, and more apt to bring awareness to the mental struggles everyone with an SCI goes through. It may also bring much needed change when it comes to the mental health resources and programs available to those who sustain spinal cord injuries and their partners.

Thank you for reading. I hope I can touch at least one person with this contribution. 

- Brooke 

Your WAGS of SCI
(Elena and Brooke)


  • ZcollieZcollie Moderator Posts: 239 Moderator
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    Hi Brooke,
    This post really hit home for me and I think it is so great you bringing this topic up. I am sure it is thought about a lot but not talked about enough. I can absolutely relate to everything you said, especially being a quad as well and seeing paras with their upper body and hands function has made me very envious in the past. 

    When I was first injured and as time went on, whenever I would see a para I would get jealous and think how good they have it. I would think how much easier and better my life would be if I could just have my hand function back. If only I could have the ability to transfer myself how much more independent I could be. At least they can dress themselves, cook their own food, wipe their own butts, fold clothes, etc.. My mind would get consumed thinking about everything they could do that I could not. I would get so angry at the fact that as bad as it was dealing with a SCI I was worse off than others. 

    As time went on my mentality changed and something that really helped me was when I saw others who were worse of than me. I would see others who could not move anything below their neck and I learned to be grateful for what I have. Like you said, you cant change the past and what happened to us. Our injury is what we make it. I know there are others out there who wish they had the function I have. I realize that in the SCI world there will always be others who have it better than we do and others who have it worse. I learned to be happy with what I have and not to dwell on everything I lost.

    After talking to paras over the years I learned that despite being a quad I still (personally) had functions or connects some paras did not. Being a C-4 quad for some reason I have crazy body spasms that have kept my body from atrophying over the years and that also means signals are still going throughout my body. A lot of paras do not have connection below their level of injury and have very bad atrophy in their legs. I have great feeling and sensation throughout my body, My sexual functions and organs still work, My bladder can pee on it own I just have to wear a condom cath, I am able to stand on my own with assistance and help. After I first thought about all of these things I realized I am not as bad off as I thought. 

    This injury is all about our perspective and how we choose to view things. Every injury is different and in the end we are all in this together. Thank you again for bringing this topic to light. 
    Accept what is, let go of what was, and have faith in what will be. -SONIA RICOTTI
  • WAGSofSCIWAGSofSCI Moderator Posts: 384 Moderator
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     Thank you for your reply! I agree 1000% perspective is everything. I love your advice - gratitude is a clear way to move your mind forward and help you to have a healthier mindset. So much is possible when you're grateful. :) My husband is a similar injury level to yours and he is very grateful for his health and the ability he does have. He is grateful for his bladder, how he can go #2 without the use of any laxatives or pills, and he is 100% Pharma free. Most cannot say this, so he is grateful for these things. It's amazing how your attitude changes from the beginning of this injury to a few years in. What you are grateful for changes, and you are more thankful for the smaller things that you can do or have.. it definitely makes you appreciate the ACTUAL important things in life more... LOVE, life and the ability to think and use your brain. - Brooke 
    Your WAGS of SCI
    (Elena and Brooke)
  • BrookeUBrookeU Moderator Posts: 176 Moderator
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    Thank you for talking about this. I agree that it seems taboo to have conversations about. My brother's level is C6/C7 complete, and he has repeatedly said how much easier his life would be if he had more control of his torso and better hand function. If I show him a cool person in the SCI community (on Instagram or wherever) and they're not a quad, he pretty much brushes it off because he doesn't think that they fully understand his experiences. If any quads have insight on how to manage this kind of envy, please share!
  • BrittanyFrankBrittanyFrank Moderator Posts: 65 Moderator
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    Oh this is so real and so educational to hear others perspectives. Every injury is different even with the same level of injury so it's so difficult to compare or relate to each other at times. I'm so glad someone brought this up. As an incomplete para, I've encountered feeling rejected and it seems because I have more function, especially when people learn I can walk with assistance. But my walking isn't realistic or long term and so what you see in therapy or in a picture of quick encounter is only a little piece of the puzzle. So just trying to remember we're all learning and adapting. And know that we also feel the comparison at time and a survivor's guilt when I meet or see others with less function. But it also makes me appreciate every little thing my body can do and makes me appreciate the simplicities that I forget. I'm constantly reminded of my my gratitude to pee because I know and remember what it was like and what it costs to cath. Finding things we can relate to one another rather than our differences is the best way to build friendships and connection because we all need each other and can support and learn from one another. 
  • WAGSofSCIWAGSofSCI Moderator Posts: 384 Moderator
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    @BrittanyFrank love this perspective. You're absolutely right - finding commonalities and connection regardless of the level of injury is so important. When you say "rejected" what do you mean by that? Would you be able to go into more detail? Im interested in your perspective and how people treat you and how it makes you feel - Brooke 
    Your WAGS of SCI
    (Elena and Brooke)
  • BrittanyFrankBrittanyFrank Moderator Posts: 65 Moderator
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    @WAGSofSCI I've just felt that once people know I can walk I feel as though they no longer see me as a part of the paralysis world. It's just my perception but I've noticed they seem to distance themselves more from me and don't engage in as meaningful conversation about paralysis. Where I still use my wheelchair 90% of the time, but in physical therapy we'd work on walking and that is what other patients saw. I just found other patients not wanting to converse with me as much. And I get it, I couldn't relate to everything they were experiencing, but I still had some of the same struggles with spasticity and more that I would have loved to connected, hear advice and suggestions.
  • ambercollieambercollie Moderator Posts: 137 Moderator
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    It’s interesting to me how after suffering a SCI injury that after a while it’s no longer only wanting to walk, like in the beginning that’s your main focus and your biggest loss. Later in injury you would gladly take things like bladder & bowel control a little wrist movement or to be able to sit up. Walking becomes over rated. Eye opening to see how perspectives change. 
    Not saying everyone no longer wants to walk of course they would. 
    SCI world is just different.
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