When a part of your body is lost, it's normal to go through a grieving process. You may experience anger, denial, bargaining, or depression on your way to acceptance of your altered body. Emotional recovery, like physical recovery, is a process that takes time, but depression can take over if it goes unaddressed too long. If you're feeling depressed, do you know what to do?
Recognize the Signs of Depression
You may be depressed if you're experiencing some combo of the following:
- Loss of appetite or changes in eating patterns
- Lack of energy
- Trouble sleeping or sleeping more than usual
- Poor concentration
- A loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy
- A loss of interest in sex
- Social withdrawal
- Feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, or inappropriate guilt
- Emotions that are flat – expressed robotically rather than with feeling
What You Can Do
Many people experience depression, not just amputees. But since your mental health is intertwined with physical recovery, you should take extra care to manage your condition.
Be gentle with yourself while you work towards total wellness.
There isn't an instant cure for depression and it can feel endless when lethargy takes over, making even simple things suddenly seem difficult. That's why it's important to view getting well as a journey of gradual steps. Set attainable goals each week, and try doing at least one thing a day to reach that goal.
Be committed to working with the medical staff, physicians, nurses, occupational and physical therapists, and prosthetists that want to help you -- even when you don’t want to.
From time to time, feelings of hopelessness might make you question whether the effort is worth it, but have perspective: working hard now will pay off later.
Take care of your body.
Eat healthy, sleep well, and exercise regularly to boost your mood and feel your best. Investing in your physical health will give you a sense of control and make it easier for your mind to follow suit.
Learn to redefine yourself.
Although a part of you is altered or physically gone, the core of who you are is still the same. Now's a good time to make some new goals and objectives for the future, and to create a new definition of success. Start small, create new rituals, discover new interests, and make new memories. This will help you to be hopeful about the present and future.
Try not to isolate or withdraw from people.
It’s helpful to remember that everyone struggles with feelings like these at one time or another. Accepting your feelings and opening up about them with someone you trust will help you feel less alone. Talk to your people about what you're going through. Talking about your loss and sharing your grief is an important part of your healing and adjustment processes.
Contact a support group.
These feelings will lessen over time, but for now, get support! Whether you reach out to an individual or a local amputee support group, you and the people close to you will benefit from the support, knowledge, and experience of someone who's already been through it. If there isn’t a support group in your area, the Amputee Coalition can provide info and help.
Don't see seeking help from a professional as a sign of weakness.
If the depression is overwhelming and you aren't taking any significant steps towards your goal you should think about seeing a mental health professional for evaluation (and medication if necessary). Your local mental health office can give you information on financial resources for mental health care.
You may be a recent amputee in the depression phase of your grieving process and on your way to acceptance, or maybe you accepted your amputation long ago and have already moved forward. Adjusting to your new ability is part of the recovery process, but your physical experience doesn't have to define who you are.