Recognizing Limb Loss Depression
It is vitally important to recognize and acknowledge that you are grieving. Losing a limb is losing a part of yourself in more than just the physical sense. Our limbs allow us to explore and interact with the environment around us, and their loss is an irreversible change to how we see ourselves and our place in the world.
The loss of a limb is more than losing an easy way to move and walk, but the ability to take a dog for a mountain hike, dance to your favorite song, or paint the sunset. You lose access to something that brought you joy.
Depression can be one of the most complex stages of grief to move on from. Amputees may notice a few regular signs of depression that are difficult to ward off.
Signs and symptoms of depression include:
- Extreme loss of appetite or weight gain
- Trouble concentrating, remembering things, and lethargy
- Change in sleeping habits - sleeping more or less on either extreme
- Loss of interest in activities like hobbies, sports, or sex
- Social withdrawal from friends and family
- Feelings of guilt, hopelessness, or emptiness
- Angry outbursts, irritability, or frustration over small things
Many amputees and limb loss survivors experience depression and grief. Having these feelings doesn’t make you weak. They are a natural reaction to significant loss of any kind.
Your situation will get better in time. If you experience symptoms of depression for a prolonged time, or have thoughts of self-harm, please seek a medical professional's help.
Coping With Limb Loss Grief
The emotional and physical recovery from loss is never easy. No one has the same history or support framework to make a simple solution. It takes time and effort to cope with and overcome the loss of a limb. If you have noticed symptoms in yourself, try a few suggestions for helping overcome depression.
No one recovers the same, so if something doesn’t work, don’t give up, try another method. No one gets better overnight. It will be a series of small steps towards being whole again. And no one should cope alone. Allow friends and family to help where possible, and know support groups and trained medical professionals can help.
1. Addressing the Physical
Though it may not feel like it at first, one of the simplest steps is to keep a routine for your day. Get out of bed, get dressed, and get out of the house if you can manage it. Even a brief walk to the mailbox, around the backyard, or a trip to a local shop or cafe can give you a sense of normalcy and accomplishment.
Include a focus on your diet and exercise in your daily routine. You don’t need to alter either greatly from before the limb loss occurred. But focus on healthy options that you like and avoid sweets, as the crash can push you further into depression.
Gentle movement and breath exercise can help relax muscles and decrease the real physical pain you might be experiencing.
2. Emotional and Mental Support
Communicate to those around you and yourself. Speak honestly to friends and family about what you are experiencing.
They want to help but might not know how to give you the help you need while fostering your independence. If you find it difficult to speak to people close to you personally, reach out to a support group. You are truly not alone.
Sometimes what we feel is hard to express in words. If talking or writing down how you feel seems insurmountable, find other ways to express yourself and your emotions.
Meditation can bring a sense of calm and balance. Creating something can give you a way to vent negative feelings safely. Your art doesn’t have to be good or skilled; it just needs to externalize how you feel.
Getting discouraged is natural. When you feel you aren’t improving, look back to where you started. Odds are you have come further than you realize. Don’t let your desire to be fully recovered overwhelm your work.
Revel in the small victories along the way.
3. Find Purpose
Everyone measures themselves against having a purpose or definable worth to society. It helps define who we are, and losing a limb should not change that. It can be as simple as going back to work, getting involved at your church, or as life-changing as returning to school for an entirely new career.
Find a goal or cause that you can focus on and involve yourself. Keep the same dreams you had before but start with small successes to build your independence. Creating new traditions and memories can give hope for the present and future. Remember, you are still here, and you have time.
Orthopedic Appliances and Prosthetics
Part of getting back your physical sense of self might include using a prosthetic. Prosthetic limbs not only help aid what you are physically capable of but might help you feel less conscious in public about your appearance. Prosthetics take time and practice to master, but they can help get you out into the world again and help overcome social anxiety.
The Orthopedic Appliance Company offers the highest quality bracing and artificial limbs across Western North Carolina, Upstate South Carolina, Eastern Tennessee, and North Georgia. We specialize in restoring mobility and independence to individuals facing the absence of a limb with comprehensive prosthetic services.
If you have any questions about our services or need to set up an appointment, contact us online or call.