Body image after a spinal cord injury

25th July 2017
Posted in Blog
25th July 2017 geri

Body image after a spinal cord injury

One of the hardest things for me to cope with when I first became a wheelchair user was my change in body image. I had always been a very athletic, health conscious person and I struggled with how I viewed my new physical self. I think that personal body image has a very important social value for women, with many females being particularly vulnerable to perceptions of their body and physical appearance. Nights out were extremely difficult; especially when a certain DJ stopped the music on a Saturday night in a busy, conventional nightclub to congratulate “the girl in the wheelchair for getting out on the dance floor”. I’ve also had people describe my chair and myself as a “buggy” and a “cripple” respectively. Although these comments often come from ignorance, sometimes they can affect body image and self-esteem.

Pre-spinal cord injury self

Pre-spinal cord injury self

Some people with physical disabilities or differences may feel they are not seen for their true selves because of their bodies and what they can and can’t do. A negative self image feeds into low self-esteem and how much you feel you are worth and valued; A downhill spiral of depression and addiction can ensue.

Physical changes that occur after an SCI combined with trying to establish a new role in society means it can be tempting to compare ourselves with others. We might start to compare ourselves media images (“ideals” that are frequently airbrushed and not realistic).  Let’s face it, everyone (even the most perfect-seeming celeb) has things that they can’t change and need to accept about themselves — like their height or their shoe size for example. I began to appreciate that each person is more than just how he or she looks on any given day. We’re complex and constantly changing. I learned to focus on what’s unique and interesting about myself and tried not to visualize the disability but rather the person instead. I quickly realised that you can possess heart, passion, power and patience irrespective of whether you have the full use of your body or not.

Self post injury

Self post injury


Comments (19)

  1. James

    Hi Geri you do not have to prove to anyone your body image .your a lady .no one knows the pain and tasks you have to go through everyday .we take everything for granted. I think your great the way you have fought this and kept positive and your a beautiful girl allways with a nice smile even though you may hurt inside..Geraldine we love you .keep up the good work

  2. Paula tuohy

    Ger i am a neighbour of your aunt breege tully. I habe to say you are a very strong exceptional woman. You are to be admired as to how you have dealt with the hand of cards you have been dealt with. I love reading your blog and i look forward to it. Keep it up. Best wishes for a brilliant future. Paula xxxx

  3. Marian

    Hello Geraldine as always so good to read your thoughts and feeling this time on body image, as I read it I’m aware that it not only is particular to people with sci but also to every woman and to many men too. What a joy it is to read your view and experience and a real gift to others who are struggling with self esteem issues regardless of the reasons underneath.
    May you be well Marian

  4. Joe Black

    This was really a great read Geri. As a T12 complete paraplegic I can definitely relate.

  5. Hi Geri I read your story and i’m very impressed at all your accomplishments. I like am in a wheelchair but for me have Multiple Sclerosis. Regardless we have had to over come many of the same feelings. A big one for me was and is independence. I am the creator of the Handi Pac by Advanced Freedom. I’d love to have your opinion on this as I am in the prototype/testing phase. My website is and I look forward to hearing your thoghts. Louise Sertsis

    • geri

      I like your Handi Pac idea..its really practical and great idea making it water proof. Hope it takes off for you. Are they available to buy?

      • They aren’t for sale as of yet,however on the website you can leave your email so I will inform you when the Handi Pac is ready. I’ve already used water resistant material. Hopefully it will be ready for purchase at the end of November.

  6. Geri, who cares what people say that’s negative. You are a beautiful and gorgeous woman. I have a friend wheelchair bound 45yrs. He is no less a friend today then he was back then. We may have gotten a little grayer.Continue inspiring people with your work ethic and you will accomplish many great strides forward regarding people with disabilities. I too am disabled.

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