Life After Therapy

We at STEPS for Recovery believe that you should do therapy to live life, rather than living your life to do therapy. 

 The truth is… true recovery only begins when you start living life with your injury, rather than allowing you injury to define who you are.

 Integrating your strength and mobility gains into regular life is really the true “fruit” of progress.

 This Next STEP Session was facilitated by Bryn Kennedy, DPT with a panel of stroke and SCI survivors:  Tonia M (s/p SCI),  Jason U (s/p SCI), and Paul F (s/p CVA with right hemiplegia) who responded to the following questions:

How have you adjusted to life after injury?

“It has helped me to seek out “normal” things that I did before my injury and challenge myself to find a way to do them again (even if this means doing them in a new way). “

“I have learned to never say, ‘ I can’t.’  I am determined to think outside of the box and keep focused on my goals. “

“I have learned to be patient with myself and others.  I have learned that asking for help is NOT a sign of weakness, but rather a way of building community, educating others and advocating for my needs.

“I am very thankful for my friends and family that have encouraged me along the way. Without them, I would not be where I am today.  “

What would you share with someone who is feeling overwhelmed by the journey of recovery that they are currently on?  (For example…Progress is slow,  I am still working on the same thing,  I don’t see progress every day)

 “You can make a photo journal or write down milestones on a calendar.  This allows you to go back and see progress over time.  It is often easier to see progress when you look back over a month or two vs. a week or two. “

“"I kept a blog to keep friends and family updated on my progress when I was in the hospital.  It was helpful then to keep people informed. But it is also helpful now, looking back , I am able to see the tremendous progress I have made.  “

“Give yourself grace and try to take things one day at a time.  “

“Ask questions of others who have gone through this before. Figure out new ways to do things that you and your friends/ spouse enjoy – travel? Camp?  Fish? Exercise?  Golf?”

When we have life changing injuries like brain injury, spinal injury and stroke, it is can be easy to become dependent on therapy as your lifeline…This can be very tightly connected with hope for full recovery and return to “Normal”.  

Try and remember 7 years post- injury will look way different than 2 years post injury. 

It can help to re-frame your thinking of “Normal” to “New normal”.  This does not mean you are giving up hope or giving up on your desire to be independent.  It means you are living in the moment each day and celebrating the new gains you make vs. living in a constant state of “not measuring up to the expectations or your past”. 

REMEMBER, You do not have to reach a certain level of recovery to live life.

 When did you know it was time to take a “break” from therapy?

“My therapist kicked me out and told me I had met my goals. I didn’t feel ready, but it forced me to figure out how to start living life. Once I started living life, I was able to see what I really could do and challenge myself to try things that I hadn’t before. This actually, opened the door to a whole new set of goals for me and helped me to start to gain confidence in my abilities.“

“When I met my goals, I knew there was nothing more that my therapist could do for me, that I could not do for myself. I was scared, but I was ready to try to make it on my own.”

“Once, life seemed to get too busy for me to make time to do my exercises and my home program, I knew that I was ready put therapy on the back burner. It can be scary, but it can also be so much fun to have the freedom to practice what you have learned.”

It is part of our job (as PT,OT and ST) to give you education, confidence and opportunities to resume your life roles.  Exercise will always be a vital part of maintaining gains and making further progress.

 What has been the key to your success?

“Integrating back into community life is really important. If you can find a way to help people, volunteer, become a mentor, join a support network. I feel like that gave me purpose, OR at least it gave purpose to my injury, and it felt good too. ”

 “It helped me to orient exercise into things I enjoy (hiking, handcycling, golf, exercise at gym) “


What were some of your biggest obstacles along the way?

“Overcoming my fear of the floor.”

“Getting over asking for help.  People are often just waiting for an opportunity to help you.  I look at it as a way of making new friends.”

“Staying Motivated especially when I don’t have anyone to workout with or anyone expecting me to show up and exercise. “