Traumatic experiences that leave you injured can disrupt your life in major ways. While severe injuries can limit your mobility and ability to work, they can also affect your emotional wellbeing. For instance, it’s easy to become bitter after becoming permanently disabled from a car accident. 

When a car accident creates painful or inconvenient physical limitations, bitterness is an understandable response. However, remaining bitter will hurt you in the long run. Psychologists agree that persistent bitterness can lead to feeling hostile and those feelings can affect your physical health. 

Dr. Carsten Wrosch PhD, says, “Bitterness may forecast patterns of biological dysregulation (a physiological impairment that can affect metabolism, immune response or organ function) and physical disease.”

When you’re already struggling with your injuries or are facing long-term disability, you can’t afford more physical problems. Here are several ways to avoid being consumed by bitterness:

1. Don’t let your circumstances define your life

After a serious accident, there will be a distinction between your pre-accident life and your post-accident life. Both lives will look very different, but don’t let your new circumstances define your entire life.

We don’t have control over what happens to us, but we can control the way we respond to our life events. Instead of sinking too deeply into the story that you’ve been hurt, create a powerful story that gives your life new meaning and purpose. Some people start a YouTube channel after a serious injury to speak to others who can relate. Others write books or launch blogs. 

It’s impossible to remain bitter while focusing on helping and being a contribution to others.

2. Allow yourself to feel angry

There’s nothing wrong with feeling angry about your situation. It doesn’t help to suppress your emotions. If you’re angry about what happened to you, allow yourself to feel that anger fully. Resisting your true feelings will make you feel worse and those feelings will come out later, when you least expect it.

If your injuries were caused when someone else broke the law, your anger is justified. For instance, in states like Maryland where it’s illegal to text and drive, people frequently ignore the law. Texting and driving causes fatal accidents. If you escaped with injuries, you have every good reason to be angry with the driver who caused the accident. 

The key to avoiding bitterness is allowing yourself to feel your anger but not be consumed by it. Scream, cry, yell, vent to your friends, and file a lawsuit to pursue justice. Exhaust your feelings (without causing harm to anyone else) instead of allowing those feelings to build up.

3. Avoid thinking things should be different and pursue the therapy you need

After a life-changing injury, it’s easy to get stuck in the mindset that the accident shouldn’t have happened and you shouldn’t be struggling right now. However, dwelling on what should have or could have been different, won’t change your situation. 

Staying in the world of “could have, would have, should have” makes it harder to pursue therapies designed to help you function better. For instance, say you can’t walk without support and just want your old life back. That’s completely understandable, yet the more you think about how you should be able to walk, the more bitter you’ll become over your new reality. If you become too bitter you’ll reject the help you need, reasoning that you shouldn’t need therapy in the first place. 

On the other hand, when you accept your current situation as your new reality, you’ll constantly be looking for ways to improve your life. You’ll be excited and hopeful to proceed with therapies and you’ll get better results from your participation.

4. Pursue legal justice

Medical bills pile up quickly and you don’t want to pay out of pocket. One week in the hospital could cost you $60,000 or more, depending on what procedures were done. The bills won’t stop after you’re released from the hospital. You’ll have medication, follow-up doctor appointments, more tests, and possibly long-term therapy.

Don’t let anyone off the hook for your injuries. Pursue justice as quickly as possible. If you want your bills covered, don’t accept a settlement offer from an insurance company without talking to a lawyer. If your injuries are severe, you’re probably better off filing a lawsuit to recover a higher amount of compensation. Between medical bills, therapies, and time off work, you’ll need as much compensation as you can get.

Choose to leave bitterness behind

Leaving bitterness behind is a choice. Life after an accident is hard, but take it one day at a time. Make a conscious choice each day to not fall into bitterness and life will gradually get better.