Wikipedia states “Cabin Fever is an idiomatic term … for a claustrophobic reaction that takes place when a person or group is isolated and/or shut in a small space, with nothing to do for an extended period. Cabin fever describes the extreme irritability and restlessness a person may feel in these situations.”… When experiencing cabin fever, a person may tend to sleep, have distrust of anyone they are with, and an urge to go outside even in the rain, snow, dark or hail.”
Most of us confined to a wheelchair experience this phenomenon more often than we like throughout any normal year. If you are a quadriplegic, as I am, the impact of cabin fever is ever present. Even when we can get out that in itself can be dangerous and the situation can be compounded by precipitation and changing temperatures. Quadriplegics’ bodies are unable to regulate the body temperature so not only is the cold a confining time but so is the hot weather. Not only does our body temperature rise and fall placing us in danger of Autonomic Dyslexia, an immediate life threatening emergency, but we don’t realize it when it is happening. The result of these conditions is being “trapped in doors” far more often than most people would imagine.
Combating this occurrence while sounding simple is more difficult than one would think. Wikipedia recommends: “One therapy for cabin fever may be as simple as getting out and interacting with nature. Research has proven that even brief interactions with nature can promote improved cognitive functioning and overall well-being.”
Prior to my accident I was extremely active. Spring, summer and fall I was usually outside biking, running, kayaking, gardening, hiking or hunting. Winters were spent cross-country and downhill skiing, snowshoeing and the like. I knew my adjustment to being a quadriplegic was going to be extremely difficult, having to adjust not only to the limiting nature of the wheelchair but also prolonged periods of time indoors. Living in northern New York and wanting to spend as much time as possible outdoors was going to cause quite a dilemma for me. My desire to get out does not mean going to the mall or spending a lot of time with groups of people. At the beginning, additional restrictions were placed on me by the limitations of my “standard” power wheelchair which made off-road travel close to impossible. This problem was solved in early 2002 when I purchased my Extreme 4 x 4, which is a four-wheel-drive wheelchair and allows greater access to a variety of areas which are off-road including winter travel as long as the snow isn’t too deep.
Over the last 14 years I tried to spend my indoor confinement in a productive manner. Much of that time I’m on the computer, my wife calls me a “mouse potato” and she is right. During this time, I have developed my website Handihelp.net, my blog and also continue to contribute to the forums I have on several other websites specializing in information for the disabled community. I also work on my homemade adaptations and applications I hope will help others.