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It’s never easy to adapt to life with a disability, but there are ways to help you cope with disabilities, resolve obstacles and develop a life of reward.

Making some changes

It can be a difficult transition to adapt to the life with disability. We always seem to take for granted our wellbeing, until it is gone. It’s all too easy then to be obsess about what we have lost. But while you can’t go back to a happier you or take your disabilities removed in time, you can change the way you think about your handicap and deal with it. You still have power of your own life! There are many ways in which you can boost your freedom, sense of pride and perspective. Despite your illness, overcoming the obstacles you face and living a full — and fulfilling — life is entirely possible.

Most of us expect long and safe lives. And it can cause a variety of disturbing feelings and fears when you’re affected by a debilitating illness or injury. You may wonder how you can function, find, sustain a relationship or even be happy again. Yet though it’s not easy to live with a disability it doesn’t have to be a disaster. And you’re not alone on that. Millions of people have walked this journey before you (the CDC reports that one in five Americans is handicapped) and found ways not only to survive but to succeed. You can too

Accepting your disability

Your condition can be extremely hard to embrace. Acceptance may sound like giving in on life and your future — throwing in the towel. But failing to acknowledge the truth of your limitations will keep you trapped. It stops you from going forward, making the necessary improvements and seeking new goals.

Give yourself time to mourn. You first need to grieve before you can acknowledge your disability. You sustained a huge loss. Not just the loss of your healthy, limitless body but also the loss of at least some of your future plans.

Don’t hide your emotions or deny them. It’s only natural to avoid pain, but just as you’re not going to get over an accident by ignoring it, you can’t get through grief without making yourself feel it and coping with it actively. Allow yourself to experience your emotions to the full without judgment.

You’re currently going through an emotional roller coaster — from rage and sorrow to denial. It would be perfectly natural. And the ride, like a roller coaster, is unpredictable, and full of ups and downs. Only trust that the lows will get less frequent with time and you’ll start to find your new normal.

You don’t have to put your face on a happy one. Living with a disability is not an easy learning experience. Getting bad days does not mean that you are neither brave nor strong. And to pretend that you’re all right, when you’re not, doesn’t help anyone — at least your family and friends. Let the people you believe in feel like you really are. It benefits both you and them.

Find ways to minimize the impact of your disability on your life

Needless to say, your disability has already changed your life in many ways. Living in denial over this doesn’t help. You have limits which make things harder. But with commitment, creativity and willingness to do things differently, you can reduce the impact that your disability has on your life.

Be your own defender. Navigate the complexities of living with a disability, both at work and in the health care system, you are your own best advocate. Knowledge is power so inform yourself on your rights and opportunities. You’ll also start feeling less powerless and more motivated when you take control.

Take advantage of the things that you can do. Although you may not be able to change your condition, finding and adopting whatever innovative technology and resources are available will reduce its effect on your everyday life. Whether you need a tool like a prosthodontic, a white cane, or a wheelchair to make things simpler, use it. Seek to let go of some shame or stigma-fear. You’re not defined by the aids you use.

Seek help and support

It is easy to feel utterly confused and lonely when you are dealing with a disability. You may be tempted to hide and separate yourself from others. But staying connected to others will make a difference in your mood and outlook.

Tips for finding help and support

Nurture main relationships in your life. Now more than ever, it’s important to stay connected. Spending time with friends and family will help you stay optimistic, safe and hopeful. You may need a shoulder to cry on occasionally, or someone to cool down. But don’t ignore the importance of keeping your disability aside from time to time and just having fun.

Join the disability support group. Participating in a community group for people coping with similar struggles is one of the best ways to overcome depression and isolation. You will quickly realize that you’re not alone. It is just this understanding that goes a long way. You’re also going to benefit from the group’s collective wisdom. Community groups are a perfect place for discussing challenges, ideas and opportunities.

Think of talking to a mental health professional. Having someone to talk to about what you’re going through can make a big difference. Although loved ones may provide great help in this way, you may want to consider talking to a therapist as well. The right therapist will help you navigate the transitions, work through your sadness, and reframe your perspective more optimistic, more objectively.

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