There are times in life when everything changes. The world you once knew, how things always were, has suddenly flipped– and you can barely understand the circumstances you’re now living in. There are many catalysts for this kind of change; the end of a relationship, the passing of a loved one, and thousands of other moments when the world as you know it is no longer recognizable.
One of the most transformative moments a person can experienced is disability; and particularly, the sudden change from standard life as an non-disabled person into the onset of a disability. Not all disabilities are experienced from birth; many people find themselves having lived a completely non-disabled life for years, suddenly having to adapt to a change in circumstances that alters everything. Chronic illness and injury can arrive at any time, regardless of where you are at in your life– and adjusting to this can be incredibly difficult.
If you find yourself, or someone you love, going through this scenario, then the coping mechanisms you will require cannot be transcribed into a single blog post. However, the general themes and areas you will want to focus on can be, hopefully allowing you to begin to piece together how your life is now going to be. Here’s an idea, based on the direct experience of those who have gone through the same huge change, of things you need to explore:
1) Remember your life isn’t over
The non-disabled world is often unfair in how it treats those with disabilities. One of the ways that the world tends to deal with disabilities is to transform them from something difficult, something that people have to battle with daily, and make them “inspirational”. The problem with the inspiration label has been well-discussed over recent years, yet it’s something that persists throughout society.
The problem with this trend towards the inspirational focus, for a newly disabled person, is that they suddenly realize that life with a disability is hard. It’s not all about “fighting through” and “showing incredible spirit”– there are daily battles that have to be fought, and won, every single day. When confronted with the stark reality of life with a disability, many newly-disabled people suffer through a period of depression, based around the expectation that their life is going to be nothing but impossibly hard from here on out.
So, all sounds pretty bleak so far, doesn’t it? Here’s the good news: there’s never been a better time in history to be a disabled person. Although there are still many miles to go in terms of integrating disabilities into society as a whole, there’s also a huge amount of innovation that can help people with disabilities live a fulfilling, wonderful life. From huge changes such as research into pioneering treatments to simple things such as how Advantage Mobility Outfitters can transform a standard SUV to be wheelchair-friendly– there’s constant thought, development, and focus on making life better for those with disabilities. So your life isn’t over; it’s changed, and it might be different from what you imagined for yourself, but there’s millions of people around the world working on adaptations and changes designed to ensure that your life is as enriched as any non-disabled person’s.
2) Connect with others who have disabilities
Being the only person with disabilities in your social circle can feel extremely isolating. Even if your friends and family do all they can to make you feel included and content, there will still be moments when you feel they just don’t get it. The people around you can be compassionate, wonderful, and loving, but they can’t truly empathize with what you’re experiencing.
Other people with disabilities can, though. The internet has opened up the world to people with disabilities, allowing for deep connections with people who are experiencing the same kind of issues as you and can truly empathize with your situation. Facebook groups can be a wonderful way of connecting with others who have disabilities, as can other online communities.
As well as the sense of connection with those who truly understand your new reality, you can also use these forums to pick up advice and guidance on negotiating a number of different tasks. These forums offer a wealth of information from which someone who is newly-disabled can truly benefit, allowing you to learn both practical and emotional coping skills and strategies for your new life. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or ask for recommendations; people want to be able to help, and share their own experience to help ease the experience of others in a similar situation.
3) Don’t beat yourself up about negative feelings
Everyone wants to think they’re a good person; to show the best of themselves at all times. However, when you find yourself newly-disabled, there’s a very strong chance you’ll experience a number of negative emotions and thoughts.
These will center around the simple concept: “why me?”. You may find yourself wondering why you have to experience such a huge change to your life; wonder why it could not have happened to others. These thoughts can bring on no small emotional pain, as you worry if you have suddenly become mean-spirited and bitter.
You haven’t; you’re just going through a process of coping with your new normal. It’s completely inevitable that you will struggle with feelings of resentment during this time– and potentially even for years to come. You’re not a terrible person; you’re just trying to process a radical change in your life, and that will bring moments when you think things you’re not particularly proud of yourself for. It happens; so be easy on yourself when these thoughts do cross your mind. It’s completely normal.
Finding yourself having to adjust your life to a newfound disability is difficult, stressful, isolating, and many other decidedly not-great things– but it’s also the dawn of a new chapter in your life. If you keep the above factors in mind, then hopefully, you’ll be able to find peace and happiness in your life as it is now.