21 Oct 2016, 5:06pm
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Disability

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Disability can be visited upon you suddenly and shockingly, as in the case of victims who survive a shooting or bombing, or accident victims of all types. Those who serve in the military continually put themselves at risk for disability and, sadly, with modern weaponry, it is all too common for them to have to face enormous physical changes and challenges.

Disability can also creep up on you, in expected and unexpected ways. In my own case, diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis at age 32, I could perhaps have expected eventual disability. With nutrition, exercise, attitude, and family support, I managed to function much as a healthy person until my 25th year with MS. Now in my 33nd year post diagnosis, I have learned to live well as a significantly disabled person.

“My advice to other disabled people would be, concentrate on things your disability doesn’t prevent you doing well, and don’t regret the things it interferes with. Don’t be disabled in spirit as well as physically.” – Stephen Hawking

 

There are many factors that figure into whether or not an individual is able to “live well” with the significant challenges of disability.  I consider attitude the principal quality that’s essential to crafting a life that is as close to what one would want as a non-disabled person. Focusing on what you are able to do, as the above quote advises, is crucial to not getting discouraged and feeling helpless A support system is the next key factor, and this must be carefully built-up by the disabled person as the folks you need will not automatically be present and available. You need to actively seek help (see Healing Links). If you do have a support system in place, you still must ask for what you need. A common misconception is thinking that people don’t care when what’s really going on is that they don’t know what it’s like to be you. They don’t know what you need, unless you tell them.

There is a fine line between being articulate about your disability and being a victim of it. Remember that “you have it, it doesn’t have you”. One way to walk this line well is to make use of adaptive devices. This allows people to see your efforts to maintain your independence and functionality, as well as helping you to feel included in activities enjoyed  by your neighbors, friends, and family. While your challenges will always be an issue for you, you might be surprised how often your disability is a non-issue for others when they see you acting with courage and perserverance on a daily basis.

 

santa monica

 

Disability is often a private struggle. It may be difficult to get in and out of bed, put on your clothing and footwear, prepare your meals, even chew and swallow. You may be at risk for falling, due to issues of sight, balance, coordination, or a host of other factors. Accepting this, you do your best to protect yourself. If you do take a tumble.you seek the best help in healing.

Simplifying your life, without sacrificing quality, is a crucial element in living with disability. An example of this in my life is travel, which my spouse and I love and do often. Because I travel with a mobility scooter, I have learned, whether it’s a weekend or a month-long trip, to share one 22″ duffle with my husband. I can live from 1/2 a suitcase in order to make all transitions (planes, trains, cabs, rental cars) easier for both of us. I can manage a small backpack with personal items on the scooter. The point is you have to decide what your priority is, in my case not giving up travel, and do what it takes to make that possible.

Another priority for me is movement. I have had to let some beloved sports go (tennis, skiing) but others I have made a part of my regular routine (swimming, yoga, Pilates, bicycling). In the case of cycling, which I never want to give up, I now use a motorized trike, and self power it for exercise when I feel strong enough.

Bicycling

Whether you are disabled yourself, or live with someone who struggles with limitations, I encourage you to imagine the best you and the best life you can despite those limitations. Carry On!

 

 


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