Independence Part 5: Coping with losing your independence when your sick or disabled

This is the final part of my series on independence, however when I started writing on the subject of Co-dependency I thought of another topic in relation to that, whether I will add it to this series or put it as part of another I don’t know yet, but for now this is the final part.

Some might think reading this that I have no authority to write about this particular subject after all there hasn’t been a time when I haven’t been disabled.  But I believe although I may not have the qualifications or expertise to write about this subject, I’ve had to learn to adapt to the world around me with the disabilities that I have, I’ve also seen others find it difficult to come to terms with their lack of independence.  I’ve had people comment how well I cope and I think if that is a lesson to people maybe I can give a few tips, maybe in their own minds if they see me manage they may be able to do so too.

I feel for those whose independence has been removed from them abruptly as a result of illness or disability the road is often much harder whereas someone who knows a condition they have is going to get worse is not a great thing to live with but at least you have more time to come to terms with it and better timing and resources at your disposal in order to prepare for the eventuality.

1     Acceptance

Much of the way to deal with losing your independence is down to our thinking.  Acceptance is the first step, accepting you now are disabled or sick is vital for you to progress forward, that doesn’t mean you should define yourself by your disability or sickness, or even have it as part of your identity.  That disability or sickness  doesn’t own you doesn’t belong to you but it is something you have to learn to live with. By the way when I say it doesn’t belong to you I mean you didn’t choose it.  You don’t have to let it control your life either.  But you do have to accept that it’s there that it does change your life that it does give you limitations.

2     Do get angry

It’s ok to be angry about this change to your life yes be angry that you no longer can walk the distance you used to, you can’t read the paper anymore, you can’t pick up the cup with your right hand without spilling the contents, that’s fine.  Yes be angry when people are being rude to you or ignore you and treat you like a second class citizen, but process that anger properly.  Vent your anger on your own  or share it with someone who would understand.  As time goes on you may find that the length of time you are angry about a situation is a little less each time as either you learn to adapt or you get a tougher skin round others who may be unpleasant or who lack compassion.

3     Be honest when your not coping

It’s normal to feel depressed too, understandably you may have been through a trauma before your sickness and disability and now your having to adjust not only what’s happened too you before this happened but now adjusting to the outcome.  Don’t hide the fact your struggling to come to terms with your disability or sickness, let someone know or speak to a counsellor about your fears, anger and tears,.  It’s not a shame to be sick or disabled but it is a shame to hide that pain away from those who care about you.  They may already know that your not coping and it may be a relief to them for you to share that with them.

4     Get all the help you can

Get all the support you need from healthcare/social services professionals and any charities related to your condition,  Find support groups where you can go to and obviously if your reading this there will be social media support groups linked to your condition.  There are benefits available for people who are sick or disabled, don’t be ashamed to take them .  The government has made provision for them,  undoubtedly you’ve paid your taxes or national insurance  in the event of this happening so you will be entitled to take them, these benefits will help you be more independent.  The money may pay for you to get a cleaner if you need one or a support worker, to help reading your mail or take you shopping  or a qualified carer to deal with your hygiene needs, to give that family member a break.

5    Get adaptations

There are plenty of adaptations available on the market these days, from large print clocks to specialist gardening equipment, which means you may still do the things you want to do with the right equipment.  I for instance have screen magnification software  on this laptop so I can read the print on the screen, I have speech if  I need it too, I can change the size of print, the size and shape of the cursor and even the contrast of colours  if need be.  Some adaptations can be got through social services such as a chair lift for the stairs, or a  hoist for a bed.  There numerous products out there that will make it easier for you or a family member to be more independent.

6     There is hope

Just because you are now sick or disabled it doesn’t mean that your life is over, for some your life may have just begun.  Don’t try and run before you can walk, pace yourself, laugh when things go wrong.  It is possible to work when you have a disability I worked for 13 years in a media business,  just be honest about your limitations and what you need and you should survive.  In order to work you may have to learn new skills, colleges and University’s should have support workers and adaptable equipment for courses.   You can still travel but you can book assistance you can get someone to help you on and off the train, they provide wheelchair assistance on and off trains.  If you can’t hear very well anymore you can get adaptable phones, so you can still communicate.  There are many people who have learnt to adapt to their particular illness or disability so can you, as long as you are patient with yourself in your progress you can learn to adapt, don’t compare yourself to others in their progress whether they are doing better than you or worse, don’t give up, when things are tough, just remember you are not alone, many HAVE been in your shoes before you and many will still in the future. There will be good days and bad, there will be days when you may take two steps forward and two steps back.  Count your blessings, you may not be able to speak the way you used to but you can still see and hear the people around you and hug those close to you.  Other parts of our bodies can do the things other parts can’t anymore but in a different way, there’s a lady who can paint with her feet.

I know this may not be a comprehensive response to cope with losing your independence, but my tips above are a starting point, if need be follow my blog, I have my good days and bad days too, it’s not a bed of roses being sick or disabled but there are plenty of things to laugh about.  I’ll end with a funny story.  One of my relatives had bought a motorbike, he took us to show us the bike in his garage, well I took a photograph and what I took was not of the motorbike but of the lawnmower! Bye for now 🙂

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