Adapting to Life With A New Disability

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A disability can happen suddenly, as with a car accident or other serious injury that results in paralysis, or it can come on gradually, due to many different types of diseases or congenital disabilities. When this happens, the impact on a person’s life and the lives of their loved ones can be devastating.  

Living with A Disability 

Most experts will tell you that when a disability occurs, either from an accident or from disease, most go through a “mourning period.” After all, they just lost their ability to get around – and this often results in a loss of independence. They experience intense periods of anger and grief and usually spend a lot of time dwelling on their situation. People must realize that it takes time to grieve, not knowing what the future may have in store, and it’s essential to take the time it requires to accept their disability to be able to move forward.   

Learn how to deal with anger constructively, and start learning breathing exercises that can help you to relax. Try waking up and going to sleep at regular times each day, and remember that it’s critically important for you to get enough rest. 

Many people who experience the onset of a disability describe going through a “roller coaster of emotions.” They go from crying uncontrollably one day and feeling sorry for themselves, to being positive and optimistic the next. The key is not to force an outward appearance of happiness to help others accept the disability. The sooner that people see that you’ve accepted your “new normal,” the better it is for you. If ever there was a time to focus on the present and not spend time thinking about the past or worrying what the future may have in store, this is it. 

Steps to Help Move Forward 

While you may not be able to undo a disability, there are steps you can take to minimize its disruption on yourself and those around you, while helping to regain your confidence and your sense of independence. Even though you’re facing a disability that will disrupt your routine, try to keep things as “normal” as possible.   

For example, don’t stop exercising! You may not hit the health club, but you can do exercises that can help provide energy and mitigate stiffness in your muscles. Exercise also helps to eliminate some of the stress in your life that is caused by having a disability. Talk to your healthcare provider and work with a physical therapist to develop a program that is appropriate for your specific disability. 

Living independently is another key to having a sense of self-worth and independence. After the acute phase of learning to live with your disability, begin looking into learning (or relearning) the skills needed to live independently. That includes shopping, cooking and other household tasks that most people take for granted. 

One of the most significant steps you can take is to continue working if possible, and if your job requires mobility that you no longer have due to your disability, then rethink your career plans and work toward a new career. Getting to work is one of the biggest hurdles, so consider investing in a handicap van. These mobility vehicles include a wheelchair ramp or power lift and other modifications that will give you the freedom to travel with limited mobility 

Be a part of your community. Join an online support group to get started, or talk with family members about helping you find the community resources needed to become active in the area where you live. Above all, stay healthy and remain as active as possible. Also, be sure to gain the knowledge and the tools needed to live as a full and rewarding life as possible.