Even though disabilities are complex, the following proven Disability Strategies can help you adjust to a disability. They are not a “cure all”, but they can make life much easier. Making the right choices, armed with information and helpful resources, a good support system, and positive outlook, you may be able to find ways to turn negatives into positives. You cannot always choose what happens to you, but you can choose how you see things. You can choose to move forward with whatever resources and abilities you have.
If a disability begins before, during, or after birth, adjustment is different than it is for a disability that happens later in life. If you were born with a disability, you learned to cope with limitations from the beginning. You may not see the limitations as a loss of something that you had before. If your disability is sudden and abrupt, and you lose the ability to do things you were able to do before the trauma, or look differently than you did before, adjustment is more difficult. You need to learn to Disability Strategies to help you adjust to your new circumstances, learn coping skills to move forward, and find a satisfying new life. If you are in midlife, adjustment may be more difficult.
Be patient with yourself and others around you, this is new to you and to them, as well. Find someone who will listen to you tell, and retell what you experienced and how you feel. Find medical, mental health, rehabilitation, and financial resources to help cope with limitations facing you. Strengthen, build, or rebuild a strong support system made up of people who accept you unconditionally.
You can expect to go through several stages as you adjust to a disability. You will primarily be in one stage or another, and you will move back and forth from one to another stage. Be prepared for many changes. Shock, denial, anger, bargaining, grief, mourning, depression (anger focused inward), acceptance, and adjustment are normal reactions to a traumatic event. It is normal to ask, “why me?” following trauma. That is part of the shock reaction. Traumatic events often cause thoughts of self-injury. If you see signs of distress, seek help immediately. If you focus on your disability and losses, that indicates a problem. Detaching from friends and family is another sign of distress. Difficulty in decision-making, or inability to decide, indicates distress. Use of drugs or alcohol to alter your state of consciousness is another sign of distress.
Trauma and disability bring feelings of loss of power and control, resulting in anger. Angry people often want to retaliate against the source of their anger. They may react towards others with anger, hostility, bitterness, resentment, and passive aggression toward people and circumstances in life. Becoming skeptical, not being willing to accept changes, and being opinionated are attempts to gain power and control. To say that it is difficult having a disability is an understatement. It can also be very difficult working with anyone who is angry, hostile and rebellious, verbally or physically aggressive. Counselors can help by teaching anger management skills, relaxation techniques, give hope, encouragement, and support using proven Disability Strategies.
The best predictor of future behavior is past history. A person, who was positive before a disability, will probably find positive ways to cope with a disability. A physical or cognitive disability added to life makes all other areas of life more difficult. If a sense of value, worth and self-esteem comes from appearance and ability, it is more difficult to adjust to a disability and loss of capability. A less severe disability or disfigurement is more traumatic to a person with narcissistic personality tendencies. Depression before a disability creates more difficulty, adjusting to disability. Focus on abilities; positive character and personality traits help adjustment.
What appears to be a benefit can often prevent or interfere with adjustment and rehabilitation. Disincentives to recovery may be expecting financial compensation, being “excused” from housework or work responsibilities, attention from family and friends, anxiety reducing or euphoria producing medication, and having others do things that the person is capable of doing for him or herself.
Hopefully, the Disability Strategies you have just read will help you navigate the complexities of disability and adjustment to it. You can move forward knowing that you are valuable. You can make positive choices for your life focusing on abilities.
“Ann D. White, M.A., CRC, BCCC June, 2008”