Guest Post from Heather
When I was first drafting my “Ways to Survive Disability” I sent a copy to my friend Heather in Canada. We have in fact never met, but know each other through family connections. Instead of amending what I had written Heather, with her different take on life, came up with these words of wisdom. I am honoured that she has allowed me to share them.
Heather Morgan lives with her husband and teenage children in Canada, where she writes, coaches and looks for joy in the everyday. She has lived with disability in herself and her children her whole life, and recently joined the ranks of wheelchair users everywhere. Heather now blogs at: amoveablemorgan.
1. Find ways to (re)connect. Friends and family are important to everyone, but when disability strikes it can make it difficult sometimes to connect in the ways you are used to. This in turn can lead to feelings of isolation and increase issues with depression. This can be particularly difficult if your disability affects your energy levels, but finding new and creative ways to connect becomes really important at this point, for you and those who care about you. My husband and I have always enjoyed being outdoors and exercising together, but that’s almost impossible for me now on my own steam. However, he found a charity that offers special running strollers for adults with a disability to use in road races. So in May, he and I will be out racing a 10k race together.
2. Be willing to try old things in new ways. For example, I used to love cooking, and now energy is at a premium, so I don’t get to do much cooking anymore. But I’m discovering how much I still enjoy putting salads together for lunch for the family, even if it’s out of a kit from the store.
3. Find ways to nurture gratitude. There are a lot of new frustrations available for the newly disabled. If you’re anything like me you may have never noticed just how inaccessible the area you live is before now. Not to mention all the things you never had to think twice about doing that are now challenging or even out of the question. But it turns out that cultivating gratitude in the midst of this space can be really helpful for our mental health. I’m back at it again after a brief lapse, and am trying to look for at least three things a day to be grateful for, which I then write down in a journal before I head to bed.
4. Practice being honest. I don’t just mean about whether you ate the last cookie or invited your partner’s family over next Tuesday. I mean practice being honest about yourself – with yourself and others. Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve never been particularly honest with myself about how my body was feeling. Tired? It didn’t matter, I still had things to do. Sore? That wasn’t going to get the dinner cooked. Hungry? Thirsty? I’ll get to that as soon as I can. But now not only is it important that I’m honest with myself about how I’m feeling and what I need, I also have to learn to be honest with those around me.
5. You are not your disability. When we first get diagnosed with a disability it can rapidly become all we think about, and all we spend our time on. That’s ok for a time, but before too long you’re going to want to remind yourself of who you are. Although “what you did” may or may not be available for you to do anymore, depending on the nature of your disability, “who you are” – your values, your passions – those will always be with you. Finding ways to be “you” on a daily or weekly basis will go a long way to helping you make the transition to your new way of life.