By Melodie Veldhuizen
A disability affects one’s mental and emotional wellbeing, especially if the disability was caused by an accident or disease later in life and whether one needs to adapt to this great change. Suddenly losing one’s sight, hearing or mobility is an enormous loss and must be handled as such.
Factors that could have a negative effect on one’s emotional wellbeing
As a disabled person you may feel it more intensely because you find it difficult or virtually impossible to attend social functions. You don’t want to be a nuisance to other people and therefore rather stay at home than depending on other people. Many places are in any case inaccessible to disabled people. When you do attend functions, you are often referred to in the third person by, for instance, your consort being asked: “What will he drink?”
- Lack of job opportunities
Legislation lays down a minimum percentage for the employment of disabled people by the state and private companies. And yet it is often still a challenge to get a job due to the nature of the disability and the job description. Perhaps you feel inferior because you are of no value to other people in the work situation.
Unemployment means no income. Medication, aids and regular medical examinations or the employment of a carer is financially challenging.
The community often uses disability as a criterion for exckusion from circles of friends or social events.
- Discontent with disability
You have problems accepting the unavoidable finality of your disability. You experience trauma, dejection, anxiety, denial, inner anger and anger towards other people or circumstances that caused the disability. This makes it difficult to handle the new reality successfully.
How does one become and stay emotionally healthy?
There are ways of staying emotionally healthy and to avoid your diability and accompanying challenges from causing depression.
Give yourself enough time to work through all the negative emotions and mourn your loss. You do not only lose your hearing, sight or mobility. It also involves the loss of presumed self-value, self-confidence, self-mage and dreams and plans for the future. Eventually acceptance will take the place of all these negative emotions. The acceptance process is slow and negative emortions and thoughts may stll surface.
- Make piece with your new reality and find ways to make life easier for yourself
A gap develops between what you could do previously and what you can and want to do now. The secret is to narrow this gap. Your new reality asks for a new attitude towards life and renewed planning for the future. Continually moping about the past or worrying about the future will only make you depressed. Focus on the present and on what you can still do and try to make the best of the present situation. With creativity, dedication and a willingness to do things differently, you can lessen the impact of your disability on your life. Develop new skills and use all aids at your disposal to continue doing what you could do before, but only in a different way. Set yourself realistic targets and be patient with yourself. Each step forward means progress. You can be happy again in your “broken” body and create a new life for yourself.
- Accept other people’s help and support
Perhaps you feel that nobody understands what you feel. It lets you feel lonely and makes you want to withdraw from society. And in addition you are too proud to accept help or ask for it. Remember, accepting help does not make you a weakling. Most people like to help and this does not necessarily mean that they feel sorry for you. Meaning something to you makes them feel good. Keep in contact with family and friends and nurture these relationships. Quality time with people who care helps you to stay positive. Sometimes you need a shoulder to cry on, sometimes just an ear willing to listen. Sometimes the help is of a more practical nature and sometimes you need people with whom you can enjoy life and who allow you to be yourself. Join a support group for people with a disability similar to yours. In this way you can also be of value to other people and this fights loneliness.
- Do things you enjoy and that gives meaning to your life
Perhaps your life feels meaningless, especially if you can no longer practise the same profession or hobbies as previously. You begin to wonder who you really are, whether you can still mean something to somebody and where you fit into society. Become involved in things that make you feel good about yourself. Offer your services as a volunteer to any organisation for which you have a passion but do not necessarily have to be mobile. Tackle a new hobby or do something you have always enjoyed, now perhaps only in a different way. Do something for somebody in return for help he or she gave you by utilising your skills. Or simply be there if somebody wants to talk to you – It is not only disabled people who experience challenges.
- Take care of your physical appearance and wellbeing
Even though your body may be “broken” in some way by your disability, it still deserves the best care, physically and emotionally. Do not neglect your outward appearance. Regular exercise reduces anxiety, tension and depression and improves your sleeping pattern. It also boosts your self-confidence. Eat healthy, drink lots of water and get enough sleep. Recreational techniques could help to relieve tension and lighten your state of mind.
Remember, your humanity is not determined by your disability. You can mean just as much to other people as they mean to you.
Beyond Blue. https://www.beyondblue.org.au/personal-best/pillar/in-focus/looking-after-your-mental-health-while-living-with-a-disability
Disabled World. https://www.disabled-world.com/disability/coping-disability-illness.php
Help Guide. https://www.helpguide.org/articles/healthy-living/living-well-with-a-disability.htm