How to Cope with a Sudden Disability

How to Cope with a Sudden Disability

If you have recently become disabled, you may be going through many challenges as you come to terms with your new condition. While you can’t change what has happened, you can choose how you live with it. Here are some suggestions to help you cope:

Allow yourself to grieve. Seek the professional help of a psychologist, counsellor or social worker to help you navigate through the emotional upheaval that your disability may have caused.

Stay in the present. It’s inevitable that you may have regrets about the past and fears about the future, but remind yourself that that kind of stress and worry will do nothing to change your current reality, except make it more miserable. Take it one day at a time.

Eliminate stress. If you were a busy, active person prior to your disability, you may have a hard time accepting that your abilities and energy levels have changed. You may have to reduce your commitments and responsibilities in order to strike a new balance that brings harmony to your life. Remember that saying no to people or walking away from pastimes you once loved does not mean you have failed; it means that you are brave enough to examine what serves you today and what you need to let go of.

Develop a support network. Some people are fortunate to have family or friends who are loving, trustworthy and helpful in times of need. If you don’t have someone like this in your life, it is vital to find a support group. Support groups are made up of people with common experiences who can not only sympathize with you, they can also relate to you and remind you that you are not alone. Support groups are also great places to learn about helpful medical treatments, resources and financial bursaries that may be available to you.

Be kind to yourself. Practice positive self-talk. Congratulate yourself on your successes. Pamper yourself whenever you can. If you have certain activities that make you feel safe, calm and relaxed, try to incorporate them into your daily routine.

Be kind to others. Being faced with illness or disability can make some people uncomfortable, and it’s safe to say that not everyone handles it well. Do yourself a favour and expect that interactions with family, friends, colleagues and strangers may be challenging, at first. Give them the benefit of the doubt if they do or say something to offend you. After all, they are learning to cope with your disability just as you are. Open, honest communication will help you and your loved ones get over this hurdle. On the other hand, if you are experiencing verbal or physical abuse, stand up for yourself and seek help to be removed from that situation.

Find a new purpose. If your disability has stopped you from working, your sense of self may have shifted greatly; after all, for better or worse, our society places a great emphasis on employment and professional status. Do look for a new reason to wake up in the morning, no matter how small it may seem at first. A good book, a crossword, an arts and crafts project, a movie, bird watching, painting, volunteer work; if it makes you smile and feel productive again, you are on the right track.

Don’t delay in accessing all resources and financial supports available to you. Whether it’s through the government, your employee group benefits plan or your private insurance policy, make the necessary applications for assistance as soon as you are eligible (guidelines vary depending on the source.) Many individuals will put this critical task on the back-burner because they may have trouble accepting that their life has changed, and they may have to live with their disability on a long-term basis or forever. Don’t deplete your savings or put your assets at risk. You have nothing to lose by applying for benefits and services. They are there to help you keep up with your financial responsibilities and maintain your lifestyle so that you can focus on your health.

Do you have tips that have helped you or someone you know cope with a sudden illness or disability? Share them here.

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