Disability is an umbrella term, covering impairments, activity limitations and participation restrictions. An impairment is a problem in body function or structure. Disability is a complex phenomenon, reflecting an interaction between features of a person’s body and features of the society in which they live in.
There are many types of disabilities including physical and mental impairments that can hamper or reduce a person’s ability to carry out his day to day activities. Disability can be broken down into a number of categories, including:
- Mobility and physical impairments
- Spinal cord disability
- Head injuries – brain disability
- Vision disability
- Hearing disability
- Cognitive or learning disability
- Psychological disorder
- Invisible disabilities
How to live with disabilities
Having a disability, whether it is new or chronic can seem incredibly difficult. Society is set up so that it caters towards people who are not disabled, even though 20% of people around the world have disabilities.
Regardless of your location or lifestyle, you can make changes that make living with a disability easier and your life happier. By adjusting both emotionally and physically, you will be able to accept that your disability does not define you or restrict your ability to be comfortable or happy.
Adjusting to a disability
Learn about your disability, knowledge is power so learning about your disability can give you the power to live with it. If your disability is new to you, you should speak with your GP to ask what you can expect, ask questions such as:
- Is your disability temporary or permanent?
- Are there any common complications or secondary illnesses?
- Will there be any ongoing treatment or physical therapy?
- If your disability is progressing, how quickly is this likely to take place and are there any ways to slow progression?
- What alterations might you need to make to your lifestyle, job or activities?
- Are there any support groups available in your area?
Accept your situation
This is possibly the hardest aspect, emotionally adjusting to a disability by coming to terms with your prognosis. Hope for and work towards recovery, if you do so while looking at your current state with disdain, you may end up depressed and unsuccessful.
You need to accept your current situation as well as your possible future. Focus your efforts on improving your standard of living, rather than on how upset you are with the way things have worked out. Denying or ignoring the severity of your disability can make regular emotional and physical tasks more difficult. Accepting your disability means you fully understand your situation and what it means to you and you still have the ability to work on improving it.
It is okay to mourn your old self: It is okay to take time to acknowledge emotions that you are feeling regarding the change in your life. Realising that it is okay to be sad or angry about your changing situation will allow you to feel these emotions which can help you move forward.
Try to be positive: People who are optimistic when suffering troubled circumstances tend to be happier and healthier than those who are cynical about their lives. You can make a huge difference in your mental and physical wellbeing by aiming to stay positive even when you’re going through some difficult times.
Don’t isolate yourself: It can be tempting to avoid people and social situations when you’re feeling down, but by doing this will only make you feel worse. Don’t use your disability as an excuse to isolate yourself from friends and family or activities which you love. Take what chances you are given to get out and experience new and exciting things. Spending time by yourself is different from isolating yourself, you should always find time to fit in alone time, but don’t spend all of your time alone.
Strengths: Adjusting to a disability can make it difficult to realise your strengths and abilities. Instead of looking at things you can no longer do, look at the things your still good at. Encourage and grow these strengths whenever possible. You could even discover new strengths that have grown from your disability.
Don’t be embarrassed to ask for help: One of the biggest challenges to overcome when new to a disability is being comfortable asking for help. It can be frustrating or embarrassing asking for help but this is something which must be done. If you push yourself too hard to accomplish something, can be dangerous and cause you physical injury. Getting aid from others does not mean that you are not successful or incapable of accomplishing what you want.
Therapy: The thought of telling a stranger your problems might seem scary, however there is no better person to help you through transitioning with a disability than a therapist. Therapists are trained to help people deal with the mental and emotional trauma that may accompany a disability.
Group therapy: Group therapy is a great way to not only overcome your emotional struggles, but also to meet people dealing with the same types of issues as you. People who attend group therapy regularly end up happier and better emotionally adapted to their disabilities. Look for a group that specialises in your disability.
Living with disability
If things you previously loved to do are no longer easy for you, look for new ways to perform them. For example, if you loved to read but can no longer accomplish this, then consider listening to audio books. Alternatively, if you are now using a wheelchair and love sports, look for teams in your area that accommodate wheelchairs.
The English Federation of Disability Sport (EFDS) is an excellent place to start if you are looking for ways to become more active. The EFDS Being Active guide gives disabled people access to relevant information, so they have control over where, what and how they can start being active.
Good diet and regular exercise are important for everyone, but can be especially helpful when you’re transitioning into life with a disability. Make sure you eat regular meals that incorporate plenty of fruit and vegetables. Try to do physical activity every day, depending on what your skill set and level is. Keeping your diet and exercise in check will also reduce the risk of depression and loneliness.
Further information on exercising with a disability can be found within Healthy Living.
How can GroceryAid help you?
The GroceryAid Helpline is open to all grocery people, regardless of length of service. Our Helpline is totally confidential and available free of charge, 24 hours a day, seven days a week all year around. It offers support and guidance across a wide range of topics, including:
- Financial support and advice, including benefits information
- Personal issues including family, children and relationships
- Support for those who have caring responsibilities through our Carers Programme
- Career Support, including a back to work programme
- Health and mental health issues
- Legal advice
- Telephone Befriending
- Help with depression and anxiety through supported and approved programme.
- Help with childhood poverty, disability and illness
- Telephone befriending service
- Benefits: are you receiving the right ones?
- Benefits advice
There are many organisations that can help you manage your disability, know your rights in the workplace and public places and point you towards local resources. The following are a good place to start:
- Disability Rights UK
- English Federation of Disability Sport (EFDS)
- UK Disabled People’s Council
- Voluntary Organisations Disability Group
- Foundation for people with learning disabilities
- Studying in the UK as a disabled student