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How to Overcome and Thrive if You're Living with a Disability

Monday, April 13, 2020

When someone hears the term disability, it tends to paint a picture in their mind. They might think of someone in a wheelchair, someone with a speech impediment, or an elderly family member that has lost some of their mobility over the years.


But disability is a broad term that includes a wide variety of conditions that affect people from all walks of life. 


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 61 million adults are living with a disability in the United States. That's more than one in four adults in the entire country. 


Their functional disabilities could be one or more of the following:


  • Mobility - Severe challenges with movement, like walking or climbing stairs
  • Cognition - Challenges with decision making, memory, concentration, and comprehension
  • Independent living - difficulty with running errands like shopping, doctor's visits, etc.
  • Hearing - Trouble hearing or deafness
  • Vision - Blindness of serious difficulty with reading or seeing objects near/far
  • Self-care - Difficulties with activities of daily living like grooming, household chores, etc.
  • Spinal cord/head injuries - Lasting physical and mental difficulties from a severe TBI/spinal cord injury
  • Neurological disorders - Conditions like Multiple Sclerosis or other neurological disorders can cause disability


People living with disabilities tend to face challenges beyond the disability itself. They are more likely to suffer from other conditions like diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. 


And they're also more likely to have unmet healthcare needs due to cost or lack of access to healthcare providers and routine check-ups.


But if you're currently living with a disability, there are reasons to be optimistic.


Although it is never easy to get used to life with a disability, there are resources and tools available to you to help you accept your new reality, and live a life full of purpose.


In this article, we'll talk about how you can retake control of your life, as well as point you to some resources that might help you overcome your disability.


How can you overcome your disability?


Everyone's disability is different. So, there isn't one formula for overcoming a disability that will work for all.


But let's look at some of the things you can do that are within your control. If you're caring for a loved one with a disability, you can try to help them implement the following suggestions as well. 


A shift in your mindset about the disability


You may have heard the saying that one can only control his/her thoughts and actions. While it may sound a bit cliche, it is true when it comes to how you go about overcoming your disability.


The first thing you need to do is to shift your mindset. You may also need to modify how you define overcoming the disability.


Overcoming does not necessarily have to mean that you get rid of your disability completely. 


Of course, if that is an option for you, then you should make that your goal. For example, if you have a temporary disability after an accident that you can overcome through therapy and exercise over time.


But in other cases, your disability might be something that you'll have to accept and learn to live with. 


In such cases, overcoming may mean that you come to terms with your disability and that you do everything you can to live life in the fullest within your present set of circumstances.


Is disability a hindrance to success?


You don’t have to let disability hold you back from success. But in certain situations, depending on your disability and how you’ve defined success until now, you may have to adapt your goals.


But that being said, there are many examples of famous people who have gone on to accomplish great things despite their disabilities. 


Stephen Hawking, a world-renowned theoretical physicist, was diagnosed with ALS, a devastating neurological condition, soon after he turned 21. 


Michael J. Fox, the famous actor who was diagnosed with Parkinson's back in 1991, has focused his efforts on finding a cure for the disease ever since. 


And we all know the story of FDR, who had lost the use of his legs to Polio, but he didn't let that stop him from becoming the longest-serving President in U.S. history.


Of course, you may have no desire to run for President. But the point is, you can still be a valuable member of your community regardless of your disability.


No matter what, the most important thing to remember is that you still have a purpose, you can always be of value to others, and you can continue to grow and evolve regardless of your disability.


Now, that may be easier said than done. And in the following sections, we'll list some of the tools and resources you can use to start overcoming or thriving as you live with your disability. 


Coming to terms with your disability


Coming to terms with your disability can be one of the most critical steps in your journey of overcoming it. 


You must remember that accepting your disability is in no way surrendering to it. You’re not giving up by coming to terms with it. 


Instead, when you take an objective look at your situation and evaluate what your current limitations are, you become free to make the necessary adjustments and move forward towards your new goals.


You should also let your feelings run its course instead of trying to fake positivity. If you’re feeling angry and frustrated, recognize that it is a part of the process, and allow it to happen. Just trust the process and know that with time, things will get smoother, and you’ll begin to settle into your new routine. 


Here are some things to consider that may help you come to terms with your disability.


Talk to a mental health professional


Coming to terms with your disability can be hard to do on your own. Having the help of an experienced mental health professional can make a world of difference.


And seeking out help is not a sign of weakness. Its a sign that you’re taking your journey of overcoming disability seriously and that you’re willing to put in the necessary work.


There are several benefits when it comes to working with a therapist. They can help you process your feelings, work through your grief, come to terms with your disability, and, most importantly, help you craft a plan to move forward in a productive direction. 


Not to mention, people living with a disability might be more prone to mental disorders like anxiety and depression. Working with a professional can also protect you against any potential mental health issues.


Try prayer/meditation


Depending on your spiritual beliefs, a prayer or a meditation practice can help you find calmness and acceptance when things seem uncertain. 


Check with your local community center, church, mosque, or synagogue, to see if they schedule any prayer or meditation sessions during the week. 


Join a disability support group


Connecting with others who are going through similar challenges is one of the best ways to overcome your disability, as well as counter any feelings that you’re alone in this fight. 


People in the group can share their challenges, their solutions, as well as emotional support with each other. Having a group of people who can all mutually benefit from each other’s experiences is one of the most significant assets you can have in your journey to overcome and thrive in disability. 


Talk to your friends and family


When it comes to seeking help, it doesn’t always have to be from professional or community sources. It can be as simple as talking to your friends and loved ones.


When you let your family members know what you’re going through, how you are thinking your way through the entire process, and how you plan on moving forward, they can offer their own insights or even find ways to be of help. 


Or, you can simply have a chat with them about anything you want as long as it is fun and it helps you relax.


How do you live with a physical disability?


As you adjust to living with your disability, let’s take a look at some things you can do to make sure that you’re operating at an optimal level, both physically and mentally.


Check to see if you qualify for CDPAP


The Consumer Directed Personal Assistance Program (CDPAP) is a program funded by New York State Medicaid. If eligible, CDPAP allows you to recruit, hire, and train your own home care provider.


You can even hire your friends and family members, except your spouse. Your care provider can provide assistance with activities of daily living that you might need help with because of your disability. 


They can help you with tasks like dressing, grooming, meal preparation, housework, transportation, arranging medical care, and more. They can also help you with your finances and get set up with technology if you want to work from home.


One of the great things about CDPAP is that you can train your care provider yourself so that you can communicate your needs and preferences during that process.


To be eligible for CDPAP, you need to meet the following criteria:


  1. You need to have Medicaid
  2. You must require home care for help with daily activities
  3. You must be able to self-direct and train your caregiver on your needs/preferences.


With CDPAP, your caregiver can perform tasks that would typically be done by a nurse, assuming he or she is qualified, of course. For example, your caregiver can administer skilled services such as wound care and giving insulin shots. 


For more details and information on how to apply, check out our in-depth guide on CDPAP.


Use the resources that are available to you


You should use whatever tools and adaptive technologies that are available to you to improve your quality of life. Whether it's a cane, a wheelchair, or any other device, as long as it makes your life easier, you should use it.


In the meantime, depending on your disability, you can also work with a physical therapist to regain some of your mobility over time. 


But remember that it might take some time and patience. You shouldn’t get discouraged if you suffer temporary setbacks. Set realistic goals for yourself and keep working consistently to make progress.  


Get involved in your community


One of the most difficult aspects of a disability is that it can chip away at your sense of purpose. Especially if it means you can’t go to work as you did before, or take part in the activities that you love and enjoy.


While it is always going to be challenging to adjust to the new reality, you can stay engaged with the community through volunteer opportunities in your area. 


You can help causes that you’re passionate about, and also enjoy the sense of fulfillment that comes with donating your time and effort. If you can’t physically go and volunteer somewhere, there are often opportunities to help out remotely from your home.


And if you don’t want to volunteer somewhere, consider helping out a family member or a neighbor. You can offer to tutor your grandkids or children in your neighborhood. Or, you can offer to watch someone’s dog while they’re away at work or holiday.


No matter what you do, giving back to your community will go a long way in helping you feel like a valuable member of society, which is a critical aspect of overcoming disability. 


Make your health a priority


Now is not the time to give up on your health. Instead, you should do everything you can to take care of both your physical and emotional health. That means getting as much exercise as possible, eating a healthy diet, getting adequate restorative sleep, and managing stress.


Exercise is critical not only for your physical health, but also for mental health. It’ll strengthen both your body and your mind. 


If you have the ability to work with a trainer or a physical therapist, they can recommend exercises that would be best suited for you based on your disability. Otherwise, check with your local senior center to see if they offer exercise classes for seniors or those with limited mobility.


Remember, you don’t have to compare your exercise abilities with others, or even your previous self. It’s about what you can do now, and how you can make small, consistent improvements over time to continue improving your health and fitness. 


Besides exercise, it is also critical that you support your body with a healthy diet. Try to incorporate plenty of fruits and vegetables, healthy fats like olive oil and avocado, as well as high-quality protein like fish, chicken breast, eggs, or chickpeas.


Adequate exercise and a healthy diet will promote restful sleep and reduce stress, making sure you live an overall healthy lifestyle as you continue your journey to overcome your disability.


How can a disabled person be happy?


Although it may not seem like it, especially in the beginning, you can definitely live a happy and fulfilling life despite your disability.


People have different definitions of happiness, but often, it comes down to what you focus on. 


If you’re always focused on your disability and how your life used to be in the past, and all the things you’ve lost, then it is going to be challenging to live a happy life. 


Of course, there’s going to be times when you might feel angry and frustrated, which is normal. 


But then, you have to move past your negative thoughts and focus on the things that you’re grateful for. You have to focus on the things you can look forward to something you want to accomplish.


As we suggested before, try to connect with others who have gone through (or currently going through) similar struggles. You can learn from their successes and use their lessons to live a happy life regardless of your physical disability.


Final thoughts on overcoming disability


Overcoming disability and living a happy and fulfilled life may seem like an impossible task. But know that many other people have done it before you and you can do it as well.


You need to trust the process and be patient. Use all the resources and tools that are available to make the journey easier for yourself.


If you need a wheelchair, use one without hesitation. If you need to speak to a therapist, ask your family and friends for a recommendation. If you want to join your local community center, give them a call to check for their next event.


Focus on the good things in your life, like your family and friends, and the future that you’re still able to create for yourself and your family.


And finally, remember that if you’re resident in New York, you might be eligible for CDPAP to hire a care provider to help you with your daily activities, so you can focus on healing, overcoming, and thriving as you learn to live with your disability. 

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