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4 Tips That Help Me Cope With My Life With a Disability

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It is no secret that living with a disability can be difficult. Acceptance is something people with disabilities often search for. It is the destination at which many disabled individuals hope to arrive. As people, we are often pressured to pick ourselves back up when we are having a less-than-spectacular day.

As disabled people, we often seem to be under a unique set of pressures to be at our best all the time. We may be some of the strongest-willed people you will ever come across. However, it is important for others to be mindful that people with disabilities are humans too, and we deal with an overflowing plate every second of the day.

Therefore, I want to explain some of the coping mechanisms I use every day as a person who lives with a disability. I have cerebral palsy, and I use a wheelchair. This can be stressful at times, especially when you add in the fact that I also am living with chronic pain conditions such as hip dysplasia, hip osteoarthritis, and severe osteoarthritis< and tendonitis in my right knee.

I will be honest: dealing with all of this with cerebral palsy added on can be very taxing, particularly physically but also emotionally. I have had numerous nervous breakdowns, and I have wished that I could just have one day free of the pressures of being disabled.

I’ve screamed until my throat hurt and my voice was all but gone. I’ve cried until I have been shaken to my very soul and have had my tears blur my vision. It took me a long time to realize that this was not a dreadful thing at all. It made me human, and no human always has their life perfectly together.

Growing up, I was always seen as the girl who was always smiling while living with many challenges. It is true — I am a happy person most of the time. However, given my “happy” reputation, I was always intent on never letting anyone around me down, and I thought showing I was not always happy would be a letdown to others. I know this may sound ludicrous to other people, but this is how I felt — under constant pressure.

However, now that I have evolved and grown, I realize that this way of thinking was out of line with the truth. I know now that others often understand that I sometimes have a bad day, and this doesn’t make me a “negative” person; it just makes me human — and that much more relatable.

I realize that everyone’s ways of dealing with high-pressure, stressful situations vary, but I thought it might be helpful for me to share some of the ways I personally deal with the stressors of living with a disability and chronic pain conditions. These tips are as follows:

1. Find a routine and do your absolute best to adhere to it.

I work best when I form a routine. I mostly stay at home, so finding things to keep my mind occupied is especially important. I am an independent writer, so sticking to a writing schedule helps me maintain productivity. I do my best to write four days a week. It does not necessarily mean working on a project, but I just try to write in any form to hone my skills.

2. Find a hobby that will keep you busy, and work on it often.

Many of you may have heard about the adult coloring book trend that has been around for quite some time. I have always loved to color, and I am blessed with enough hand use and dexterity to be able to color well. I absolutely love it, and I set goals for myself each week — like picking a different coloring theme or book to color in. I also struggle with anxiety and depression, and coloring has also been tremendously helpful in coping with my mental health conditions too.

3. Find something that makes you smile, and do it often.

I personally adore watching YouTube videos that feature food. I, like many of my fellow humans, love to eat. Therefore, watching taste tests and eating challenges are some of the many videos I enjoy. I also love watching family YouTube channels and joining in as the families document their daily lives. Because my life with a disability feels so different from these families’ lives, I love to see what goes on “behind the scenes” of families who may have more enticing, exciting lives than mine.

4. Practice self-care and self-awareness.

Both of these skills are essential to my daily life. As I have gotten older, I have made myself more of a priority. I make sure I spend quality time with myself in mind and take time to self-reflect and genuinely think about where my life’s path may be headed. I also consider whether that life path will satisfy me.

I spent so many of my younger years taking care of others and putting myself on the back burner. As a result, I struggled with loving myself as a person. I have come an exceptionally long way, and I am extremely proud of myself for achieving the feelings of happiness and contentment I had always desperately longed for. Remember to try to be an advocate for yourself and to do what is best for you in the end.

Stress is a part of life, and the truth is, it will likely never go away, especially for us in the disabled community. Becoming flustered and annoyed with life feels like a given at times, particularly when our bodies and brains refuse to listen to and cooperate with us, but if you’re in a similar situation, just know that these feelings of stress and discontentment are completely normal.

It is my hope that some of my coping mechanisms and tips help my fellow members of the disability community and lead you to a more peaceful and comfortable life.

This story originally appeared on Collective World.
Getty image by shironosov.

Originally published: March 15, 2022
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