When you live with a disability or chronic pain life is hard because everything you do has challenges that you can’t escape. Most disabilities have no cure and disabled people have to learn to live with it and accept their disabilities. Some people never learn to accept their disabilities because they are too obsessed with being cured and don’t see how a disability can have positives. There is nothing wrong with wanting a cure but you can’t live life being depressed about there not being a cure but you have to live life it like there is never going to be one. Disability acceptance is something that a lot of disabled people have to work towards because most disabilities have no known cure and researchers aren’t close to finding but it doesn’t make it any easier. I have been disabled my whole life and disability is everything I have ever known and I still struggled with it for nearly half my life. In this post, I am going to talk about how I learned to love myself through my disability and chronic pain.
Focus on what you can do not what you can’t- The biggest mistake I see disabled people making that will never get you to a place where you are at peace with your disability is focusing on only the negatives of it. For the longest time I was that person and every time I struggled with something because of my disability I would call myself a failure and bring myself down. It wasn’t until I realized that is not healthy to only focus on the negatives of a disability because there are positives. There are negatives to every disability and it’s important that we recognize them and don’t shut them out because that is the only way you will get through them. Focus on what you can do instead of everything you can’t because when you put all your energy into activities you are not able to do it will make you angry and depressed. There are going to be activities you have to sit and watch because your disability limits your ability to do that skill but you can’t put all your energy in everything your disability has taken and you have to think about everything it hasn’t. Mindset is everything because when you shift the way you think about certain situations it will make it easier to come to terms with your disability.
Remember disability acceptance is a process– Abled people that tell disabled people to just love themselves and accept their disabled bodies clearly have never had to accept a medical condition that majorly impacts your life because it’s easier said than done. Disabled people should try to learn to love themselves because you will be happier when you are at peace with your disability but it doesn’t happen overnight. Disabled people don’t just wake up one day and decide they love everything about their disability because truthfully there is more things you hate about it than things you like. Disability acceptance is a process and takes some work to get there so it’s important to remember that it’s okay if you’re not there yet. I have been disabled since birth so you would think that disability acceptance would be easy for me but like any disability, it hasn’t been. Disability acceptance is not a quick process and even people that have been disabled their whole lives struggle with it sometimes because it’s hard to come to terms with the fact that some activities you will be left out of.
Don’t try and live your old life- Chronic pain takes so much from you and there will be activities you could do before pain that you can no longer do. Some people have had to give up activities they once enjoyed but because of chronic pain those activities are no longer enjoyable. I like to exercise but because of my migraines, I can’t exercise at the same intensities as I could before I started getting them without severe consequences. It is hard to have to give up your old life and at times it may be tempting to try and live the life you had before chronic pain. There is nothing wrong with desiring your life because I think we all want that but you still shouldn’t try and live a life that you know doesn’t give you purpose and will cause pain flares. Your old life is not part of you anymore so find new activities that you can enjoy with chronic pain and start a new life!
Get involved in the disabled community- If you are struggling with accepting your disability and don’t hang around anyone with a disability that has similar struggles that may be your problem. In my experience, abled people will try to help their disabled family members towards disability acceptance and they may make some progress but not to the extent a disabled person can. Whether you have an online disabled community or a couple of disabled friends that you hang out with it’s important that you surround yourself with other people that get you to some extent. I talk about issues with my disabled friends that I wouldn’t dare bring up with my abled sisters because the response would be totally different. Disabled people need that kind of support and even if you don’t have the exact same disability it still can be comforting to hang out with other disabled people because they will understand more than an abled person will. Abled people that know someone who is disabled may see the struggles of a disabled person but seeing someone’s struggles is not the same as being able to relate to it!
Think about your friends list– The friends you hang out with are important whether you are disabled or abled because they will either push you to be better or hold you back. There is nothing wrong with wanting a cure but if you are a person that pities their life and is constantly talking about cures no one is going to want to be around you. I had a friend for about ten years that I eventually ended because all she talked about is how much better her life would be if there was a cure for Spina Bifida. I did my best to change her perspective but some people you cannot change and you have just have to cut them loose because their negative energy will have an effect on you. Disabled friends are important but you should have standards because the people you hang around can either help or lead you away from acceptance. The people that you hang around don’t have to be positive one-hundred percent of the time because no one is but you shouldn’t be around people that never have anything positive to say because you won’t thrive in friend cirlcle full of negativity.
Don’t try to do things the same way– People are always telling disabled people that they can do whatever they put their minds to but this is so far from true. You are not your disability and it’s just something that you learn to cope and live with. I can’t do whatever I put my mind to because my disability limits some activities and I could prove that to you! When people start telling me I can do whatever I put my mind to I start listing a bunch of things my disability limits and I can’t do because I can prove to you that I am not able to do whatever my heart desires. There are some things in life I can do in the same way as abled people but there is a lot of things I can’t because they are either impossible or would take me three times longer to do it in the same way. If there is an easier way to perform a task I do it the easier way and don’t try and do everything in the same ways abled people do them. I don’t want to make my life three times harder than it has to be because it’s okay to do things differently as a disabled person and sometimes it’s necessary to make your life easier.
Disability acceptance is something that many disabled people have to learn because most disabilities have no cure and you are stuck with it your whole life. Disability acceptance is not as simple as saying you love yourself as a disabled person because everyday society reminds us what is wrong with disabled people. Many disabled people struggle with disability acceptance because it’s hard to accept the fact you are not getting better and that life will always have daily change challenges. Some people never get to the point of embracing their disabilities because it’s hard to see the positives of a disability when there are constant challenges you cannot change. Disabled people deserve the chance to be happy with their disabilities but it’s a lot easier said than done. If you are struggling with accepting your disability talk with someone who also has gone through similar challenges because there is something about connecting with people in the same boat as you that really makes a difference and gets you on the path to accepting your disability. The experiences of a disabled person matter because no one understands the challenges of a disability like disabled people do. Have you struggled to accept your disability and chronic pain? How did you journey to the path of acceptance?
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What a fabulous post! I love that you point out that acceptance is a process. I’ve found that it’s also a process that isn’t necessarily linear. Sometimes I feel as though I’ve come to some level of acceptance about my chronic illness, but then I’ll regress a bit. Your advice is spot on.