Acquiring A Disability
Almost twenty percent of the people in American are disabled, some having been born with their disability, others having acquired it by being involved in an accident, contracting a disease, or losing function through the aging process. Acquiring a disability means having to make adjustments that you never expected you’d have to make. Along with having to adjust to something you never thought you’d have to deal with, societal attitudes add the burden of pity to the equation. Let’s face it, seeing someone with a disability is hard because it means we each have to accept it can happen to us too. And that can lead to isolation. All-in-all, it’s quite an adjustment that must be made!
Those of us who have lived with a disability for many years (some since birth), can prove helpful to those who have a newly acquired disability. We have adjusted to the changes in our lives and usually, through trial and error, have found ways to get around the barriers that prevent us from leading a fulfilling life. Sometimes though, we have to go through a grieving period first in order to let go of the life we’ve lost. This is a normal part of the process of accepting your disability.
It takes time to make the adjustment to a new lifestyle, yet the person we are on the inside hasn’t changed. I remember the doctor once telling my mother that my grandmother was a 26-year old woman in an 83-year old body. At the time I didn’t understand what he meant. As I get older myself, I even know how that must have felt!
Whatever your disability is, the likelihood is that you’ll get better and better at coping with it as you age. Sooner or later, you’ll start to feel comfortable in your skin again, and the sun will begin shining in your life once more. If your disability does not become easier to live with, then consider finding a rehabilitation counselor who can help you learn new coping techniques.
Life with a disability is different, but not always worse. We can learn, we can adapt, and we can grow, even while disabled. Our disability is not the sum of who we are. We are often wiser and more compassionate towards others having gone through a difficult experience ourselves. We may even admit to being a better person because of our disability!
As you begin your adjustment to a new way of life, remember that you are not alone. One in four people are disabled. You aren’t the first to go through this, and you won’t be the last. If you need help identifying resources, learning about your disability, or connecting with other individuals or organizations, call Disability Network/Lakeshore. We are here to help you find your way! 616.396.5326. Visit us at www.dnlakeshore.org.