Disability

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“dis·a·bil·i·ty

/ˌdisəˈbilədē/

noun

  1. a physical or mental condition that limits a person’s movements, senses, or activities.”

I’ve worked with a lot of people with a wide range of disabilities, so I’ve often thought about what disability means. Now that I qualify for an accessible parking pass myself, I’ve been thinking about it even more & from a different perspective. 

I strongly believe that accommodations for people with disabilities are good for all of us. For example, wheelchair ramps help people pushing strollers. My daughter and I were learning to walk together.

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Our weaknesses can help us build on our strengths; individually and collectively. I’ve noticed that since my legs are weaker, my arms have had to get stronger. Like how the sense of hearing is stronger in people who are blind. People with disabilities can still contribute just as those without disabilities, just in different ways sometimes. 

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I have a physical disability now, I’m fortunate that it’s minor, but I also have the mental health issue. I’ve been thinking about different kinds of disabilities – cognitive as well as physical. Understanding another’s mind is like trying to see the quality of another tv on your tv. This is what it was like trying to understand my own mind for a while. 

After the first ankle fusion, the surgeon said I would never run again. He explained that there are restrictions and limitations. That I just wouldn’t be able to run, not that it just wouldn’t be recommended. I was determined to find a way & thought of Terry Fox, how he ran with a limp. What an inspiring person with a disability! 

Unfortunately, after the second ankle fusion, running with a limp won’t be possible. So I tried riding a bike – during a period in between surgeries when I had both air casts off. Getting on and off the bike is very challenging, but I was able to pedal. Now I’m determined to make cycling my new running, at least maybe with a stationary bike. I found a way to “run”. I’m not dis-abled, I just have different abilities now. 

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I think some disabilities are like super powers, especially ADHD. Right now, I have to say I don’t feel my disability is a superpower for me. Realistically, it limits what I can do and makes things more difficult for me than the average person my age. I say this because I remember trying to be very positive about learning disabilities with students. I hope that in my attempt to be positive, I wasn’t dismissive of their very real struggles. 

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I love movies & tv shows that normalize disabilities like the movie “Downsizing” where one of the main characters has a prosthetic leg, and Barbie Dolphin Magic where one of the characters wears an air cast and rides a knee scooter. Barbie also has new dolls coming out – one who has a prosthetic leg and one who uses a wheelchair.

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“Weakness carries within it a secret power. The cry and the trust that flow from weakness can open up hearts”….”those we most often exclude from the normal life of society, people with disabilities, have profound lessons to teach us. When we do include them, they add richly to our lives and add immensely to our world”. Jean Vanier from ‘Becoming Human’

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Anger

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I’ve read that Depression is anger turned inwards. I can totally relate to that. I find it easier to move from sadness to anger than from sadness to happy, (like in the kids’ movie Inside Out) but I rarely ever get angry so end up stuck in sadness. When in a “fight, flight or freeze” situation, I never choose fight. I think I was raised to not get angry & socialized as a girl to not get angry. Allowing myself to feel anger is something I’m working on. I don’t want to ever become aggressive, I just need to be more assertive and allow myself to feel & express anger. A psychiatric nurse in the hospital had me write an angry letter to myself about my attempt & then crumple & tear up the letter after. I had a lot of unvented anger at myself for leaving my family without me for months. This was a good exercise. 

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Anger can also be very motivating & help you out of feeling hopeless. It can increase your energy. 

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There’s a great place in Toronto called the Rage Room where you can release some anger:

http://www.battlesports.ca/rage-room/

I tried this and it was a good experience. My son took an archery lesson while we were there. I highly recommend that place. 

ad098d3b-d3b1-4e2b-84ae-ab441305ba61“Anger is my cardio” ~Rick Mercer

Pain

Throughout this journey, I have experienced a lot of pain – both emotional and physical; both suffering and effort. The journey has been painful for & required great pains from my loved ones as well. 

In the movie GI Jane, it is said that the good thing about pain is that it reminds you you’re alive. When I started to feel emotionally numb, I was dying, this was a warning sign. While my depression is now manageable, I still feel sadness sometimes and this is normal & healthy. I don’t get stuck in the sadness & can feel happy too. 

I took Advil often for headaches before I began taking an antidepressant. I think I was trying to treat emotional pain. Now that I’m taking an antidepressant, I don’t get so many headaches. Physical & emotional pain seem to be connected for me. 

I have a lot of physical pain now in my recovery from my injuries. I find it easier to manage than emotional pain. I used to find teaching, an emotionally draining job at times, more tiring than physical labour such as lifting clients as a personal support worker. Emotional strain is exhausting. 

I used to use a strategy for pain while running where I would count how many times my right foot hit the ground, then the left… It kept my mind off the pain so I could keep running. In the hospital, I would stare at the clock and count the seconds, by 1s, 2s, 5s,… 

Breathing, ice, heat, elevation and meditation help me now with pain, as well as medication. I’ve tried Tylenol, Advil, aspirin, morphine, hydromorphone, OxyContin, a cortisone shot, topical creams, and I was given fentanyl & nerve blocks for a couple procedures. These were complicated by interactions with my treatments for the blood clots. I was taking morphine for months & struggled with withdrawal symptoms when I stopped taking it. I had to take a sleeping pill for a while because I couldn’t fall asleep without the morphine. Now I just use Tylenol & sometimes Advil and that helps. There’s still a lot of pain in the sites of my injuries and there will always be some. 

I used to think childbirth was the worst pain ever. I still do, it’s at least almost as painful as the injuries from my fall. What’s different is the childbirth pain is temporary and the pain I experience now is chronic. I have a new empathy for elderly people who have chronic aches & pains. It’s relative too – I burned myself on the oven the other day, pretty badly, but it didn’t really bother me because it was so much less than the pain I’ve felt with the injuries. 

I wonder if that’s how we can become numb, the emotional pain is so great sometimes that we don’t feel the normal, lesser sadness properly. 

Movement actually helps with my pain & I wonder if that helps similarly with emotional pain – being able to move freely between emotions, not getting stuck. 

While I’m not stuck in emotional pain right now, I have chronic physical pain and limited mobility. I find the story of Alexander Zass inspiring & helpful for any kind of pain or feeling stuck/oppressed. He was a strongman, who was also a war prisoner. He used the bars & chains that held him captive to exercise & grow stronger. I like to think of using the restrictions I had & have to build greater emotional and physical strength in that way. 

The journey & recovery has also taken a lot of pain in terms of effort and struggle. I like to think of Sisyphus. Stuck with pushing a boulder up a hill only to have it fall back down and having to do this over and over for eternity, the author wrote of him: “one must imagine Sisyphus happy” as “The struggle itself towards the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart.”

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Perspective

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Photo by Naveen Annam on Pexels.com

 

Perspective is a point of view or frame of mind. In art, perspective adds depth and space to a flat surface. In thoughts, perspective adds meaning to observations. Thoughts open and close like windows on a computer, moving inside and outside of frames set by experience.

I’ve read that seeing the big picture can help with anxiety. Not “sweating the small stuff”.  On the other hand, I’ve also read that thinking more concretely rather than abstractly can help anxiety. For example, thinking “this dinner didn’t turn out how I’d hoped”, rather than generalizing to “I’m a terrible cook”. These ways of focussing on the specific or the general seem to be opposite. I wonder if being able to change the way of thinking is best – sometimes concrete, sometimes abstract, depending on the situation. My depressed thoughts were stuck and narrow & my anxious thoughts swirling, too many and out of reach. Maybe our thoughts need to flow, in moderation, for our minds to work properly. Like focussing a camera on one image at a time. Focussing on the past can be depressing, the future anxiety-provoking. Focussing on now is best while being aware of the past & future.

I’ve found mindfulness meditation and metacognition very helpful. Non-judgementally observing my thoughts. Stepping away from them to separate from them. Writing thoughts down is a good way to do this. This blog is very cathartic. Imagine the negative thoughts are a rain cloud over your head. Now step away from the cloud and look at them from the outside. Or imagine what they would look like to someone else. How would someone else respond to them if they were observing from outside of the rain cloud?

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I got stuck in a negative, self-destructive way of thinking. The thinking was very narrow & blinded by emotion in a downward spiral. In the same way, thoughts can be changed to positive or at least more realistic in an upward spiral.  Repeating a positive mantra over and over until it’s believed. A new thought pattern/path will be created like water creating a new path in a stream.

One technique I’ve learned that I really love is tricking my mind into feeling content. I learned what my body does when I’m content – shoulders down & back etc. When I start to feel anxious, I move my body into content mode & trick my mind into believing that I’m actually content. It’s like feelings each have their own choreography & you can choose how your mind wants to dance. You can create the illusion of being content until you can get the thoughts back under control.

Almost losing everything has certainly given me a new perspective on life & I am so very grateful. Thank you for your support in reading my blog. Please feel free to contact me if I can help you or anyone you know who may have lost their perspective like I did.

It’s not what you look at that matters, 

it’s what you see” Henry David Thoreau 

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Giving Up

Giving up made me feel relief; relaxed. 

Now I try to tell myself to:

Give up perfectionism & unrealistic expectations instead. 

Give up trying to please everyone.

Give up trying to do too much.

Give up being hard on yourself.

Feel the relief of giving up on these things, instead. 

Giving up means “To yield control”.

Try giving up some control to a faith or the help of another person. 

I’m seeking right now, spiritually. I wasn’t religious before, but I feel like I have someone to thank for still being alive. 

I’m getting better at asking for help, practice makes this easier. I had no choice but to ask for help in the hospital & this has made it easier to learn to not try to do everything on my own. 

Instead of refusing to accept help, refuse to accept learned helplessness. You can change things for the better, maybe not on your own, but you’re not helpless.

 Maybe I needed a second chance, a fresh start, a new life that’s like the death of the old one. For me, surviving this unfortunate experience has given me a second chance. If I feel I need another fresh start again sometime, maybe a major change would help, like a new job or going back to school…

If, like I did, you feel like giving up, give up something that’s bad for you instead & allow yourself to feel the relief of letting go of something you don’t need while still holding on to life. 

Was it Selfish?

Honestly, I used to believe suicide was a little selfish. 

Now that I’ve felt suicidal, attempted suicide & lived to reflect on it, 

I don’t think it’s a selfish act anymore. 

I am mad at myself for almost leaving my family without me & for incapacitating myself this way for me & my family. Now, I see that it would be bad for my family to lose me, and that what I did didn’t help anyone, 

but then I believed they would be better off without me. 

It felt altruistic. 

More like I was giving my life than taking it.

Now, I think saying committing/attempting/planning suicide is selfish is like saying having a stroke is selfish. 

It’s a medical emergency. 

It’s a medical condition.

It’s worth a call to 911 or a trip to the emergency department. 

I wish I had taken my thoughts more seriously while I was contemplating going to the hospital. If you are or someone you know is feeling suicidal, please take it seriously. 

That said, please don’t feel responsible if you didn’t do more for someone in your life. You can’t prevent what you can’t predict. If you didn’t know, what could you have done?

I didn’t tell anyone how I was feeling. 

Please, if you’re thinking suicidal thoughts, tell someone. Maybe even start by saying the thoughts out loud to yourself or writing them down and reading them back to yourself. Then tell someone. 

I’ve since learned about my signs & triggers & interventions that work for me & have shared them with those I’m closest with. I have to catch the thinking before it becomes so narrow that suicide feels like the only option. If it becomes that narrow again, I will need external help. 

Similar to how if you’re in the early stages of a heart attack you may be able to get yourself to the hospital, but if you wait too long you’ll need someone else to take you there or to call for help.

https://toronto.cmha.ca/mental-health-2/find-help/crisis-support/

https://save.org/about-suicide/warning-signs-risk-factors-protective-factors/

https://suicideprevention.ca/More-on-suicide-prevention

Depression, Time & Energy

I’m able to get more done now with the physical injuries than I was when my depression was still untreated. Somehow the depression made things more difficult for me then than being on crutches does now. Even though depression can’t be seen, it is so debilitating. I feel bad for anyone I know who was depressed & I didn’t realize, like students maybe who I thought we’re just being lazy. I thought I was lazy & that made me more depressed & that drained even more energy and so on. 

When I was depressed at home I would waste time lying on the couch watching tv instead of sleeping or getting work done because I had no energy. Two hours watching a movie went by so quickly, it felt like a minute. When I was watching the clock in the hospital waiting to go home, however, each minute seemed like two hours. I lay there thinking of all the things I wished I had done and wished I could do. It really helped put things in perspective once I got home – the things I regretted or wished I could do are the most important.  Prioritize. Do the things you can, while you can, because you can. What would you regret or wish?

I have to be mindful when I’m around negative energy, a counsellor pointed out I tend to take on others’ emotions. I’ve stopped watching the news too & find this helps my energy & mood. I recommend surrounding yourself with as much positivity as possible. It can really make a difference. Laughter is so good for you – I watched a lot of sit coms to try & cheer up while in the hospital. Music has been helping me lately – I love google home.

I’ve been trying all kinds of treatments to help get better, two of them were reiki & acupuncture. I didn’t believe in them at first, but honestly for at least a few days after the treatments I felt so much better. I’m now convinced there’s something to this whole energy healing thing. 

Forcing myself to get things done helps, or forcing myself to do something I enjoy. Putting it in my calendar & then following through – the more I do the more I want to do. For me, action comes first, then motivation. I used to wait for motivation or feel motivated but have no energy. Now my actions lead to motivation & more energy. Similar to how going for a jog used to make me feel more energized rather than tire me out. Enough sleep & eating properly is key for my energy, motivation & mood too. I read that depression is the body’s way of saving up energy for stressful situations. When I’m depressed my  energy is too low & when I’m anxious it’s too high. The medication helps to balance the energy. The label helps me & others understand my condition & the medication also allows the other interventions to help.