Life After Disability
Being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in my early 20’s was an unexpected shock. Getting diagnosed with an incurable disease at any age is a life-changing event. As surprising and terrifying as getting diagnosed was, that paled in comparison to another moment that would alter everything about my life: becoming disabled.
Becoming classified as “disabled” (defined by the ADA as being judged as having a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of life’s activities) has a profound impact on one’s life.1
It does not, however, have to be the end of your life.
My experience with MS disability
I have spoken before about how I became disabled at a fairly young age. I’ve also been pretty open about the effects it had on me. It’s been close to eight years now, and I still struggle with the fact that I can no longer be in my career. Being disabled and no longer working has really impacted my sense of identity.
The impact of losing your career
After all, what’s one of the first things people ask you when meeting you? “What do you do?” They aren’t talking about your hobbies, they’re talking about your line of work. Society has ingrained in us that how we make a living is something that defines us (I’m not saying it should be that way, just saying how it is). Most importantly, having a career made me feel like I had a purpose; when that was taken from me, I struggled with feeling like I shouldn’t even exist.
Not only is becoming disabled a huge blow to your ego and sense of self-worth, but it is also a massive life change and decrease in money. In my case, I could no longer afford where I lived, or many other aspects of life. From what I’d make for dinner to what I was able to watch on TV, everything changed. Hell, I could no longer even afford to hang out with the same set of friends. Becoming disabled is that big of a life-changing event. At least it was for me.
Picking yourself up
Becoming disabled, especially at a younger age like me, can tear your entire life down. That doesn’t have to be the end of your story though. You can assemble a new life, but you have to keep an extremely open mind. You also have to really be willing to let go of your past.
While I still struggle with being disabled, I did eventually start to build a new life. I found new hobbies and new friends. I also started writing and sharing my experiences to help others with MS. Helping others by sharing my experiences, along with adopting a senior dog to care for, has gone a long way toward helping me feel like I have a purpose. It’s still been a struggle for me. Becoming disabled has been nothing short of a traumatic experience in my life, however, I have been able to pick myself up.
Living through setbacks
Recently, I’ve had some setbacks. If you’ve read my articles over the years, you no doubt know about my dog and companion, Ferdinand. I’m sorry to say that he recently passed and it’s been a struggle for me. There are many reasons why his loss has absolutely devastated me. Among them though is that his care very much gave me a sense of purpose. Obviously, he wasn’t a career, but he made me feel like I had a reason to wake up each day. His loss has only highlighted that I don’t have much in my life that makes me feel useful.
In my past, I was able to get through tough times by throwing myself into my work, something I no longer have. I think that’s an area that most people don’t think about when they first become disabled, that having a job, having a sense of purpose, can really help you get through tough times because it allows you to focus on something else. His impact on me was such that I simply can’t go and care for another rescue, not yet anyway. So I’ve really been stuck. In addition to struggling with his loss, at times I feel like I have become disabled all over again.
You can do it
If you are feeling dissatisfied with life because you are disabled, remember that working isn’t all there is to life. It really shouldn’t be all there is to living. Life has so much more to offer and it’s important to remember that. Open your mind and explore life as much as you can. Find a new purpose. Try things you’ve never tried before. A lot of people can actually benefit from tearing their old life down and starting anew. Look at being disabled as an opportunity, because it really can be, but you have to keep an open mind for that to happen.
Thanks so much for reading and feel free to share! As always, I would love to hear about your experiences in the comments below!
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