by Kathy Kirchoff
Becoming disabled can be a major, life-changing event that affects you and your family. Suddenly things are different, and your life may not be as you pictured it. You may need to switch directions.
The Emotional Roller-coaster
Depression and feelings of disappointment, worthlessness, frustration, anger, resentment, and uncertainty are common when coping with a disability. The things you once enjoyed doing may no longer interest you, perhaps because of physical limitations. The disability benefits system may seem like an uphill battle. It may feel like others view you differently now. You may have a progressive condition where you will face additional loss of function. Saving money for the future may be more difficult.
While it may feel as if your sense of purpose has abandoned you, you can regain your confidence and sense of self-worth, but it will take time and maybe some professional guidance. You can learn how to deal with your disability. Maintaining a positive outlook is key.
Your disability may require you to adjust your lifestyle or career, and your goals may need to change:
- Talk with your employer about making reasonable accommodations for your disability as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act. This Act also prohibits discrimination of disabled employees or applicants by employers. If your disability prevents you from doing your job even with accommodations (for example, you were a roofer, but are now in a wheelchair), you could explore other careers. A career change might require retraining.
- A disability may cause severe financial hardship due to lost income and medical expenses. You may not have extra money and may need to consider sources of other financial support.
- Continue to seek out new interests and continue to do what you can do including work, if possible. Volunteering may be also rewarding.
- Socialize with others in a similar situation. Talking with people who are facing similar challenges can help you realize that you’re not alone and inform you about other available resources. Remember to take care of your health as best as you can, including exercise if possible. Make sure you have a strong support team in place for your medical, legal, and emotional needs to help reduce your stress. It’s also important that you talk about your situation with those involved (a spouse, children, etc.) so they understand that things are going to be different.
Make sure you know your legal rights and create a support structure if you’re struggling. Your disability will likely affect your lifestyle and career on some level, but you can make the emotional and financial adjustment and be successful.