September was Mental Health Awareness Month and October is Suicide Prevention Awareness month. There has never been more attention and light on these issues as the world is forced to adapt to isolation, social distancing and insurmountable loss during the global health, cultural and political crisis of 2020. Many are asking: how do we cope, grieve and manage the “new normal” that these unprecedented times have presented to us? Ironically, the lives of individuals with disabilities have a way of single-handedly managing this experience daily – until we can’t. That’s when we call for assistance, support, resources and self care. I chose equine therapy.
The following types of loss represents those a newly injured or diagnosed individual with a disability may encounter.
Loss of Abilities
This type of loss can present itself as an illness, injury accident or aging. It can be temporary, permanent or for an unknown amount of time. In our case, it was a post-graduate season and after landing my dream career. The loss of my job, career, income and ability to walk happened in the same moment of impairment. No one specifically said, “I’m sorry for your loss,” but in retrospect, that’s exactly what happened to our entire family.
Loss of Freedom
Next, there is no better example of this loss than what we now know as the coronavirus. While we celebrated Christmas, the United States watched and prayed when we saw the impact of an airborne disease sweeping East Asia. By March, several cases were identified in Seattle, WA. Shortly thereafter, the entire country was locked down – from schools to airports, mandated self-isolation orders were in place to flatten the curve. And just like that, only essential workers were permitted to leave their homes and hospitals became inundated with the sick. No one is immune. Statistically, people with disabilities, underserved socioeconomic groups and men have been the hardest hit. The medical model of this country has long seen those who are ill as the problem, not the society’s perception of, or limited accommodations, for us. As such, we are more likely to stay at home than risk the problem of attitudinal and architectural barriers we face most everywhere we go.
Loss of Family
At the time of this writing, there is no cure for COVID-19. The global loss felt is unmatched. The information provided to keep the medical fragile and high-risk populations have shifted and changed over time as we remain helpless and uncertain. Those with already complicated medical histories understand, and have suffered, the common experience of watching their family members die from a condition without a cure or research without the possibility of enough funding to get them the answers needed to save them. Even more common than a physical loss of family, there’s the loss of support from family, spouse, children and friends who are no longer able to endure the challenges people with disabilities often face.
Here’s how self-care can assist. Whether the loss of family, freedom, friends or abilities is the challenge, recognize that self-care is a mindset, sacrifice and choice. Finding a light at the end of the tunnel can be as simple as a selfcare routine, mindset mentor and best-practices. According to Mindset Trainer, Caroline Ferguson, there are eight self-care tips for mindset maintenance:
- Cultivate self-awareness
- Accept the world and yourself
- Pay attention
- Care out time for yourself to be creative
- Give yourself permission to let go
- Make time to meditate
- Book sacred “me time” in your diary
- Practice active gratitude