How I'm Learning To Live a Happy And Healthy Life With A Disability
By Jimmy Apple
I want to point out the key word in the headline to this article; LEARNING. You can never completely LEARN everything that you need to know about living
with a disability because life can always change on a week to week- day to day- hour to hour- heck, minute to minute basis. As with life itself, living with a disability doesn't
come with a handbook or directions, it's something that is learned by trial and error. If someone tries to tell you that they possess the miracle formula for how you can live a
happy and healthy life with a disability, turn and run, don't walk, run the other way. Nine times out of ten, they are probably trying to sell you this formula like the old time
snake oil remedies, it's useless. We're all individuals and, as such, we all have different views, needs and perceptions of what happiness is to and for us. Since we are
all different, there can't be one definitive guide to happiness.
As for being HEALTHY, again, this is up to the individual. Of course, you go to a doctor and he'll write you a prescription for medications. You go to a physical
therapist and they'll show you exercises. Now, it is up to you, the individual, to follow through. Just having the prescriptions and filling them isn't going to make you healthy
you have to follow the directions and dosing for medicine for it to work. You have to actually do the exercises from the therapist to help you improve physically. Nobody can
do these things for you. I guess you can say, the one main ingredient to being as happy and healthy as possible is YOU! One thing I've learned, since becoming disabled
is that I am responsible for me! No one else is responsible to make you happy or healthy, nobody can do it for you, it's all up to you!
A very big component in being HAPPY AND HEALTHY is a positive attitude. There is no doubt that you've sick and/or hurt, otherwise you wouldn't be disabled, right?
Of course, but that said, you can't let your disability define you. I know that sounds easy but sometimes, it's easier said than done. Unfortunately, it's actually very easy for
your disability to become what defines your life if you let it. And, the fact is, if you do let your disability be what guides your life, nine times out of ten, you'll become affected
by your problems which will lead to enhancing your current disability and at the same time create new problems as a result. Take for example someone who hurt their
back. Now, naturally it hurts to move, especially in the beginning. Now, you go to physical therapy, for an hour session, three times a week. Three hours a week aren't going
to cure you, and you know that. You also know that you have to continue with these exercises at home. The exercises are meant to loosen you up in order to get back
as close to where you were before the accident. At home, though, well meaning family members don't want to see you struggle or feel pain, so hey rush to do things
to help you avoid it.
I found, through my own experiences with physical therapy and my loving wife, that the old saying "no pain, no gain" is absolutely true. I mean, between my wife and
my mother in law, it was hard to find two more caring people. After my accident I was bed ridden for quite a long time. While my wife was at work, during the day, her
mother would come over and stay with me. When she came each day, she brought a box of chocolate donuts. Trust me, if there is one thing that can make a fat man sin,
it's chocolate donuts. As well, at that time I smoked cigarettes and I would ask my mother in law to bring me a pack every day. At the same time I was asking my wife
to bring in two packs every night. Then soon, it turned to two packs with the donuts and three at night and I was smoking five, yes FIVE, packs of cigarettes a day, or
three and one half cartons a week! Add to this, my wife would stop at the local Ice Cream Shop and bring me home a chocolate shake! So....I wasn't getting any
exercise, except for three hours a week when the therapist came to the house. After each session, I hurt even more. The more I hurt the more people did for me. At one
point, the only time I had to leave the couch was to use the bathroom.
It was at that point, I realized my disability was beginning to define me. Other people were quick to help me and I was quick to accept their help. I was beginning
depend on others to do for me. And the more I depended on them, the more they did and the more they did the more I depended on them. It became a problem
all around. I mean, after I while, I began to feel like I'd become a chore for some people. You know, that look on their face when you ask them to do something else for
you. And, when the others feel they know what's best for you, as if you are a child, for instance, you might ask them to get you another chocolate donut from the box
on the counter and they say "not right now, you just had one". Well they might be right so now I was beginning to let them think for me.
This went on for more than a year! I depended on people to do for me and they did it because I was the guy in so much pain and couldn't walk and I began to believe
it all, so I let it happen. I'm not blaming anybody else but me. I'll admit it, in the beginning I kind of liked the attention (anyone who says they don't is a bold face liar!) but
soon, I had people telling me what I couldn't do when I knew, in fact I could. It came to a point that people thought, because of my disability, they couldn't depend on me
for anything, even the littlest things. Whenever I offered to do something, the pat answer became,"No, you might hurt yourself, I'll get so and so to help me". I think the
defining moment came for me at my mother's in law house on Thanksgiving. My father in law asked me to pass him a folding chair and my wife's mother jumped and said
to my wife "give your father that folding chair, Jimmy can't lift that." It was then that I decided I had to show others just what I can do. It was as if a switch was flipped. I
didn't want to be the person people said couldn't do something. I wanted people to know me as Jimmy, not that guy who can't walk or do anything.
I am more than my disability. You are more than your disability! OUR DISABILITIES ARE NOT WHO WE ARE! Just as being short doesn't define some one, it's
just a part of who they are, being disabled is just a part of who we are. It is up to each individual how big of a part they let it be. I refuse to let others tell me what I can
or can't do anymore because of my disabilities. I believe if you don't try, you'll never know...and back to that saying, "No Pain, No Gain"...So, if I try something and
can do it-Great! If I try and can't do it, well it's still a gain in my mind because now I know my limit.
I've found through this journey, so far, for me being happy is TRYING. I may not be able to do every thing I want, but I'll never know my limits unless I try. I don't
want others to determine my limits for me. As for healthy, I'm going to listen and do what my doctors and other medical professionals tell me. I think that is the
best I can do and nobody can ever fault you for trying your best.
The one thing that I always keep in mind is....IT CAN ALWAYS BE WORSE!
Healthy One Day - Disabled the Next!
By Jimmy Apple
Becoming disabled is painful, but the mental stress that comes along with is can be insurmountable. A person who experiences a disability
is pulled in two opposite directions. Physical pain can and does get better if not manageable. The stress and mental pain, if not addressed, continues to grow and fester like an
open wound. Understandably, when someone is hurt, or in an accident, the focus is on the physical damage; broken bones, cuts, etc.... After the hustle and bustle of the
ambulances, emergency room, bandages, stitches, operations and procedures, you are moved to a room and it is time to begin to recuperate. Nine times out of ten, this is
when the mental pain begins to kick in.
As you lay in the hospital bruised, swollen and broken, that inner voice decides to speak up. Now, your own thoughts can be your own worst
enemy. At first you begin to worry about your job; will it still be there when I am ready to go back? Money, how will I pay my bills? And so on,
but sooner or later that resolves itself when you realize, or remember, that you have insurance such as workers comp and short term disability.
Soon you begin to worry about the affect this disability has on your life. What if I can't return to work? How will we survive? What is going to happen when
short term disability runs out? We can't survive on what worker comp pays. Then you are reminded of Social Security Disability. And even that opens more worries.
What if they say I'm not disabled? Because of the disability, I have no job to go back to. Then you are told that Social Security doesn't just throw you out in the cold.
They have programs to help you get back on your feet ifyour disability resolves itself over time. Unless, of course you are faking a disability and get caught. Not only
are you out in the cold but you may be facing jail time and have to repay the money that you did receive plus interest and legal costs. Now you start to worry what
if they think I am faking. I could get arrested. But then you remember that your doctor is the one who diagnosed you not some back alley
doctor who you saw once.
And then you start feeling bad for yourself...Why did this have to happen to me?...My life is over...I can't do the things I'd done before...Thisisn't fair...And the
depression sets in. You no longer have interest in things you've always liked to do. You don't want to get out of bed in the morning. You don't feel like getting dressed.
You either have no appetite or you begin eating like a bottomless pit. You feel sad a lotof the time even brought to tears. Your personal hygiene begins to suffer.
You begin to blame your disability for all of the short comings inyour life and so on.
Yes, the mental stress we feel living with a disability is all too real and what I've listed above is just the tip of the iceberg! And believe me, you are not alone. How do
I know this, you may ask. Well, I am disabled and have been for quite a long time. I've been this position and even worse some of the time. It got so bad for me,
at one point, that I was contemplating suicide. Thankfully, I have a family who recognized the symptoms and got me some help.
I think a big part of the problem is that you don't know what to expect. It's as if you are thrown into the abyss and not only are you dealing with the physical problems
you but your mind is building up the ' what ifs'. And, unless you have someone around who has already gone through this, you only have well meaning people who
are giving you their best guess to your concerns. And, these are valid concerns in your mind and you probably won't start feeling better till you can get some reasonable
answers and re-assurances. You must also keep in mind that mental stress affects you physically. When you are worrying and obsessing over something, believe
it or not it can increase yourphysical pain.
There are a couple of things I have learned over the years and they may sound cliche but here goes:
(1) Worrying about tomorrow solves nothing. It only ruins today!
(2) It can always be worse! Think about it, there is always someone in worse shape than you. In my case, I had to have my left leg amputated. I can
still use crutches right? What about the guy who had to have both legs amputated?
I know things are easier said then done but if you start believing in those phrases, you might find it helps you to cope somewhat. This is all the basis for this
website and podcast; to build a community of people going through and dealing with similar situations. We want you to know you are not alone. By coming here and
listening to the podcast, you may get answers to some of your questions or someone can point you in the right direction. We are not doctors or lawyers, nor are we
diagnosing medical and/or legal problems. If you do have medical and/or legal problems, please consult a professional.
If you'd like to contact me, send an e-mail to: Jimmyapple@famousapple.com
I answer all my mail and will get back to you with in twenty four hours, if not sooner.
|AN APPLE A DAY is not only a podcast but also a resource and a community. It's a place to share your experiences
and learn from others as we overcome barriers and learn to live a happy and healthy life with a disability.
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