Disabilities come in all kinds of shapes and sizes: physical, emotional, psychological, intellectual, learning and so forth. They’re not all visible or diagnosable. They may simply prevent you from doing what you want to do. For example, shyness may impede you from meeting or talking to the people that you wish to get to know.
Lately I’ve been dealing with a sprained ankle, a relatively minor injury in the big scheme of things, on top of my usual array of invisible neuroses. Having a visible and obvious disability that literally affects almost everything I do has been an eye-opening experience in terms of what it must be like living, working, or dealing with someone with a disability.
- I can’t do something that is so basic and easy for others. In my current situation, this includes walking while carrying something. Someone suffering from anxiety, depression, phobias, ADD, or dyslexia may also be unable to do what feels obvious or easy for others.
- Others get tired of having to compensate for the disability. Who can be there 24/7 anticipating or cheerfully servicing every need, real or perceived? My disability is obvious, but for an invisible disability, I could imagine it could be even more challenging to maintain a compassionate perspective.
- The result may be patient resentment or martyrdom. (Squeaky, weak voice): Water? Please? Anyone there? The result may be poor behavior, either in terms of medical compliance or attitude.
- Caregiver then gets even more frustrated and fed up, which is a barrier to compassion or empathy. But did you know that caregivers have a higher mortality than patients? Caregiving is not easy, especially if you’re dealing with a resentful, ungrateful patient. Don’t you just want to go and do your own thing? Relax for a change? Not worry about your loved one’s care or her feelings of resentment or martyrdom?
It has been an interesting challenge for me because of my deprivation schema, where I tend to focus on where my needs, real or perceived, are not met. I have really had to work at keeping that schema in check and relying on gratitude, empathy and compassion as antidotes to feeling ignored.
I also reflect on my Dad, suffering from Parkinson’s. My little mobility issue pales in comparison, yet he maintains the sweetest, most grateful attitude imaginable. It’s not 24/7 but by and large, he’s handling his illness with grace and good cheer.
You’re right Dad. Life is a journey and just when we think we’ve arrived at a destination, our new vantage point shows us we have so much more to do. That journey is rarely easy, but if it were, it probably would not mean a whole lot to us. Indeed, the effort heuristic says that the more effort we put into something, the more we value it.
I guess that’s why we’re called “loved ones.”
P.S. I have a stability boot now so I’m mobile. Praise technology!