Learning how to regain your independence after illness or injury is a key goal for many people after a life-changing illness or injury.

Prior to dealing with your challenging health issue, whether your own or someone else’s, you probably didn’t think about your independence. You did what you wanted when you wanted. We all did.

But afterwards, when you can’t do what you want when you want, you are forced to think about it. You know what you cannot do anymore and that can be hard to deal with. You realise what you have lost. How much easier everything used to be. It’s tough.

And all you want is to regain your independence after illness or injury and figure out the best way to do that. To help, I have some ways of thinking about independence and being independent which can be a starting point for learning how to regain your independence after illness or injury or even act as a sense check if you are well on your way.

Learning how to regain your #independence after illness or injury is a key goal for many people after a life-changing illness or injury. Read about how you can do that here #seriousillness #seriousinjury Click To Tweet

This blog builds on a previous blog I wrote about redefining what independence and being independent means to you. Based on my experience with my clients, I see this as a crucial part of the process of learning how to regain your independence after illness or injury.

The framework for your independence has changed

A picture of a woman looking at her reflection in the mirror, which she doesn't recognise and is very surprised. She is saying, 'So much has changed! Who am I now?' The reflection in the mirror is a Picasso-like reflection of the woman with her eyes, ears, nose and mouth being in the wrong locations. The caption reads, 'A challenging health issue can change so much.' All this change can make it hard for a person to know how to regain their independence after illness.

For example, to do your errands now you may need to use a walking stick to help your balance, walk more slowly, need more time, and make sure the shops are more accessible from a mobility perspective.

You may still be able to do what you did before your illness or injury but how you approach it may be different. It may take you longer to do. Or you can’t spend as long on the activity as you once did. Or you need help from someone or something. You may have to plan more.

Consider the case of the woman, Hannah, featured in this article. It’s her story of living independently whilst depending on others and equipment. Due to contracting Transverse Myelitis as a teenager, Hannah is dependent on a ventilator to breathe and hence live. She has to use a wheelchair. A person might think she cannot do a lot.

Reading the article, you realise that Hannah is a busy woman and does many of the activities any person does – live, shop, work, socialise, travel and more. She has a team of carers who support her to do all this and she manages this team. Within her framework, she is exercising her independence.

What can help you change your framework to regain your independence after illness

Mourn what you have lost

Some people will really feel the loss of being able to do what they wanted when they wanted without having to think much about it. If that is true for you, acknowledge that loss. Mourn it. But you don’t have to unpack and live in the mourning forever and ever.

Let go of unhelpful assumptions

There are sometimes unhelpful, unrealistic and contradictory assumptions around asking for and receiving help. For example, it’s good to help others but not ok to ask for help. Or that we will be obligated to someone for the help they have given us. A lot of people don’t want to feel that way or be seen as needy.

It’s ok to receive help

But there are people who genuinely want to help and don’t expect much in return, only the pleasure it gives them to support you. And when a person is willing to help you, you know you matter to them. That’s a beautiful thing.

Esther Perel, the relationship and sex therapist, whose work I follow, said:

“For when we know that we matter to others, it gives us a significance.”

Esther Perel, in her email newsletter of 5th August 2019

It’s demonstrates that there is so much value to inter-dependence and that paradoxically it can help us do the things we want to be doing.

“For when we know that we matter to others, it gives us a significance.” @EstherPerel in her email newsletter on 5-Aug-2019. This resonated. Shows that there is so much value to inter-dependence. It can help us regain our… Click To Tweet

Developing flexibility and taking control can help you regain your independence after illness or injury

Loosening our grip on society’s assumptions around help can help us reach out, ask for and receive help so we can do the things we want to be doing in life. To be independent within our new frame, our new reality.

To provoke (in a good way) your thinking further around the assumptions of asking for and receiving help, at the end of this article there are links to blogs I have written on this topic.

A picture of a fire pit that has a roaring fire in it and two women. One woman is holding the unhelpful assumption 'Being independent means you do everything on your own' and she is planning to put it in the fire. She is saying, 'These assumptions are no longer useful. Thanks for coming over to help.' Her friend is handing her the unhelpful assumption, 'Asking for help means you are needy!' and she is saying, 'Happy to help.' The caption reads, 'Letting go of unhelpful assumptions.' It is necessary to do this in order to regain your independence after illness.

Gently challenging your assumptions, particularly those which don’t help you to live the life you want for yourself, also helps you to develop a more flexible definition of independence and be independent in the way that suits your life and how you want to live it. Much better than subscribing to what can feel like a rigid definition defined by society.

Also, when you choose to depend on someone or something so you can be doing stuff you want to be doing, you are in control of yourself. Even if it is something you would not have chosen for yourself in your pre-illness or injury days.

Doing so now means it is you recognising your need, deciding how best to meet that need, and getting that need met. It is your conscious and independent choice.

The original inspirational quote by Barbara Babcock of Return to Wellness reads: When you choose to depend on someone or something so you can do what you want to be doing, you are in control of yourself. It is you recognising your needs, deciding how best to meet those needs, and getting them met. It is your conscious and independent choice. It is you taking control." This is important to realise when on your journey to regain your independence after illness.

What’s it like for you?

How has your framework of independence changed due to your or your loved one’s health issue? What helped you to develop your new framework? Share your thoughts or questions in the comments below or alternatively email them to me (contact form in sidebar).  

If you are living with a challenging health issue or are caring for someone who is, and would like support on any of the issues discussed here, have a look at how we can work together and get in touch for a free no obligation consultation.

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© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2019

Blogs from the series on ‘Why asking for help is so hard ‘

The role guilt plays

The role self-worth plays

When asking for help doesn’t work: Moving beyond no

Why asking for help is so hard: Because being needy is not good

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