When is being defined by your disability a good thing?

When is being defined by your disability a good thing?

When is being defined by your disability a good thing? Is it a good thing to be defined by your disability? Or not? You may have a disability and think, ’Yes, I have a disability.’ But you may not consider yourself disabled.

I’ve been discussing these questions recently with people and have also come across them in the press.

They are not questions for which a straightforward answer is easy. Identity and disability are complex topics. You can write a book on it. So I will only scratch the surface in this blog.

What I do is share real life examples of how people view their disability. And from that the three things which can influence your thinking about being defined by your disability (or not).

When is being defined by your #disability a good thing? Is it ever a good thing? Tell a friend

‘I have a disability, but I don’t consider myself disabled.’

I heard this a month ago at a bladder and bowel support group I attend. The person who said it has a colostomy bag. (I have this person’s permission to mention what they said in this blog.) A colostomy bag collects a person’s poo because they are unable to pass it through the rest of their intestines and then out their rectum (for any number of reasons).

Looking at this person you would not know they have a colostomy bag. They go to work, see their friends, enjoy their hobbies, etc, etc. They are living their life. They just empty their waste through a bag, that’s all.

My other half also says he doesn’t consider himself to have a disability – he has diabetes and is insulin dependent. Looking at my husband, you wouldn’t know he has diabetes. He works full-time, enjoys his hobbies, etc. However, I know the changes he has had to make and they have not always been easy for him.

I often hear from people whose disabilities are not readily visible

Like having a colostomy bag or diabetes. Some of these people are able to continue their lives from an outsider’s perspective nearly the same as before the disability’s onset.

But also, if someone has depression or bi-polar disorder, they go to work, have a family, go out with their friends, smile and laugh, have hobbies. For people who experience depression, they may not experience it all of the time. Bi-polar can also fluctuate and at times the person may be going through a period where they don’t experience the depressive or manic phases.

In the above examples, the disability can be invisible or just not visually prominent at times and the person may not think of themselves as disabled. They are getting on with their lives and dealing ably with the impact of their disability.

I have a disability but I don’t consider myself disabled.’ – I’ve heard this a fair number of times from people with a #disability and write about it here. Tell a friend

But what about disabilities that are visible?

Society’s view of disability has traditionally been that a disability is visible, i.e. a person using a wheelchair or other aids for example. The disability has to be visible for a person to be considered disabled. (But that is an older view of disability which is changing.) So you would think a person can’t help being defined by their disability, right?

A picture of four people representing society point at a man using sticks to walk. The four people are saying, "You have a disability, you are disabled." The man is saying, "Uhm, I have a disability but I don't think of myself as disabled." The pic also contains the questions: When is being defined by your disability a good thing? And who is doing the defining?

You may become known as the person ‘in the wheelchair’ or who ‘has a blade’, or ‘uses a stick’ and/or a scooter. You yourself know that you are different from many of the people around you. That difference stands out and it is often the first thing people see and often react to.

Ellen Blunsdon, a student in Edinburgh, noticed people were looking at her more and she got more comments from the public when she started to use her walking stick routinely.

Maybe you don’t mind being defined by your disability in this way

I have heard people say, ‘My wheelchair is a part of me, it’s an extension of my body.’ In Ellen’s case, she loves her six walking sticks because she sees them as an extension of her body and something she can express her identity with.

I have also heard people say that their disability has played in a role in shaping the person they are today and has provided the opportunities to do things they enjoy in their life.

I remember meeting a guy who described the day he sustained a spinal cord injury (due to a car crash) as his birthday. He also said that he would not go back to his previous life.

Or the disability is seen as a bad and unfortunate thing to have happened but not the end of the world. For example, Kristina Vogel, the cyclist who sustained a spinal cord injury in 2018 in a cycling accident and is now wheelchair dependent said in this BBC article, “I still love my life. So nothing changed, really. Just how I move. I’m going to do a lot of things in my wheelchair. It’s different, but it’s still my life…”

Kristina Vogel’s gives a matter-of-fact description of her situation. I have heard many people who use wheelchairs say that all that has changed is how they get around and do some activities. Like Kristina, they now use wheels rather than their legs. For them, the rest of their life is similar to as it was before: they go to work, love, laugh, cook, have hobbies, etc.

They’ve adapted to regain their abilities to do the things they want in life. And they’ve found new ways to be able. So saying they are ‘disabled’ feels a misnomer. I feel they have ‘re-enabled’ themselves. They too are getting on with their lives and dealing ably with the impact of the changes to their body.

The pic shows three people with various disabilities and it's about them regaining abilities and regaining new ones after the onset of a disability. The man in the wheelchair is saying, "I've taken up painting as a hobby and I have my first exhibition." The woman who uses sticks is saying, "I still work as an engineer." A younger woman is saying, "I've managed to go to university even though I have chronic fatigue syndrome. I won't finish uni with my friends but I will finish."

Or you may mind being defined by your disability

You may wish people would see past your wheelchair, prosthetic, blindness, deafness, diabetes and see you for who you are as a person, your sense of humour, your skills, your achievements, likes and dislikes.

Or you worry about ‘coming out’ with your disability, concerned that people you have known for a very long time may treat you differently, as in the case of the student Ellen mentioned previously.

Or you mind being defined by your disability but you’re aware of the benefits and opportunities it has brought you

Billy Monger’s story demonstrates this point. He was rising up the ranks in the motor racing world when he lost his legs in an accident on the track in 2017. The racing world rallied around him to help and he ‘found himself transformed from just another driver on the rise, to a symbol of triumph over adversity’.

But ‘Billy wants to be known as a racing driver and “not the guy who drives with no legs”’.

‘“Before the accident, I was desperate to get my name out there. Now, everyone knows who I am, but in my head, it’s not for the right reasons,” he says.’

‘He’s conflicted because, in some ways, Billy knows he needs the spotlight now more than ever’ to move ahead in motor racing. His accident and consequent disability has given him the spotlight he needed.

Not only can you have the conflict of recognising the good things that happened and opportunities that have come your way due to your disability, but you also want to be recognised for yourself and your abilities regardless of the disability.

You can also have another conflict like Billy said in the article, and I’ve heard from others – In some circumstances they would go back to their old life if they could. You may feel the same.

This is what could be influencing your thinking about being defined by your disability

Writing the above, three things occurred to me which could potentially influence your thinking around being defined by your disability. And this is by no means an exhaustive list.

  1. What we as a society have associated with the meaning of ‘disability’ and ‘disabled’.
  2. There’s a theme in everything I have written of what other people think and how they respond to disability.
  3. Feeling that one is ‘disabled’ is a very subjective experience. And so it will differ from individual to individual.

I could go into what the law considers to be a disability as per the Equality Act but to keep this blog from getting even longer, I have chosen not to address that. Suffice it to say that if your impairment is considered a disability under the Equality Act, you have an extra layer of protection in the workplace. This is when it may be open about your disability. For guidance on the Equality Act, this is also a useful document.

A man who uses sticks to walk is sitting on an ottoman holding a book titled 'About Disability' and thinking the following: I'm ok with the term disability. I do have a disability, but I still have many capabilities. So I'm not sure I'm disabled. But other people think I'm disabled. It's frustrating when they think I've lost all my abilities. What do we mean by being disabled?" The caption has the question: How do you think about being defined by your disability?

What we as a society have associated with the meaning of ‘disability’ and ‘disabled’

When you look at the word ‘disabled’, there are two parts ‘dis-abled’. And it’s the meaning of the prefix ‘dis’ which sets the tone for the meaning of the word ‘disabled’.

According to the Oxford dictionary, the prefix ‘dis’ can give a word

  • the opposite meaning, e.g. like and dislike
  • express negation, e.g. disadvantage
  • denote reversal or absence of an action or state, e.g. disaffirm
  • denote removal of something, e.g. disbar
  • express completeness or intensification of an unpleasant or unattractive action, e.g. disgruntled

Dictionary.com also defines ‘dis’ as having a ‘privative, negative or reversing force’.

I had to look up ‘privative’ and according to the Oxford Dictionary, it means ‘marked by the absence or loss of some quality or attribute that is normally present’. Dictionary.com refers to privative as ‘causing, or tending to cause, deprivation; consisting in or characterised by the taking away, loss, or lack of something; indicating negation or absence’.

A disability in the context of our bodies means that we don’t have (from birth) or lost some functionality whether that is physical and/or mental.

There are two parts to the word ‘disabled’ – 'dis' and 'abled'. The prefix ‘dis’ means loss, deprivation, negation, absence. No wonder people say, ‘I have a #disability but don’t consider myself #disabled.’ Who wants such… Tell a friend

But given the meaning of ‘dis’ has negative connotations, a sense of negativity has been associated with disability

That it’s negative to lose functionality. It may very well be, don’t get me wrong. In general, we don’t like losing stuff. But also, when we lose functionality, we are then different from the majority of people around us. And society doesn’t always deal well with difference.

This negativity is often inherent in the everyday language people use to describe disability. For examples of this, read the article about Ellen where there are assumptions that disability is associated with not looking pretty or older age. There is also the issue that if you have a physical disability, people will assume you can’t speak for yourself or are also impacted mentally.

Most people don’t want something negative associated with themselves and their abilities. So it’s understandable that someone who has a disability may not consider themselves disabled.

People often don’t want negativity associated with their disability. Take Billy Monger mentioned above. He wants to be known for his skills first, not his disability. First and foremost, he is a human being with a career path, hopes, dreams, likes, dislikes, etc. He just happens to move around differently.

So I come back to the point I made earlier about ‘disabled’ not being quite right when people have adapted how they approach every-day activities and found new ways of being able.

What other people think and how they respond to disability

As in Ellen’s story, sometimes Joe and Jane Public can do an excellent job of sometimes inadvertently, but also overtly, disabling the person with the disability. This often happens by what they do and say, and the assumptions which underpin what they say.

For example, being told you’re inspirational for doing something normal like going shopping in your wheelchair can be frustrating. You may have worked hard to return to the every-day normal activity of shopping so you could live an independent life like everyone else around you.

What is different about you is pointed out to you and you are fully aware of this difference. But the underlying assumptions of what people say can be patronising and disabling. Take the common saying:

“I think you’re inspirational for doing your food shopping!”

The possible assumptions could be:

  • “Poor you! It must be awful to have to use a wheelchair/stick!” – This comes across as patronising. It can also be a subtle way of the speaker saying, ‘You are worse off than me.’ One person is greater, one person is less than.
  • “Wouldn’t it be easier for you to have it delivered?” – This could be a subtle discount of the person’s abilities to do their own shopping in a wheelchair.
  • “I could never do that. That must be so hard. I find it amazing you can.” – If you ever become injured or ill which causes a disability, you may need to find a way yourself.

But you can have the opposite experience as in Billy’s story where people rally around you and support you to return to as full and active life. And people treat you the same as any other person.

Feeling that one is ‘disabled’ is a very subjective experience

Every person is different. You may mind being defined by your disability, or you may not.

You may define another person by their disability, but they may not do that for themselves.

You may not mind being defined by your disability, but you may very much mind the impact of having a disability means for getting out and about and contributing in our society as Hannah Cockroft points out so well in this video. Our built environment is certainly not accessible to everyone no matter the disability they have.

You may not want to be defined by your disability but appreciate what you’ve learned or gained as a result of your life post illness or injury which now defines you.

You may or may not mind being defined by your disability but you wouldn’t hesitate to return to your life pre-disability if you could.

So when is being defined by your disability a good thing?

It depends. There can be so many responses to this. It’s not an either-or issue. There is no right or wrong way to be. Whether or not you feel defined by your disability and whether that is a good thing or not is a very individual experience.

The picture contains a box on the left which has Good in it and a box on the right which has Not Good in it. There are nine boxes in between and they are various shades of grey. Among the boxes is written: All the shades of grey and contradictions. And the caption says, 'Being defined by your disability can be all of this.' There is a man sitting on the Not Good box saying, "See me for me." There's a woman with mobility sticks standing under the Good box saying, "It helps when a shop or venue is accessible."

What’s it like for you?

What do you consider to be a disability or when someone is disabled? If you have a disability, how do you feel about being defined by your disability? Or a loved one being defined by their disability? 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 serious health issue or are caring for someone who is, and would like support to return to a sense of wellness, 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

How to love your body with illness or injury

How to love your body with illness or injury

How do you love your body with illness or injury? How do you learn to love it again? So much about your body has changed, this can feel like a really hard task. You may have loved what your body enabled you to do previously and/or how you looked.

I feel it’s important to learn how to love your body with illness or injury again. It’s the only body you have. And you have it for the rest of your life. I’m not saying this will be a quick and easy journey for you. We are all different. But who knows, maybe it will be.

Where #bodyimage, #illness or #injury and society’s expectations and stigmas collide can be a potentially destructive place. Read about that here and what you can do to ensure it isn’t. Tell a Friend

Three things made me think of this recently. My own journey back to regular exercise. Through that I was hearing how people speak about their bodies and I felt sad with what I was hearing. And an article I read about weight loss and chronic illness.

Before I go any further, I want to say that this is a really big topic and I am only addressing it from one small angle on this occasion. I may come back to this topic from another angle in the future.

Learning to love your body with illness or injury is determined by body image (before and after the illness or injury), the impact of the illness or injury, and society's expectations and stigmas. It can be a potentially destructive mix. The picture shoes these three concepts as a Venn diagram.

How to love your body with illness or injury

That journey to fall back in love with ourselves and our bodies after a serious illness or injury or alongside a chronic illness has so many parts to it and can take time.

For a time we may be angry with our bodies for betraying us. I see this a lot in cases of cancer and auto-immune conditions where people were leading healthy lives before the illness arrived. Or we are mourning the loss of a part of our bodies due to cancer or injury for example.

We learn to adapt so we can return to favourite or new activities, return to work, and re-engage with our life. But having to adapt may bring its own frustrations as we are reminded of what we can no longer do as easily as we once did.

Having to adapt how we use our bodies so we can re-engage with our lives may bring its own frustrations. We are reminded of what we can no longer do as easily as we once did. #seriousillness #seriousinjury #bodyimage Tell a Friend

Eventually, we hopefully find a way to live in our changed bodies peacefully with a recognition of and appreciation for what it can do. Of course, we may experience setbacks if we experience a flare-up and become ill or injured again. But sometimes these setbacks are due to what people say and do to us. And it can be very hurtful on the being on the receiving end of that.

So what can you do?

There are two things you can do help yourself on your journey to love your changed body with illness or injury

And a lot of what I say here is equally applicable to people who do not have any major health issues. To men as well as women.

Listen to how you speak about your body

Do you say anything like the following?

Oh, my thunder thighs! I hate how they look!

Geez, I suffer from kankle syndrome!

My boobs are too small/big/droopy.

I’ve got man boobs. I’m not man enough.

Why can’t I be slim like her?

I hate how my chin isn’t well defined.

I hate how this bit of my body no longer works.

Oh, this grey hair! I can’t look old!

It’s very common to hear the above. Lots of people say these kind of things. It’s so normal. But should it be?

Listen to the language you use about yourself. Sometimes we can be really hard on ourselves. In what feels to be not a particularly helpful way.

We speak badly about a part of our body -->
We know that part of our body is with us forever -->
We feel worse because we have to deal with it.

I wonder, how does talking this way about yourself help you?

It can be a vicious cycle that repeats. Do you really need to be doing that to yourself?

The picture shows a woman looking into a mirror thinking, "Useless weak left leg." It then shows her saying, "Every day I have to deal with this useless weak left leg." And then it shows her thinking, "This sucks. I'll never have long and lean leg." The woman is in a vicious cycle of body image, the impact of her illness (or injury) and trying to meet society's expectations of having long and lean legs. This makes it hard to love your body with illness.

I have even heard this from staff in clothing shops and stylists, ‘You want to cover up/disguise/distract from this bit of yourself.’ And they talk about our ‘bad bits’.

Can we just love ourselves and our bodies as is?

How about substituting the ‘I don’t like’ with ‘I am grateful’?

You know that gap in your thighs we women are ‘supposed’ to have? I’ll never have that. I’ve got big thighs. My shoulders are sloping. I’ve got big boobs too. Slim ankles? Nope. Don’t have that either. I have chronic pain and a loss of sensory awareness in my hands so it makes it harder to do finer things like doing up my bra and putting in earrings. Otherwise, my hands work ok.

And you know what. I’m ok with all that. It’s my body. I can walk. Not great sometimes due to arthritis and poor walking habits due to old knees injuries (which I’m working on changing through physiotherapy). I can exercise. I can kayak. I can cook. My ankles, knees, thighs, hands and shoulders all enable me to do that. I enjoy those activities. I am grateful.

That is the key point around listening to how we speak about our bodies. Changing that ‘I don’t like’ or even hate relationship with parts of your bodies to one of gratefulness for what those parts of your body enable you to do.

The ‘I don’t like’ or even hate relationships with parts of our body often originate in society’s standards for health and beauty. So on to my next point.

The ‘I don’t like’ or even hate relationships with parts of our body often originate in society’s standards for #health and beauty. #bodyimage #seriousillness #seriousinjury Tell a Friend

Be mindful of how society’s standards of health and beauty for men and women do not help

Society standards are not very forgiving. Companies constantly push an ideal body shape for men and women, beauty standards and products at us to encourage us conform to these standards. Bu the standards can be difficult or even impossible for some of us to obtain. And the time it takes out of our schedules to meet those standards!

For example, a couple of years ago Avon had this campaign about ‘getting rid of your morning face’ by using their make-up of course. In a sense, we were being told our morning face is tired looking, that that isn’t good and we should not be looking like that, but hey, Avon can fix that with their products.

Barbara Babcock with no make-up. Learn to love your body with illness or injury.

I felt sad when I saw that commercial. I love seeing my face in the morning! I don’t care how tired I look. I smile at myself in the mirror because I think that is a great way to start my day. So I tweeted my lovely morning face with no make-up to Avon.

It can also be difficult to maintain these standards too. It may not be cheap money-wise. We also age. Our skin will change, our boobs may sag, our tummies may not be as tight, our hair goes grey, and more. That’s a normal process and we all go through it. But Western society has taught us that it’s not natural and we should fight it every step of the way. At what point in our lives can we just be at peace with our bodies?

A serious illness or injury can make it even more difficult to live with society’s standards

This article about how body and weight shaming negatively impacts women living with chronic illness poignantly demonstrates this.

Weight loss can be glorified at a time when it should be raising alarm bells. But society’s standards are even dictating how medical and healthcare professionals approach weight loss and treat people who may weigh more than is desired for their body shape/age. From reading this article, you get the sense the medical and healthcare professionals weren’t making the connection between weight gain or loss with the health issue.

Your energy may not be well spent on conforming to society’s standards

I am not saying don’t ever wear make-up, colour your hair, enjoy fashion, see a stylist, etc. You may enjoy experimenting with hair colour, make-up, and fashion because it helps you express a part of yourself. Or you follow a diet and/or exercise plan to lose weight because it would be the right thing for you to do for your health and wellness.

I’m cautioning against blind acceptance and following of society’s standards for beauty and what it considers healthy. Because it may not be what is right for you and so may not help you love your body with illness or injury. Also, if you have limited energy due to being in a caring/supporting role or the illness/injury you have, you’ve got to spend that energy wisely.

So double check if what you are doing is healthy for you, your body and your sense of wellness. And if you are embarking on making changes in your diet or exercise be sure to get the ok from a suitably qualified professional, such as a GP or nutritionist. Just to make sure the changes you want to make and how you want to make them are healthy for you, won’t adversley impact on medication dosages, etc.

Pic of two tips on developing a balanced body image so you can love your body with illness or injury. Tip 1: Spend time getting to know the body part you don't like. What does it enable you to do in your life? (even if it functions differently from before) Does it enable you to do necessary activities and activities you enjoy? Practice saying, "I am grateful you help me do XYZ." Tip 2: Consume society's standards mindfully. Pick and choose what works for you and your health and sense of wellness. To ensure you expend your energy wisely and productive for you.

What’s it like for you?

How do you love your body with illness or injury? How has the relationship with your body changed? What has helped you or would help to develop a good enough relationship with your body? 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 serious health issue or are caring for someone who is, and would like support to develop a new relationship with your body, have a look at how we can work together and get in touch for a free no obligation consultation.

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Know of someone who would benefit from reading this blog, or you just want to spread the ideas, click on the icons to share.

© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2019

You can find an emotional balance after illness or injury

You can find an emotional balance after illness or injury

Learning how to find an emotional balance after illness or injury can sometimes take a back seat. Your focus is often on recovery, rehabilitation, and figuring out how to live your life in your changed body.

Time moves on and you’ve started doing things you used to do before the illness or injury. You’ve worked hard to get to this point. You tell yourself you should feel grateful. But you don’t. You don’t feel that sense of emotional balance.

You may be quick to anger, tears or both, feel like you’re hiding away from people and life, and feel guilt. You feel what you’ve lost: your old life, a sense of control, confidence, etc. It’s taking a toll on your mental health. You wonder if you will ever feel well again, find an emotional balance and be happy. And is that even possible given all the (unwanted and un-asked for) change you’ve been through.

 

Pic of a woman with a stick due to having a disability and looking at the health lottery ticket she won but she didn't even know she was playing.

It’s not uncommon to lose one’s sense of emotional balance when you find out you won a health lottery you didn’t even know you were playing.

 

This is a common scenario I come across in my work as a coach and facilitator and it’s clear why. Recovery and rehabilitation along with your regular day-to-day life can be a full-time job. You may not have the energy to focus on the emotional side of things. But it can also feel really scary and too big to deal with. And knowing how to deal with it can be an issue. It may feel easier to use your energy to keep the lid firmly shut on it. Yet the issues keep bubbling up pushing the lid off.

 

Pic of a person trying to keep a lid on the sadness they feel.

Pushing down your sadness means it will keep coming up to the surface and spilling out.

 

So I want to share with you two important things you can do which will help you find an emotional balance after illness or injury.

 

Learn the two things you can do to find an emotional balance again after a life-changing illness or injury #seriousillness #chronicillness #invisibleillness #seriousinjury #healthcoaching #wellness tell a friend

 

1. Integrate your experience of the illness/injury into your life story to find an emotional balance

 

You have a story of your life. When and where you were born, what it was like for you growing up and becoming an adult, who your best mates are, what you enjoy doing, your education, the work you do, key events in your life, etc.

The key thing is to integrate your experience(s) of the illness or injury so it is a part of your life story rather than dominating it – the negative and positive experiences. (And yes, you may have experience some positives such as the kindness of a stranger, a good friend standing by you, something else.) Your illness or injury experience will shape you as a person, but you’ve experienced a lot of other events, emotions, relationships, jobs, experiences, etc. which have also shaped you. And will continue to do so.

 

The illness/ injury/ disability is one part of your life, not the whole of it.

 

Your #seriousillness #chronicillness #invisibleillness #seriousinjury is one part of your life, not the whole of it #healthcoaching #wellness tell a friend

 

I find what helps you to do this is acknowledging, owning, and finding a way to express the feelings you experience in relation to the illness/injury. Even the unfamiliar and unpleasant ones like sadness, grief, anger, isolation, etc.

Clients often describe being in touch with these unpleasant feelings as moving through a swamp. People find the prospect scary and so avoid the swamp as they fear they will drown in it. As I wrote in other blogs, it’s not about unpacking and drowning in the swamp forever and ever. There are ways to acknowledge these feelings so that does not happen to you.

 

Woman flailing in a swamp of unpleasant emotions and there is a woman on the bank saying that the swamp isn't deep, the woman can stand and trying to help get her out.

Paradoxically, to find an emotional balance often means wading through the swamp of unfamiliar and sometimes scary emotions and feelings.

 

These unpleasant feelings are actually really normal to experience in the scheme of life. It is unfortunate that society has stigmatised them as not normal. They are part of a spectrum of feelings and acknowledging that we feel them demonstrates our human-ness.

 

2. Integrate the person you were before the illness/injury with the person you are now and are becoming to find an emotional balance

 

This is the second thing you can do which will help.

Before the life-changing illness/injury, you knew who you were and what you were about: your likes, dislikes, you had plans for the future and dreams, you had your friends, work, routine, etc. Things felt stable and you ticked along happy and confident that if you put the effort in, you would get the results you wanted for yourself.

But after the life-changing illness or injury, you may feel like you are not you anymore, whilst knowing you are still you. You feel like a contradiction and this can feel destabilising, hence why people try to find an emotional balance. Many people feel this so it’s entirely normal. It’s also true that you are you and not you.

 

After a life-changing #seriousillness #chronicillness #seriousinjury you may feel you are still you but not you. It’s true. You are you and not you. Read why here. #healthcoaching #wellness tell a friend

 

The reason why is you are evolving.

 

The direction your life is taking is completely different from what you thought it was prior to your illness or injury. In a sense, you are living a new life. And there is no visible, well-trodden path to living this new life. No one gives you a handbook on how to find an emotional balance.** There are a lot of unknowns before you. And the unknown is uncertain, which can be worrisome, and it can feel like you are in the swamp again.

Part of this process of integration is being very conscious of how you are now and how you are changing, taking a proactive and deliberate role in it, and determining the direction you are moving in.

As you take considered action, what you are doing is building your path of wellness as you are walking/rolling on it. And as you are building your path, you know what is going into it. That creates a level of certainty. Do this and you find an emotional balance you have been seeking. It’s possible.

 

Pic of two women building one of the women's path of well so she can find an emotional balance

Building your own path of wellness will enable you to find an emotional balance.

 

What’s it like for you?

 

What has it been like for you when trying to find an emotional balance after a life-changing illness or injury? What has helped you to find an emotional balance again?

If you are living with a chronic illness, or the after effects of a serious illness, or are caring for someone who is, and would like support to build that firm path back to wellness, have a look at how we can work together and get in touch for a free no obligation consultation.

 

Help with research on acceptance

 

If you or a loved one experienced a serious health issue in the past 2 years and are struggling or wondering if you can accept what has happened, I would love to speak with you. I am researching the concept of ‘acceptance’ within the context of a serious health issue by collecting people’s experiences with it. Click here to find out more. And in exchange, I offer you a free 1 hour coaching session.

 

Pass it forward

 

Although I wrote this blog in the context of living with a serious health issue, the ideas contained within are applicable to everyone. If you think someone you know would benefit from reading this blog, or you just want to spread the ideas, click on the icons to share.

© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2018

** My blogs are meant to be the handbook on how to find an emotional balance and more after a life-changing illness or injury. You can sign up to my newsletter below to get them direct to your inbox.

 

If you want to leave a comment privately, complete this form. If you want to leave it publicly, keep scrolling.

How to increase your self-worth after illness or injury

How to increase your self-worth after illness or injury

To increase your self-worth after illness or injury can feel like a mammoth task. You’ve been thrown into this unknown land of serious illness or injury, you can’t do what you once did, and you don’t know what to do to feel better. You may feel like you have lost control and aren’t sure who you are anymore. It’s understandable that your confidence takes a nose dive and your self-worth quickly follows.

So I have an exercise to help you increase your self-worth after illness or injury. It’s easy. And fun. It also ties in nicely with last week’s blog where I wrote about adjusting high standards after an illness or injury and maintaining your self-worth in the process. This exercise can help with that too.

I came up with this idea when chatting to a participant after delivering a self-management course about developing ways to manage one’s health condition. The exercise was well received. So I’m sharing it with you.

It doesn’t matter if you have the illness or injury, how long it’s been since you’ve had it or are the carer. This exercise applies to everyone.

 

Increase your self-worth after illness or injury exercise

 

Have you experienced a #seriousillness #seriousinjury or have a #chronicillenss? Does your #confidence and #selfworth feel low? Increase them w/ this exercise tell a friend

 

1. Make a list of actions you can take which will make you feel better, enhance how you look after yourself, contribute towards your sense of wellness

 

These actions can be behavioural actions, something someone would see you do or hear you say. Or they can be more mental based, internal to you.

The actions can be related to different parts of your life – how you feel in yourself, your physical wellness, managing your health condition, your recovery/rehabilitation, family relationships, social life, job/career, faith, life purpose, adjusting your own personal high standards, etc.

Here is my list

  • Stretch every day and do it during the day so I get away from my desk and computer.
  • Walk to the shops every day.
  • Reduce portion sizes at meals by 1/3.
  • Move to blogging weekly. Write the blog for the next week on a Friday.
  • When I get into the typical negative thought cycle that I do, stop and ask myself, ‘What do I really need right now?’
  • I imagine being in touch with a friend. So I will email or text them to start the conversation in real life.
  • Someone compliments me. I will thank the person and I will not say, ‘Oh, that was nothing,’ as that is minimising what I did. I will also sit with the compliment, notice the positive feelings it gives me and let myself feel how good it makes me feel.
  • I will tell myself I am a good person just because.
  • Take a luxurious bubble bath once a week.

These are real and current for me right now.

 

It’s important to notice the characteristics of the actions, as they help to contribute towards your self-worth.

 

There are a variety of actions, which is good as I am not relying on one type to increase my self-worth.

The actions are helping me to make a change I want for myself. So it’s ok if the actions will be repeated. An action promoting change has to be repeated for the change to become a habit.

They focus on various aspects of my life promoting me to look after myself physically, emotionally, etc.

These actions are FOR ME. And this is incredibly important. When setting your actions, make sure they are FOR YOU. Not purely what other people want you to do for them or actions you want to take to please others.

What I don’t want is for you to end up in a cycle of achieving things to please others to feed your self-worth. It may increase your self-worth, but if these are the only actions which feed your self-worth it gets very tiring after a while and is not sustainable. I know, I did it for a good part of my life.

It’s fine to have some actions which benefit both you and others, like focusing on spending more time with your children, older parents, friends, volunteering, etc.

And it’s fine to have everyday actions that nurture you in some way – making time to read a good book, or have a cup of quiet tea in the morning before the family wakes up, or taking a bubble bath.

 

Pic of a person holding their hands over their heart and the actions they have taken to feed their self-worth

What action are you taking to feed your self-worth?

 

If you want a structured exercise to help you set actions for this exercise, then get the free Wellness Assessment from the homepage of my website. It will help you to set goals in areas of your life important to you, and then the actions you can take to start moving yourself towards them.

 

2. Find a jar with a wide enough opening to put things in

 

This is your Self-worth Jar. Make sure the jar is such that you can see the contents inside of it, i.e. clear glass or plastic.

Feel free to decorate it as much or as little as you wish.

If you don’t have a jar, a vase can work well.

 

Picture of a clear glass jar and vases which can be used as your self-worth jar

 

3. Find an object to represent the actions you plan to take

 

This can be marbles, stones or gravel, or other small objects. They could even be from nature: acorns, conkers, pinecones, shells. You’ll need a number of these. Or you can use a piece of paper with your action written on it.

Feel free to use a mixture of small items to represent the actions you will take.

Make sure the items representing your actions are in proportion to the size of your Self-Worth Jar. If you jar is too big and the items representing your actions really small, it can take a long time to fill up your jar. You want to make this process achievable for yourself.

 

Picture of everyday items like stones gravel shells conkers and corks which can be used to put in your self-worth jar every time you take an action that increases your self-worth

 

4. Every time you take one of your actions, put an object in your Self-Worth Jar

 

Pic of items (conkers) in a self-worth jar. The conkers represent an action taken to increase one's self-worth.

 

When you do that, metaphorically pat yourself on your back, give yourself a high-5 and tell yourself well done. Notice the feelings you feel and identify where in your body you feel them. Sit with these feelings for a bit. This is REALLY REALLY IMPORTANT TO DO.

I cannot emphasise this enough. When you do this you are learning or reminding yourself:

  • What it feels like to do something positive and nurturing for yourself
  • What it feels like to set goals which are good for you and to move towards them
  • How good it feels to achieve something for yourself
  • That it’s ok to do something good purely for yourself
  • That you are good and fine just the way you are right now.

Watch your jar fill up. Bask in your self-worth.

When you do something good for yourself, notice the feelings you feel and identify where in your body you feel them. Read why that is important here #healthcoaching tell a friend

 

5. When your jar is full, continue basking in your self-worth

 

Notice the feelings you feel and identify where in your body you feel them. Sit with these feelings. I say it again – This is REALLY REALLY IMPORTANT TO DO.

BECAUSE THIS IS WHAT YOUR SELF-WORTH FEELS LIKE!

And when you know what your self-worth feels like, and you consciously and intentionally practice what it feels like, it starts to become a natural and habitual part of you. This helps you to increase your self-worth.

 

Pic of a person taking a bath but they are bathing in their self-worth

Take the time to bathe in your self-worth

 

You can empty the jar and start again. You may wish to note somewhere when you have filled up a jar just to remind yourself from time-to-time of how you have helped yourself.

 

What’s it like for you?

 

What do you think of this Self-Worth Jar exercise? What strategies have you used to increase your confidence, self-esteem and self-worth?

Share your thoughts and questions in the comments below. If you don’t want to do that because the comments are public, send them to me using the contact form below.

Feel free to start your Self-Worth Jar and share it on social media and tag me using the hashtag #selfworthjar

Twitter – @barbara_babcock

Facebook – @ReturnToWellnessUK

Instagram – @returntowellness_UK

LinkedIn – bbabcock

If you are living with a serious health issue, which may be a serious illness or injury or chronic illness, or are caring for someone who is, and would like support to return to a sense of wellness, have a look at how we can work together and get in touch for a free no obligation consultation.

 

Help with research on acceptance

 

If you or a loved one experienced a serious health issue in the past 2 years and are struggling or wondering if you can accept what has happened, I would love to speak with you. I am researching the concept of ‘acceptance’ within the context of a serious health issue by collecting people’s experiences with it. Click here to find out more. And in exchange, I offer you a free 1 hour coaching session.

 

Pass it forward

 

Although I wrote this blog in the context of living with a serious health issue, the ideas contained within are applicable to everyone. If you think someone you know would benefit from reading this blog, or you just want to spread the ideas, click on the icons to share.

© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2018

 

If you want to leave a comment privately, complete this form. If you want to leave it publicly, keep scrolling.

 

Why adjusting your personal high standards after illness or injury helps

Why adjusting your personal high standards after illness or injury helps

Adjusting your personal high standards after illness or injury often helps people to live well with the impact but can be such a hard thing to do. So when clients say to me they have personal high standards for themselves, they are proud of them because they have enabled them to achieve so much, I get that. And I also make a note of it. (and I still make a note when I notice my own high standards) Here’s why.

Adjusting your personal high standards after #seriousillness #chronicillness #seriousinjury often helps people to live well with the impact but can be such a hard thing to do. tell a friend

 

Usually these clients have done bucket loads to help their recovery. Regularly doing physiotherapy, learning about the medical condition, reading books, taking up new hobbies and more. But they find they still aren’t where they want and expect to be.

 

Pic of a person with a disability sitting, crying and wondering why they still don't feel good even though they have been doing a lot to help themselves.

 

That is often when we start working together. I can see how their high standards are one of the things getting in the way of them finding a sense of peace in living in their changed bodies. Here is a typical example of what that looks like in action.

 

Personal high standards can create a vicious cycle

 

Client decides on a task or an activity to do or sets herself a goal.

She has to put in more physical effort to complete the task, activity or goal than in her pre-illness days.

Client worries about having the physical ability and stamina to finish the activity or task.

She compares herself and abilities to her pre-illness self. (This is where pre-illness high standards take over.)

Client continues trying to complete the task, activity or goal to the same standards as pre-illness.

But it’s taking a long time and it’s a lot harder.

She feels anxiety as a result.

Client does not relax.

She therefore does not enjoy the activity.

The client gets upset with herself.

You can see how the high standards from her pre-illness days were making were making her life difficult. They can lead to a vicious cycle and get in the way of a person making the change they want for themselves.

When your body has changed considerably, you end up putting a lot more physical, mental and emotional effort to do things you once did. And that can make it difficult for you to meet your pre-illness high standards. The high standards suited your body and capabilities as they were then, not now.

 

Pic of a person trying to push a heavy rock of personal high standards up a hill but not getting anywhere. Another person tells them that they adjusted their standards and they have been easier to carry ever since.

 

I’ve noticed that when people realise this and importantly, acknowledge this is their reality, that can then free up their energy to do something different to help themselves get to where they want to be.

 

Acknowledging your high standards are no longer achievable or difficult to achieve may not be an easy process

 

This needs to be respected I feel. The person is experiencing a HUGE change, often a life-changing change, which they may be finding traumatic. How their illness or injury occurred could also have been a traumatic event for them. Gentleness and compassion are needed.

I want to explain why this process of acknowledging their reality and adjusting personal high standards after illness or injury is not always easy for people.

 

1. When you experience a life-changing illness or injury, you don’t know what you don’t know

 

As I’ve said in previous blogs, it’s not like you get a handbook on how to deal with the change, adjust, move on with your life and be happy. So of course, you will be operating to your pre-illness or pre-injury standards. It is what you know.

 

2. Your willingness in adjusting your personal high standards after illness or injury plays an important role

 

Your willingness will have an impact on how you adapt to living with the impact. Unwillingness to adjust can take several forms.

Your willingness to adjust your personal high standards after #seriousillness #chronicillness #seriousinjury plays an important role. Read more here. tell a friend

 

2a. You don’t give yourself choices

 

Some people can operate in a such a way where they don’t give themselves choices in adjusting their personal high standards after illness or injury. For example, ‘I can be like I was or not. Not being like I used to be is not an option. So I’m going to do things as I used to do.’

This can feel a very black and white approach to the situation where only one way is acceptable.

 

2b. You associate your high standards with who you are as a person

 

If you associate your high standards with the sense of who you are as a person, your sense of identity, this can make it difficult to adjust them. For example,

I am a high-achiever.’

When we say I am such-and-such, the I am is fixed. There isn’t much movement to it.

Instead, have a go at saying, 

I work hard and put in a lot of effort to do a lot of things very well.’

That is more process-based, which means it is based on behaviours, i.e. working hard, putting in a lot of effort. When you make your way of being in the world based more on behaviours, there is more movement and flexibility. You can start to adjust how hard you work, how much effort you put in to things. (I am really hoping this makes sense, but if not, leave a question in the comments and I’ll respond.)

If you also place a high value on being this way as a person, this too can contribute to less willingness to adjust your high standards. For example,

am a high-achiever and it’s a great way for me to be.’

This can be hard to let go of. And I get why. Being the high achiever could have served you very well and you’ve done great things with it. There can also be that fear of,

‘If I let go of this, will it mean I am any less great/good as a person?’

Not only are we adjusting our high standards of ourselves, we are also adjusting the value we place on those standards and the value we place on ourselves as a consequence of living to those standards. It’s about adjusting your high standards and maintaining your self-worth.

 

2c. Adjusting your personal high standards after illness or injury means you are acknowledging what has happened

 

When adjusting your personal high standards after illness or injury, it also means you are acknowledging the change you’ve experienced. If the change was unwelcomed and not wanted, which most serious illnesses and injuries are, acknowledging the change can be harder.

 

Pic of a person with a disability sitting down and crying about having to deal with the change they never would have chosen for themselves and not being able to accept it.

 

I am using the word acknowledgement on purpose. Many times I hear people say accept. Re-read the previous paragraph using the word accepting instead of acknowledging. Notice any differences you feel.

Sometimes the meaning people give to the word accept can have a not-very-helpful impact on their adjustment process. (I will be writing more about this in the future, but for now if you want to share with me your experience of acceptance in the context of living with a serious health issue, there’s more on that below.)

The above three reasons explain why being willing to adjust our high standards can be hard and why this process must be handled with respect, care and compassion.

 

But having high standards isn’t a bad thing

 

I am not saying having high standards are bad and you can no longer have them. They can have a positive impact:

  • Motivating you to set goals and strive to meet them, which is great for your psychological health (provided the goals and the process are striving towards them are not harming you or others physically or psychologically).
  • Enabling you to achieve more than you originally thought possible.
  • The sense of achievement can feed your self-worth.

All good stuff.

Important Tangent: It’s recommended that your sense of self-worth comes from many sources, not just achieving things particularly if it’s to gain the approval of others.

Having personal high standards when living with #seriousillness #chronicillness #seriousinjury isn’t a bad thing. The key thing is being able to adjust them as and when you need to. tell a friend

 

The key thing is adjusting your personal high standards after illness or injury to the person you are now physically and psychologically. This is one of the things which helps to bring that sense of peace back into your life. And it’s an ongoing process. You can continue to adjust your personal high standards throughout your life.

 

A mind map of what helps you to adjust your high standards of yourself after illness or injury. Being wiling to adjust them is key.

 

What’s it like for you?

 

Does any of this resonate with you? What has helped you in adjusting your personal high standards after illness or injury? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

I appreciate though leaving a comment publicly about your health situation may not be your thing. So if you want to share it with me privately, complete the contact form below and I will respond.

If you are living with a serious health issue, which may be a serious illness or injury or chronic illness, or are caring for someone who is, and would like support to adjust your personal standards, have a look at how we can work together and get in touch for a free no obligation consultation.

 

Help with research on acceptance

 

If you or a loved one experienced a serious health issue in the past 2 years and are struggling or wondering if you can accept what has happened, I would love to speak with you. I am researching the concept of ‘acceptance’ within the context of a serious health issue by collecting people’s experiences with it. Click here to find out more. And in exchange, I offer you a free 1 hour coaching session.

 

Pass it forward

 

Although I wrote this blog in the context of living with a serious health issue, the ideas contained within are applicable to everyone. If you think someone you know would benefit from reading this blog, or you just want to spread the ideas, click on the icons to share.

© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2018

 

If you want to leave a comment privately, complete this form. If you want to leave it publicly, keep scrolling.

 

Depression and serious illness are not a good combination, aim for positivity

Depression and serious illness are not a good combination, aim for positivity

Depression and serious illness or injury is reckoned not to be a good combination. Being positive is often seen to be the better choice.

For example, I often hear people say, ‘Well, you can either get depressed and upset or you can be positive,’ in relation to living with the impact of a serious illness or injury. Many times, the person presents it as being happy is the right choice. Because who wants to be depressed and upset, right?

I get that. The fear that depression and sadness can overwhelm us and once we go there, we won’t be able to get out, is very real. So, we don’t go there at all. We shut that door and double lock it. Depression and serious illness won’t get us.

Picture of a person trying to lock out the depression and sadness of their serious illness

Locking depression and sadness out

 

I acknowledge this works for people.

I also want to acknowledge that for others, ignoring how sad and/or depressed they feel and striving to focus only on being positive may not. And I want to tell you why.

If you are one of these people, you may find what I share here will help your thinking around this and restore calm in how you feel about yourself.

Is it wrong to feel depressed when living with a #seriousillness #chronicillness #seriousinjury? Is it better to focus on feeling positive? What are your thoughts? tell a friend

 

Why the choice between depression and serious illness or being positive may not work for you

 

It’s a choice between two ways of being. An either-or choice. Be sad or be positive.

You only have two options.

On top of this, depression and sadness can have a negative connotation in our society so being positive is the ‘correct’ choice.

 

Your choices are laced with judgement

 

Have you selected the right choice or the wrong choice?

It’s not fun to be seen as the person who selected the ‘wrong’ choice, i.e. being sad and depressed. It also assumes that is an active choice we make. But sadness and depression doesn’t work like that. They can creep up on your unnoticed. Or come unexpectedly to be your new companion.

Pic of a person telling a sad person to snap out of it

If you only you could just snap out of depression and serious illness. But it doesn’t work like that.

 

So of course you plough on, trying your damndest to be positive, because you can’t let the illness or injury ‘win’. Yet inside, there is a well of sadness filling up that you keep trying to push down.

Pic of a person trying to keep a lid on the sadness they feel.

Pushing down your sadness means it will keep coming up to the surface and spilling out.

 

You are expending your often times limited amounts of energy in these opposing directions. How long will your energy last? In my experience, not forever. Here’s an alternative.

 

Rather than give yourself a dilemma, give yourself a trilemma

 

This is what a tutor from my first coaching qualification told me. This was an important learning that has helped me (and others) in coping with difficult situations like a serious illness.

When we say we have a choice between this or that – being sad or positive for example – we give ourselves two choices, or a dilemma. Sometimes this is referred to as ‘black and white thinking’.

What if you gave yourself a third choice? Or a fourth choice? So you have a trilemma or a quadlemma.

This is about moving from

either this or that

to

either this or that or that or…

You can give yourself as many choices as you wish.

Pic of the either-or dilemma and giving yourself more choices

Giving yourself more choices

 

When you have more than two choices, you give yourself more possibilities.

When you have more than two #choices, you are giving yourself more possibilities. #seriousillness #seriousinjury #chronicillness tell a friend

 

These possibilities open up new ways of being and doing which may better meet your needs. You are no longer stuck with two choices neither which may be right for you.

When you have several possibilities, you have a choice to select one that is appropriate for you at that time. This helps to build your muscle of flexibility. And the ability to be flexible and move among choices is so important to living well with the impact of a serious illness or injury.

More possibilities also help to take away the judgement of seeing your choice as being right or wrong. It becomes the best choice for you in that moment.

 

Giving ourselves choices acknowledges the many ways we feel

 

Importantly, when we give ourselves choices, we are acknowledging that there are many ways we can feel at any particular time.

If we just give ourselves only two choices laced with the judgement that one choice is correct and the other wrong, then we discount something very real we may be feeling.

It is NORMAL to feel incredibly sad when we are dealing with the impact of a serious illness or injury. Acknowledging how you feel gives validity to your experience. This validity can be very healing.

Acknowledging how you feel about living with a #seriousillness #chronicillness or #seriousinjury gives validity to your experience. Validity helps the healing process tell a friend

 

Acknowledging your sadness, depression and serious illness also develops your self-awareness. You are in a better position to recognise what you need and then make a choice to meet that need.

When you meet your needs, then you are much less likely to end up unpacking and living in the sadness and depression.

So I encourage you to acknowledge the many ways you feel – desperately sad some moments or days, hugely depressed on others, sad but not huge amounts at other times, pretty good on other days, downright happy and thrilled in other moments, etc, etc.

Give yourself choices in how you feel, your needs and how you meet those needs.

Pic of a person saying that acknowledging their feelings brings benefits of validity and choices

 

What’s it like for you?

 

How do the thoughts in this article resonate with you? How are you at acknowledging the many ways you feel in relation to your, or a loved one’s, serious illness, serious injury or chronic illness?

If you are living with a serious health issue, which may be a serious illness or injury or chronic illness, or are caring for someone who is, and would like support to return to a sense of wellness, have a look at how we can work together and get in touch for a free no obligation consultation.

 

Help with research on acceptance

 

If you or a loved one experienced a serious health issue in the past 2 years and are struggling or wondering if you can accept what has happened, I would love to speak with you. I am researching the concept of ‘acceptance’ within the context of a serious health issue by collecting people’s experiences with it. Click here to find out more. And in exchange, I offer you a free 1 hour coaching session.

 

Pass it forward

 

Although I wrote this blog in the context of living with a serious health issue, the ideas contained within are applicable to everyone. If you think someone you know would benefit from reading this blog, or you just want to spread the ideas, click on the icons to share.

© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2018

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