Our pastor at Weem’s Creek has been going through the story of Elijah. Interesting guy, this old testament prophet, Elijah. Through him, God shut off the rain for a long period of time. He put the false prophets of Baal to shame by having his own sacrifice (soaked in water) eaten up by fire called down from Heaven. But… Elijah could be a whiner.
Not only could the man whine, but he could exaggerate as well. After a particularly spectacular display of God’s might – working through Elijah – he claimed to be all alone and the last of his kind (a prophet). Neither were true. Elijah became depressed. God decided to force him into action, and it eventually changed his outlook.
Pastor Orr used a quote, “It is easier to act your way into a feeling, than to feel your way into an action”. I looked all over the Internet for who actually said that. Although I found plenty of examples of people USING the quote, I was unable to actually find who said it “first”.
This quote really hit home for me. I was contacted this last week by a man who follows my blog. I asked his permission to share part of that email.
“I can know that I need to change my attitude about my disability, but knowing and doing are two different things. How do you get to where you know your life is not over after acquiring a disability when you are stuck on thinking your life is over?”
I’ve been very open about my own struggles with depression. Would I have struggled with depression had I not begun to lose my hearing at the age of 25-years-old? Very possibly. But I do know know that there is a correlation between depression and disability. Research has shown that the degree of depression in people with disabilities is directly connected to their own personal acceptance of their disability (Townend, Tinson, Kwan, Sharpe, 2010). You need to accept your “new normal”. I DO realize it is easy to say, but there really IS life after disability.
I realize we all struggle with different things. Some chronic illnesses and disabilities impact important life functions such as mobility, independence, and quality of life. Being late-deafened is minor to having Meniere’s disease in my own life. As a matter of fact, my husband noted recently that Chloe does just as many balance-related tasks as she does hearing alerts (if not more) – and she is a certified hearing assistance dog. When we have a major weather system stall out over the top of us (my main vertigo trigger) I can really struggle to even get up the nerve to leave the bed in the morning. And let me tell you… it can require nerves. A recent fall left me black and blue from shoulder to hip, with an anxious husband trying to decide whether or not to call 9-1-1 as I kept losing consciousness. (Life with Denise can be exciting – grin). However, when the sun shines, my balance related symptoms are minor. I’m very aware there are courageous (and inspiring) people who do not get “sunny days”. They do not have a break in the degree of disability that directly influences the quality of their lives. Acceptance for them is different and I acknowledge may be more difficult. Regardless, one does have to accept where they are in terms of a “new normal”.
Did you know that acceptance of your “new normal” can not only influence depression, but being depressed can actually worsen your disability? I have personal experience with worsening hearing, balance and vertigo when I happen to also be in a downward spiral in depression. Karp, Skidmore, Lotz, Lenze, Dew, and Reynolds (2009), found that symptoms of specific disabilities actually worsen when the individual is also depressed, stressing that depression needs to be taken seriously and treated. I have a number of red flags that I have set up to determine if I am becoming depressed. I know and have experienced the dangers of depression. Having a “blue” day or two is different than depression. Having lived with it, I know what it “looks” like and stay on the look out for specific clues that tell me I need to seek help.
Living with “It”
One really CAN live within a “new normal”. This may mean a acceptance of a change in your health. Perhaps you are single when you thought it would be “til death do us part”. Death may have indeed parted you from someone you counted on emotionally and physically. So how do you accept where you ARE, and move on to living a victorious life? I truly believe we have to simply take action. Our “feelers” cannot really be trusted. Don’t get me wrong. I believe compassion, mercy, and love are important. But our hearts – our “feeler” – cannot provide a new, healthier way of acceptance.
What kind of actions can we take? Many of us become involved in organizations that provide support for a specific disability we may have. Within these types of organizations, there are numerous ways to get involved. The Internet makes this connection simple. There are a number of community service projects that can use the help of volunteers. Even small communities have opportunities for service. Some people with disabilities prefer to be involved in areas of service that are not directly related to their disability. If you want to take action and get involved in helping others – LOOK. The opportunities are there. Giving back to others is a primary way in which people feel valued and useful. Getting active in giving back to our communities may actually change the way you FEEL about your own disability. We need a purpose.
“I think the purpose of life is to be useful, to be responsible, to be honorable, to be compassionate. It is, after all, to matter: to count, to stand for something, to have made some difference that you lived at all.” —Leo C. Rosten
©2012 Personal Hearing Loss Journal
Karp, J., Skidmore, E., Lotz, M., Lenze, E., Dew, M., & Reynolds, C. (2009). Use of the Late-Life Function and Disability Instrument to assess disability in major depression. Journal Of The American Geriatrics Society, 57(9), 1612-1619. doi:10.1111/j.1532-5415.2009.02398.x
Townend, E., Tinson, D., Kwan, J., & Sharpe, M. (2010). ‘Feeling sad and useless’: an investigation into personal acceptance of disability and its association with depression following stroke. Clinical Rehabilitation, 24(6), 555-564.