Disability counselling and what I’m learning from it
I am currently receiving some disability counselling. I was really struggling. I was caught in a loop of frustration, anger and upset, not knowing how to break the cycle. As well as the stress this was causing me, it was putting pressure on the people I love most. They were giving everything, but it reached a point where I still couldn’t curtail the stress. This brought on all kinds of guilt. I sought professional help.The NHS has been marvellous in dealing with my physical diagnosis (vestibular hypersensitivity). The waiting lists were long, but they passed me through several departments, surgeries, tests and scans to be sure nothing more sinister was lurking. Even during my rehab sessions, though, emotional support has been limited. This condition isn’t especially well-known, there’s neither a huge network of people dealing with it nor a UK charity completely dedicated to supporting it that I know of. I had to find my own help.
I’m lucky. The counselling I’ve managed to arrange is private but also free. Normally this would cost at least £50 per hour. In one introduction and one full session I already feel that the future as a disabled person is going to be easier to deal with. I encourage anyone with any kind of emotional roadblock to seek the best help they can afford, however scary.
Most of what is and will be discussed during the sessions is deeply personal. It would be inappropriate and uncomfortable for me to divulge the details. But there are general themes that I think might help others in similar situations. I’ll blog these as and when appropriate. Here’s what I’ve looked at so far.
Living with uncertainty in any situation is distracting and can be debilitating. Some c’est la vie minded people won’t have a problem with seeing where the wind takes them. Lucky them! Some might deal with it by pretending it’s not happening, while others like me find that uncertainty can completely consume them. I don’t mind change, but I like to know what I’m dealing with.
I was most content when I was told my condition had no prospect of recovery until I’d at the very least had my jaw surgery. It gave me parameters. If, like I am now, you’re faced with something that may or may not improve, or even something that’s guaranteed to worsen but you don’t know when, that’s tough. You’re waiting for recovery, daydreaming about things which might be possible. Maybe you’re waiting for things to get worse, looking for signs. The unknown is frightening.
This is something I’m going to keep working on, but ultimately I think it’s about trying to stay in the moment. It may be my biggest challenge during this process. When you’re a resourceful person who wants to solve problems, waiting is torture.
Acceptance of Trauma
Sometimes things happen that change our lives with such shocking severity, they’re almost too big to take on board. And if they’re constantly shifting, there isn’t always time to sit quietly and absorb the situation. The past few years have been traumatic in a way I’m not sure how to put into words. I often try to gloss over the toll it’s taken on me. When something is happening to you, it can be hard to quantify how much impact it’s had. When terrible things happen to other people, we have the distance to be able to say “Wow! You’ve gone through a lot.” It may be time to accept that this disability found me, is staying with me for a while and that it’s been more difficult than I ever imagined.
Letting the Mask Slip
When you have a disability or even a huge problem you’re trying to tackle, the easiest thing (at least for me) is to put on a brave face so that few people fully appreciate how bad things are. “I’m fine. Nothing to see here. Everything’s completely normal. La-La-La-La”. We do this for all kind of reasons; often to protect people from our problems, sometimes to avoid having to focus on them ourselves.
I realised pretty early on that this was going to be a long road. I made a very conscious decision to suck it up and not let my physical disability lead me into depression. Putting on that mask, though, doesn’t mean the pain goes away. Disability can be messy and our problems can be ugly. There is no failure in letting people see how bad you’re feeling sometimes. Vulnerability is scary, but it’s necessary.
There are going to be days that feel worse than others. There are whole weeks where I’m so tired and frustrated with that constant feeling of physical movement that I could scream. I could happily crawl out of my skin. It would be wonderful if I could do that, but of course I can’t.
There must be some stress relief. That’s tough for me, when my previous form of relief was hard exercise in the gym. I physically can’t do that anymore. Not right now, anyway. That in itself can lead to even further frustrations. Pinpointing replacements is next on my to-do list.