Category Archives: Lving in this world

When the Stress of Disability overwhelms you, what do you do?

Life can be stressful before the additional stress of a Disability. When many forms of stress exist in your life it can be overwhelming. How might you overcome these stresses?

What is Stress anyway?

In simple terms Stress is an imbalance of forces. The forces we face in life are many. I like to think of them in four categories; physical, emotional, social and spiritual.

The physical forces in our lives are those things that keep our bodies functioning. Food, water, rest and exercise are key among them.

The emotional stresses in our lives can result from the physical aspect of who we are. Emotions result from the release of hormones by our brains. The impulses our brains receive from our bodies and the environment determine which parts of the brain get triggered and which hormones are released.

Social stresses are those rules of conduct that come into play as we engage with others. We learn and re-learn them. They change as our social roles change.

Spiritual stress occurs when we are afraid we are out of alignment with the Universe. Religion taught us this system and our society reinforces it. Our life experiences reinforce our beliefs even further.

The presence of a disability adds more stress in all these areas of our lives.

We name Disabilities by the limitations they add to our lives. A broken leg impedes our ability to move. Thus the major stress it causes is physical. Yet, the pain and inflammation of the injury changes the hormones our brains release and then our emotions are affected.

These physical and emotional changes impact our interactions with others. If we are a parent, lifting a child and caring for them has new limitations which can cause stress. You can respond to your stress by teaching your child new skills or getting outside help.

We might ask the spiritual question, “Why did this happen to me?” One immediate answer a simple injury provides usually suffices. “This too will pass.”

The combination of normal stresses with those added by a broken leg will require changes. Since we know that the leg will mend in a few weeks or months, we allow ourselves to accept those changes. We rest and use crutches. Others around us step forward to ease our personal and social loads. We expect that we will return to our pre – injury life. There will be memories that will need integration into our brains. Those memories will not take over our brains or our identity.

A stroke or brain injury may give us a similar physical disability, but could create more stress. Recovery will take longer and may not be complete. We will always see ourselves as vulnerable. This episode will haunt us the rest of our lives. We may ask ourselves, “Did God play a role in this?”

If our leg was amputated as a result of the injury, even more stress enters our lives. We can’t hope to return to our pre-injury selves.

How do we handle the stress of Disability and life together?

First, we need to pause. The more overwhelmed we find ourselves the longer this takes. When we try to avoid this simple step we compound the problem. A parent worries their broken leg might cause them to drop their child.

If we as parents feel this way it is important to pause for a moment and let ourselves settle down. Taking time to be still allows our bodies to proceed thru several phases. First, our brains released stress or threat hormones. The stress hormones allow us to deal with the acute situation. They need about 30 minutes to get out of our systems. During this time we tend to pace and not think clearly.

Minor injuries recover during this phase. With a broken leg or stroke we are headed to the hospital. This will force us to take the next step.

Meditation and similar practices can help us transition to the next phase – focus and assessment.

We need to focus and assess our situation. Wearing a cast on our leg and walking with crutches will limit our mobility. A stroke usually means a stay in the hospital. Both interrupt our normal daily patterns. Our natural desire to return to our previous life activities will make us aware of the differences.

During these pauses we assess our situation and make plans. In the emergency room most of us can plan our lives with the broken leg. Strokes require more complicated assessments and plans.

The pain of a broken leg seems mostly physical. The pain responds to pain killers. Rarely do these medications cause serious changes although some of us become habituated or even addicted.

The consequences of a stroke or amputation seem more emotional, social and spiritual. Doctors and nurses have learned to address these “pains.” Clergy (inside and outside of the hospital) can help with the spiritual “pains.” All these professionals have a ways to go before they achieve the same quality of relief provided by the “pain meds.”

So, have we dealt with the Stresses of Disability and Life?

Only to the extent that we have been forced to do so do we deal with the Stresses of Life and Disability. The Stresses of Disability and Life can cause us to pause in other ways.

Instead of overwhelming us physically, it may take an emotional or social form. We have all gone thru emotional outbursts. We yelled at others when we did not mean to. We failed to meet social obligations. Sometimes others forced us to look at our situation. A boss might reprimand or fire us. A friend or partner may avoid us.

In all these situations we can use the same process: pause, focus, assess, plan and work with it.

When overwhelmed by Stress, Pause, let your self cry or get drunk. Then you will be focused.

You will ask yourself “What happened?” Usually we only focus upon the immediate situation, but to really heal we need to look deeper.

Why did that situation upset us? Did it upset everyone we know? Why not? What differences exist between you and the others who were not upset by the event?

These are the assessment questions that allow us to make plans.

Living out the new plans we made is hard work. Most of us need help. Family, friends and life Coaches can help with the process of assessing, planning and living the plans.

The Process of Overcoming the Stress of Life and Disability is this:
Pause and let the acute situation settle,
Focus your attention on what happened, (The more traumatic the more issues the focus needs to encompass),
Assess the cause and options,
Plan to go forward, and then live out your plan.

When you keep getting overwhelmed, get Help.

As All Ways, Seek Joy,

Resolved the Paradox of being Able when “Disabled”

Discovering that you are “Able” when disabled seems like a paradox. When we accept that we are “Disabled” how can we think of ourselves as Able, too? Let us explore this Paradox.

What is a Paradox?

A Paradox exists when two or more things that seem to be opposites exist at the same time. For example, many of us have contemplated why People do Bad things when they think of themselves as Good?

For those of us who accept that we have a Disability, trying to discover our Abilities seems like a Paradox. Knowing that we are not able to do some things makes us expect we cannot do most things.

How can we resolve the Paradox of Ability in the face of Disability?

Most of us just ignore our limitations. We struggle with the tasks of life never realizing what we can and can’t do.

For those born with their “Disability”, they discovered early that others could do things they could not. Most of us realize that we have some sort of limitation. A lot of us discovered we can’t be stars in the classroom or on the athletic field. Then we realize that quite a few of those around us are not Stars either.

When our limitations deprive us of a big part of what others experience, it has a different impact. Lisa Larges (in her podcast interview) discussed this. Being visually impaired became part of her identity, just like being female. She has the benefit of sharing blindness with her sister. Still they each have to make their way in a sighted world.

We might also choose to pick one label and ignore the other. Few can live thinking of themselves as Bad. We kill animals; yet think of all life as sacred.

We may choose to embrace one option and ignore the other. We run a red light and excuse it by saying;
we needed to get home early.

How many other paradoxes do you see people living with on a daily basis?

Trying to resolve a Paradox can lead us to deeper truths and understanding.

The two options might not be true opposites. There might be “Shades of Gray.” We all have different abilities to balance. Some are faster than others. Thus fast or slow are relative and – not opposite.

We might see exceptions to the rule. “It is Ok to run a red light if no one gets hurt.” Some sports even allow for this. Take the Advantage rule in Soccer… The ref need not call a fowl when there is no advantage gained by it.

All of these attempts are superficial. They don’t allow us to see how opposites might not be opposite in reality.

After World War II existential philosophers decided that good and bad were labels we placed on events. The events themselves – like War and genocide – were not truly good or bad. They happened for reasons some of which most people would label as bad but others label as good.

We might say that being able or disabled are labels we accept for ourselves. Few blind people havbe no light perception at all. Those that do are able to locate things around them by other means. Some have developed their hearing to the extent that they can locate objects in a room upon entering.

Others seem to know where they are by different means. I have a totally blind friend who can tell us where we are wile riding in a car. The sounds of the city change in so many ways. The car turns and swerves. How often do we get disoriented driving in a strange city at night? Yet she always seems to know where we are.

We might also resolve a paradox by looking at how the opposites came to be. “White Privilege” can be looked upon that way. In prior generations whites were able to assert themselves over others on the basis of race. Thus, white people have privileges they inherited. They learned that what others see as a privilege was the norm. White Americans saw police as friends. We now see that Black Americans do not view the police the same way.

Slavery in America led to this White Privilege. The Early Colonists had slaves of all races. As the number of slaves increased, it became hard to tell slave and free apart. Race became an easy way to divide people and their social roles and rights.

In time, we agreed to end Slavery. Many see Racism in America as one of slavery’s legacies.

Disability probably came about when some could not keep up with the crowd and needed other accommodations. The Term Handicap came about because those with disabilities were allowed to beg, “Cap In hand”.

Getting Social Security to classify you as “Disabled gives you protection under the ADA. Could this be a modern version of Handicap? A label of being “less than” gives you advantages.

Another way we might resolve a paradox is by looking at the outcomes. Political views are often strongly held. Both sides think they are correct and justified. They refuse to see the other side as valid.

We might see this political paradox as enabling us to get along with someone else’s viewpoint. If our opinion that those who receive Disability Insurance payments are drains on society gets accepted by others it will also become the opinion of the group who are rejected to receive disability payments. We end up in two camps. Those camps reinforce our views of Disability Insurance.

Being in one or the other camp meets our needs for community. At least until we become disabled and dependent. Then life has forced us into the camp that likes Disability Insurance.

Can a paradox teach us more?

We can look to what is common in the opposites. Political Party affiliation results in meeting our needs for community and affirms world views.

Racism enables us to anticipate others behaviors and backgrounds. We all need to be able to anticipate danger and find friends in a crowd. Most of our Prejudices do this poorly. We need to find other ways to do this.

Thus, pondering a paradox can offer us new solutions.

Understanding why people affiliate with one political party or the other suggests that we could also create communities around other activities or issues.

Pondering race and gender discrimination leads to other solutions. Experience with others of different races or genders allow us to recognize friends and anticipate foes.

Accepting the label of, “Blind” allowed me to make friends who were also experiencing blindness or low vision in their lives. My fully sighted wife does not enjoy the gatherings of my blind associates.

So we might ponder a paradox by asking:
How did the two opposites come about?
What are the benefits common to both of the opposites?
How might we gain the benefits without going to either extreme?

As All Ways, Seek Joy,

When people disagree, they are questioning reality

We often disagree about what is reality. This causes us pain and leads to anger. Is it possible that we can resolve this dilemma by looking at what we know as reality?

What is Reality anyway?

If the majority of us are so certain that we know what is real then why do we disagree?

It is well known that when two or more people witness an event they often describe it very differently. Some times their descriptions sound like two different events. Why is that?

We take in the events from the world around us thru our eyes and other sense organs. But our eyes don’t see the same thing. Yes, we think we see the same things with both eyes, but the images our brains receive are actually different. Our eyes are located on two opposite sides of our faces. Thus they have a different angle on the object we are observing. This difference in the images allows us to track objects and catch them.

How we hear sounds is even more complicated. Our ears are located on two sides of our heads and they distort the sound. The shape of our earlobes helps us to determine if a sound is coming from in front or behind us.

IF you don’t believe this try an experiment. Close your eyes and focus your attention on a sound. Now turn your head and see what happens to it. Does it sound louder with your head in a certain position?

Next, cup your hands behind your ears. Focus on a sound and then move your hands. Does the sound change?

When I tried this I noticed that sounds coming from a few feet in front of me are loudest. This is the area where people who are visually impaired are taught to position their white canes. Positioning the cane in this way informs the cane user what is in front of the user’s feet so they can determine where to take their next step. Using this caning technique prevented me from falling down stairs a number of times.

Thus the distortions our eyes and ears make while perceiving the world can help us. Our eyes assist us to track objects and catch things. Our ears prevent us from stepping on things.

If our eyes and ears distort what our brain receives, what else happens to the world as we become aware of it?

In our brains the signals from our eyes, ears, and other senses move along various neural pathways. First, they pass thru basic parts of our brains to determine whether or not the sensory input represents a threat. If a threat is detected then those parts of the brain that signal survival responses get activated. Our hands are already withdrawing from a flame before we realize they are being burned.

It is hard to overcome such reflexes. If we have a pain in our foot or knee we walk with a limp. By looking at how someone limps I can determine where the pain is before I even speak to my patient. Try it next time you see someone limp.

Next, the signals go to the areas of the brain where more complicated responses are elicited. These signals also serve to protect us. These areas (when activated) prepare us to fight or flee. We stop and focus our attention on the source of the stimuli. Hormones are then released so we can decide to either run or defend ourselves. We call this attention to the brain signals the startle and respond scenario.

For example the toot of a car’s horn can elicit this type of a response. It draws the driver’s attention to the events going on around him or her. The vehicle operator can then sort out what response to the horn blast is needed.

The response a driver chooses depends upon how he sorts out the additional information he receives. If it came from a car next to him, he might need to swerve to avoid colliding with another vehicle. If we are driving an unfamiliar car we might over or under steer.

Once I flipped a new car because I over-corrected while making a turn. If I had been in my old car I could have swerved a little less and missed the bicycle safely. In the new car I was unsure of exactly how far to turn to the left.

Thus what we sense from the world gets changed by the time we are aware of it. Psychologists have studied this in great depth. As a signal travels thru our brains it connects with more and more of the memories we stored.

This connecting a new event with past events enables us to recognize faces and greet a friend or avoid an enemy.

When we see someone who reminds us of a friend we relax and are more open. If the new person reminds us of someone who we fear we shy away. This constitutes a pre-judgment. If that person turns out to really be hostile we call it a good judgment of character. When the person turns out not to be dangerous we regard our assessment as a Prejudice.

Since the events stored in my brain are different from anyone else’s, the way I understand an event will differ from everyone else. This means I experience reality in ways unique to me.

If we see sticks as snakes, or even worse see snakes as sticks, there are problems. We won’t respond in an appropriate manner. We call those situations hallucinations.

Knowing how our brains filter what we see in the world around us enables us to understand why others don’t see things our way. It can also give us a glimpse into why others see things the way they do.

Next time you find yourself disagreeing with someone pause and ask yourself, “Why do I see it in my unique way?” What might be prompting the other to see it their way?

If each of us did this what would happen to the issues that divide us?

Could we use our perceptual information to discover our Prejudices and confront them?

As All Ways, Seek Joy