This article is part of My Plan Manager’s guest blogger series.
In this week’s blog, our guest blogger Briar explains how living with a disability impacts her physical and mental health.
Briar has a number of conditions that aren’t just painful; they see her juggling a never-ending schedule of allied health sessions and doctors appointments. Keep reading to find out how she copes when things get overwhelming.
Living with a physical disability comes with added stresses that in turn impact upon your mental health. Research is showing that not only do some physical disabilities make you more susceptible to mentally ill health, but also living with a disability can impact upon your overall mental wellbeing.
Each day of our lives we are dealing with the pain and discomfort that comes from having a physical disability. My disability means that I experience head to toe body pain. The pain makes it hard to do the simplest of things, including getting a proper night sleep. The lack of sleep only compounds the fatigue that comes from moving a body where muscles tighten and tense. Over time the pain and fatigue starts impacting upon your mental health, and your ability to think clearly.
On top of dealing with the limitations that comes from having a physical disability, you also have to navigate your way around a world where ableism is prevalent. It calls you to question your identity and where you fit in. Do I let people define me by my disability? Do I define myself by my disability? Is society going to accept my differences or do I fight to be treated with dignity and respect? These questions go around your mind, wearing you down, and eventually can leave you feeling very confused.
The battle that we face as people with disabilities, not only comes from the battle in our minds, but from the discrimination that regularly occurs. It’s the fight for employment and to be treated fairly in the workplace. It is the fight to be recognised as deserving of the same services ‘normal’ people enjoy. It’s the fight to access equal medical care. It’s the fight not to be taken advantage of. This constant fight plays on your mind and can lead you into bouts of depression, as you realise the enormity of the battle.
Then come the stresses of managing a disability. At times I feel like an air-traffic controller, making sure all the planes land on time. I have to schedule so many people into my week. The weekly allied health sessions to manage my disability, the specialist appointments, and the support workers who provide the essential day-to-day assistance. All this needs to be carefully constructed. Everyone needs to know the latest changes, and be kept up to date. It feels like it keeps piling up, until eventually it’s just all too much.
Over time I have learnt that it’s okay to tell people that you can’t manage it, and need help doing so. I have learnt the importance of telling my medical team and external support that I’m not doing well, and need to take a break from the intensity of appointments. I’m coming to terms that my identity doesn’t need to be shaped by what other people think about my disability. I’m picking and choosing what battles against discrimination are worth fighting, but most importantly, I’m starting to see that I need to take one day at a time.
identity doesn’t need to be shaped by what other people think about my disability. I’m picking and choosing what battles against discrimination are worth fighting, but most importantly, I’m starting to see that I need to take one day at a time.
You can read more of Briar’s work on her own blog Strength, Dignity, Hope.
If you are struggling, you are not alone and there is help available. Call any of the following phone numbers to talk to a trained counsellor:
Kids Helpline 1800 551 800
Beyond Blue 1300 224 636
Headspace 1800 0650 890
SANE Australia 1800 187 263
Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467
Briar has cerebral palsy, two mental health conditions and a number of other medical conditions. She has trained as a social worker, as well as a policy writer but her disabilities have prevented her from developing a career in these fields. Briar hopes her writing can encourage others in a similar position and provide them with useful advice. You can read more of Briar’s work on her own blog Strength, Dignity, Hope.