October has come and gone which means the end of candy corn, jack o’lanterns and the end of National Disability Employment Awareness Month. You might be thinking, why talk about Disability Awareness in November, but for some of us disability is a lifelong journey. Now is the perfect time to talk about it, because disability for me and others, is not just a monthly experience, it is a daily reality. It is a daily experience.
I am disabled. I have cerebral palsy. I am a licensed clinical social worker. I am a therapist.I am a business owner. I am gay. Disability impacts my life both personally and professionally, but I am successful and I am capable. My message on disability awareness is that it is ongoing.
Disabled persons can be successful. We have a rich experience. We need to continue to educate ourselves on the challenges and triumphs of those with disabilities, while supporting and empowering them to live the best lives they can, a life just like yours.
What are some of these challenges that persons with disabilities might face? We deal with isolation, chronic pain, accessibility concerns, and stress to name a few. Facing all of these unique experiences and the everyday stress and challenges we all encounter during our lives and our mental health can begin to also be at the forefront.
Imagine, you are in pain. You had a fall and then you go to work and you have a deadline looming or get a critique from a colleague; these can quickly compound. Maybe that isolation starts to really transform into negative thoughts (people don’t want to be around me) or even anxiety, and depression. Mental health and disability are at times overlapping, given the challenges that those with disabilities face. So while we need to consider the daily experience of living with disability, we also need to be an ally. We need to support and empower others to combat some of these unique challenges that face the disability community.
What can we do to empower ourselves or others? How can combat some of these challenges?
Here are some tips from a disabled therapist:
- Remember that everyone is the expert in their own experience. This includes disability. Honor the person with the disability and when in doubt, ask.
- Communication is important. Curiosity is human and can be healthy (we can be empowered to learn more about a disabled experience), intrusiveness is not (when in doubt, if you would not say or ask it to your mother or close friend, don’t say it to the person with a disability).
- Don’t assume someone’s abilities based on the presence of a disability.
- Practice inclusion. Ex, invite your disabled friends, neighbors and persons to events. Include them in your life. Connection is a powerful tool to combat some of these challenges like isolation.
- Living with a disability does not mean you have to be inspiring or positive all the time. It is okay not to be okay. It is okay to reach out for help. Asking for support when needed, is a sign of strength.
I became a therapist to support my community and others who like me, have a disability or face challenges in their lives. I own my own business, a therapy practice. I believe that we all have strengths and the ability to overcome challenges and become the people that we want to be. We all need some support sometimes. Sometimes we just need some support to tap into or recognize those strengths. If you are facing disability issues, chronic pain or life stressors, support is out there. If you are looking for a therapist in California, reach out to me. I am here to support you to learn new skills and discover that strength that is within.. Remember, you are strong, you are capable. You got this.
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