Here at ECBC we believe it is vital for every single person to be able to share their experiences living with a mental illness (if they choice to, no one should feel they have to).
Todays blog is written by Holly, a disability and lifestyle blogger. Holly created her blog to tackle the perceptions of disability and was really excited to write this post about looking after her mental health.
My name is Holly, I’m a 23-year-old disability and lifestyle blogger from the UK. I’m registered as blind due to a condition called Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP), I have a detached retina in my left eye and can only see light and dark in my right eye, meaning that I have no useful vision.
I went through mainstream education, graduated University with a degree in Children, Young People and Families and now have a job as an Assistive Technology Advisor.
People often have the assumption that having a disability – in my case a visual impairment, can be negative, however this doesn’t have to be the case. Granted, it does have its limitations but the positives certainly outweigh the negatives.
There’s no denying that things can be hard and having a disability can take its toll on your mental health, whether you’ve had it all of your life, or recently been diagnosed. We often find ourselves facing constant battles, fighting against preconceived ideas, trying to ask for simple things we’re entitled to as well as dealing with a disability. Accepting your disability can also have an impact on your mental health, the journey of acceptance is different for everyone.
Mental health can affect anyone whether you have a disability or not but many people would argue that there is a link between disability and mental health. Having a disability can result in people suffering from depression, anxiety just to name a couple. There are times when I’ve struggled but I haven’t given up without a fight.
There’s no denying that my vision impairment has made me feel lonely and isolated, I’ve also struggled with confidence and certain aspects of my disability have left me feeling anxious, and they still do. These feelings are natural and it’s important to know how to deal with them in the best way to help myself and those around me.
When I started using a long cane, I used to feel incredibly anxious and do anything that I could to not use it, I used to bottle my feelings up because I thought I was being stupid and that I was the only person that felt that way, but when I spoke to others I soon realised that it wasn’t just me, and that feeling of anxiety was completely normal.
In terms of isolation, I probably felt the most isolated when I was in sixth form, all of my peers were learning to drive and I couldn’t do that, this was definitely the point when my disability really had an impact on my mental health. I felt different to everyone and I don’t think I really saw my disability for what it was and I was certainly still on the journey of acceptance. As well as this, I was figuring out what I wanted to do in the future and was figuring out who I was, add a disability into the mix and it can make things a lot more interesting…
Mental health is different for everyone and it’s important to remember that. Everyone deals with their disability and mental health in their own way and that’s ok.
Tips and advice on looking after your mental health when you have a disability
Looking after both your physical and mental health is so important, here are a few tips to look after your mental health when you have a disability. Your disability can take a toll on your mental health so it’s important to make sure that you look after your mind and body and take good care of yourself.
Make use of services available to you
There are so many local and national services that are available to you for both your disability and mental health. Do some research and make use of the ones that you think would be most beneficial.
Ask for help
There is nothing wrong with asking for some help or support, you don’t need to struggle on your own.
Make the most of the help that’s offered to you, it will benefit you in the long-run.
Remember that it’s completely natural to feel a range of emotions
Feeling upset, angry, frustrated, happy, sad and everything in-between is completely natural. It’s ok to feel confused and it’s certainly ok to feel a range of emotions. Make sure you have a way of dealing with them and get support if you need it.
Know that you will get through the hard times
You will face many challenges, but you are strong, determined and you will get through them, no matter what life throws at you.
It’s only natural to have bad days, we all face challenges regardless of whether you have a disability or not, but it’s all about how you deal with them and come out stronger on the other side. Remember that there are always people that you can talk to, no matter what you’re going through. Don’t be afraid to reach out.
Whether you’ve had a disability your whole life or recently been diagnosed, you can feel like you’re the only one going through what you’re experiencing, but you’re not. There are so many people that are feeling exactly the same way.
Talk to other people in the same or similar situation
I would encourage you to get involved with the disability community, whether it’s online/on social media or in your local area. I couldn’t imagine not being a part of the disability community (the sight loss community imp articular), it’s invaluable. People are always there to give you advice, support or answer any questions that you might have…and the best thing, they just get it!
Know that it’s ok to admit that you’re struggling
Adjusting to a disability can be difficult but it can also be extremely rewarding. If you’re struggling, reach out to those around you, find ways of doing things that make tasks easier for you and make use of services available to you, all of these things can take a lot of pressure both off your disability and also your mental health.
Don’t bottle up your emotions
I know that this is easier said than done, it can be hard to talk and express how you’re feeling but bottling up your emotions can often make things worse. If you aren’t good at talking then find another way of expressing how you feel such as writing.
Remember that self-care is so important
You may hear this all the time but it’s true. Self-care is vital when looking after both your physical and mental health.
This could be taking time to read a good book, have a bath, watch your favourite tv show, having a good tidy around the house, having a catch-up with a friend or cooking yourself a nice meal. Whatever self-care you like to do, make sure you do it often!
Do some exercise
It doesn’t have to be anything too strenuous, even going for a walk around the block can really help. They say that exercise improves your mental health so why not get out there and get fit at the same time?
Find something that you’re passionate about
Don’t let your disability stop you from doing the things you love, there’s no reason for it to either.
Take time for yourself
This links with the point about self-care – taking time for yourself and doing the things you love is key. Adaptions may need to be put in place for certain things such as some activities, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
IF you continue doing the things you love then this proves that your disability hasn’t stopped you from living life to the full but not only that, it also ensures that you have a good mental health.
Don’t give up
I think this is possibly the most important piece of advice that I can give. When things get bad, we often feel like giving up is the only option but you are stronger than you think.
Having a disability can be an uphill struggle at times, but that feeling isn’t constant. You can get through the hard times, just push through and you will come out stronger on the other side.
Living with a disability can be difficult, but it can also be truly wonderful. You may feel like life isn’t going your way and you’re having to jump over a countless amount of hurdles, I want you to know that you can do it. Your hard work and determination will get you through it, so don’t give up.
Looking after your mental health when you have a disability may seem tough but it’s about finding the ways that work for you in order for you to have a good balance and look after yourself.
Remember that you are so much more than your disability, there are people that love you for who you are.
You can follow Holly’s blog online and get up to date news on her social media.