Life is not easy. Especially when you are in a family of invisible illnesses and disabilities. It can be serious, funny and downright hard! But we make it. Just like everyone else. We just do it in a different style.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Five Things To Do When Your Life Hits a Brick Wall

Everyone these days seems to write a List Post.

And, since I am part of ProBlogger’s Challenge, I am supposed to write one, too. Actually, I was supposed to write one three days ago. That was Challenge Day #2 and here I sit at almost Day #5 without it written. I am falling behind.

This morning, in my favorite musing place - the shower, I stood thinking of what I could say. I just didn’t want to quit the challenge, because I was stuck at Item #2.

You see, the problem is, I am not an expert. I never finished college. In fact, I am in school now, finishing the degree that never was. Life, children and disability got in the way of that.

I haven’t written a book, so you know I can’t be an expert. There aren’t any publishers knocking down my door to read what I have written. Nope. Not one.

I don’t have 15,000 followers, so you know I am not one of those “experts of SEO” or Social Media. I am definitely not up there on the Tweet graders and stat sites. I counted it an honor when Chuck Jones’ daughter or Dr. Bernard Harris followed me and hoped I had something wonderful to say to touch their hearts.

What the heck did I have to say to anyone in a list? A list they should follow. A list that would make them say, “Thanks Judi, for that.”

Then, as usual, a thought came, standing there in the shower. I will write about ten, no five (make it easier), five things to do when...your life hits a brick wall.

There, that was catchy enough. A little quirky and offbeat, but, there it was. At least a title. But, what did I mean?

I can only write what I know from my experience. And, in my 30s, I hit a brick wall, figuratively speaking. Literally, I was told to go home and give up working for the rest of my life, because I was suddenly part of the 650 million people in the world considered disabled. And, it took many years to come up with these five things. Many years of doing things wrong, doing things the way everyone else told me to do them. Until I hit upon the way to get passed every brick wall in my life.

So, here is my list:

The Five Things to Do When Your Life Hits a Brick Wall

1. Grieve Your Loss

This is big. You have lost something. Sometimes, when you are suddenly disabled, you lose a lot. You job, your career, your home, even your spouse. Even if it is not catastrophic, you have lost something. And you need to vent. Go ahead. If none of your old friends will listen, get some new ones. There are communities like Invisible Disabilities Advocate, Disaboom or the latest one, started by a friend of mine, Rudy Sims, Disability Resource Exchange. Find some people who know exactly how it feels. And, then scream. Cry. Wail and curse God. Seriously. This is so necessary.

If something has died in your life, give into the need to mourn its loss. Without this, you will be stuck in denial and anger, swinging back and forth like a pendulum. Feel all the panic, battery-mouth tasting fear of facing that ugly thought that something in your life has changed and this change might be around for the rest of your life.

2. Get Help Before You Burst

Now, you say, Judi, this sounds a lot like No.1. Yes and no. This is the point at which you are not venting anymore. You are not in some depressed state. In fact, you are so alert, you could scream. If you are bed-bound, nothing on television interests you anymore. The phone could ring until its battery died. If you are in a wheelchair, you have rolled a groove into the carpet. You are past angry, fearful and broken. You are at the stage of saying, “Well, what the heck do I do now?”

First, congratulate yourself. You are making progress. You are bored. You want something to do. Now, go out or get online and find every rehabilitation center, disability advocacy group, volunteering service-virtual and offline, and begin to find your new purpose in life. You don’t know what it is, but for the first time, you are not thinking of your loss. You are thinking of your time and how to spend it.

Ask questions. Go to the library or read books online. Read blogs. Join social communities. Suddenly, you will find the whole world is still there, waiting for you. All you needed to do was awaken your mind again to the possibilities. Expanding your mind is always the first road toward redemption from any brick wall.

3. Take Your Time

What!??! Didn’t you just tell me to get started on a bunch of things to do? But, here, you get the benefit of my experience and mistakes. Yes, you are ready to launch, but you are not the old you. You may have limitations, both cognitively (have you ever been on 16 pills a day?) and physically. You cannot jump into anything without making plans. I launched so many things between the date I was sent home and now. All of them failed, because I still thought I could do things the old way.

Whether you face a chronic illness, a physical disability or take medicine to keep your system stable, you are now operating differently than before. And, this needs a different strategy. Perhaps you will need to be driven places you used to not think were so far. Maybe you need a bigger screen and make the icons really readable. Maybe you have to travel with a little magic bag of all the medical devices you need. Slow down, figure out what you need to get there and get those things together first before you leap. This leads me to #4.

4. Re-evaluate Your Life

What can you do? What skills do you still have? What can you learn? What would you like to do, now that you have all the time in the world? What do you want to be? Where do you want to go? What do you long to see?

In some ways, I feel almost happy this happened to me now. What a gift to start all over again. To make plans that as an older and wiser person, I might actually do.

Now, don’t get me wrong. This is no pie in the sky esoteric babble. After a brick wall, you life is radically different. You may be in a fragile financial state. Your health may swing into instability.

This isn’t some light stroll through the park. But, you get to redesign what you want to do, based on what you have left. And, you will be keenly aware of what you have left. You will maximize every strength, since you have increased your weaknesses. You will find power in your life, even in the midst of limitations.

I have learned to see this as a gift. And, when you hit a brick wall, you deserve one.

5. Re-commit To Life

This is so necessary, don’t leave it out. Commit yourself again to being part of the human race. Something tried to take you down and failed. People walked away from you and you have survived. Your house may even be gone, but you have a new place and you like the view a whole lot better from this one. Whatever it is, re-commit to life and all it nuances.

I have heard from many people that after their accident or stroke or whatever, they now appreciated the flowers and a cool breeze. The stillness of the air, interrupted by the low chirrup of far-flung bird and distant crickets. Whatever you feel is a new commitment to life, make it. Keep it. Against all odds that may come. Against any other brick walls.

Well, there it is. My list. I hope you can gain something from it. Drop me a comment if it spoke to you. Or if it gave you courage to move to your next step.

And, to ProBlogger: See? There are no brick walls anymore. Thank you for your Challenge.