I wrote this as a guest post for a friend’s website.*
Invisible disabilities. The world may not see them, but they stare us in the face every day. And some days, they stare harder. What will we do with our gaze? Avert it and pretend this is not happening to us? Look down at our feet in defeat? Level the gaze and freeze our movements? Or, stare down the disability and then look up and move forward?
I’ve observed an interesting phenomenon: people with disabilities, myself included, sometimes add more disability to the original amount. The mentality changes into one of “I can’t.” The focus is on the freedoms lost, and then the heart gets lost, too. And when the mind and heart give up, there is not too much the body can do; it is at the mercy of following where it is led. But, if the pattern of thinking is changed, and the focus shifts to what is still possessed and what can still be done, hope will infuse the heart, and there will be an ability to move forward.
There are choices when it comes to invisible disabilities. True, the choices may be limited, but they still remain. While the reality exists that one cannot fully control what happens with the body, there is still some measure of control. One can retreat or press on, wither or flourish, become a victim or a victor. It is up to each one whether to take advantage of what is available, and thus, thrive in the midst of invisible disabilities.
How does one press on while unable to function “normally?” Well, the days of disability do not have to be random, purposeless, and inconsequential; on the contrary, they can be extraordinary by simply choosing to make them so. A life is not only full when it consists of good health and time spent “out amongst the real world;” it can be full while being stuck at home dealing with disabilities and chronic illnesses. When thoughts, actions, and attitudes are adjusted, things can change. Lives can become purposeful and impactful. Instead of pessimistically hanging onto glasses that are half empty, intentional actions can be taken to make them overflow. These actions involve being conscientious, creative, and conquering.
Be conscientious. Life is to live, not shrivel up and die. Disability does not have to become our winter. We can forget what is behind and press forward. Being deliberate and taking decisive action can keep us from becoming stuck in our limitations. Having a hidden disability doesn’t mean we have to remain a hidden figure. We can make a difference and devote ourselves to doing so. By taking the focus off ourselves and redirecting it, we can make the lives of others better.
Be creative. We do not have to be passive and let disability “happen” to us. We don’t have to get stuck in the mindset of “what used to be” or “what can never be.” Instead, we can be inspired and get creative. God designed us to impact lives and make a difference in this world. We can examine the resources we have and move to do something with them. We can do a new thing—or do an old thing in a new or modified way. And with our new skills and knowledge, we can reach out to touch the lives of others.
Be conquering. We can push ourselves to improve and become stronger people. Taking good care of our bodies and mastering life hacks, such as using assistive devices or modifying our space to accommodate our disabilities, can help us move forward. We can hold on to hope and vigilantly battle the enemies of despair, discouragement, and depression. Processing what is happening and realizing that today is a new day gives us new opportunity to bloom. We can use the worst circumstances to become our best.
The staredown can come to an end each day as we stop staring at our disabilities and our four walls and get busy instead looking at how we can bloom in the field in which we have been planted. Look up and move forward. Win the staredown.
©Text and photo Francee Strain, September 30, 2020
*Visit https://www.navigatingthestorms.com/ to find resources to help you as you live with invisible disabilities or care for someone who does.