This past Christmas in 1992 was my third holiday in the chair. Christmas of 1990 was very taxing on my family, not only because of my injury, but because my then three year old niece, Maddie, had contracted leukemia on Christmas Eve day. Maddie, my sister’s child, went through chemo which put her into remission and she is as strong as ever today.
My second Christmas was great. I had entered the world of independent living. But this most recent holiday was different. There wasn’t anything happening or really special about this time of year for me. Don’t misunderstand me, I have a great family and had a wonderful holiday, yet a "reality check" took place. You might have had this happen to you. Let me explain.
So much pressure is put on us during the holiday season. I was sitting in the living room (in my manual wheelchair because my brother’s house has stairs) listening to the hustle and bustle in the kitchen, watching the table being set and my nieces dancing around. These are things I used to do with great gusto. Additionally, I required total assistance to open my own presents. Again, I realized how disabled I am and how much help I will always need for the rest of my life. Reality definitely slapped me in the face!
I think when we don’t make and take time to deal with life and its many facets, it seems to creep up on us and to suddenly catch us off guard. Sometimes we keep ourselves so busy that we don’t take care of our own needs, physically, and more importantly, emotionally.
In taking care of our bodies with disabilities, there are routines in place to accomplish the things that need doing. Nurturing and taking care of our mental well-being is a whole other ball game. Mental health is often a taboo subject. It is easy to ignore and time consuming to change and improve. It is the things we don’t see that we can easily hide. Often people feel that if they admit they are depressed, they will be perceived as weak, incompetent or unable to cope with life. People may fear institutionalization as their only answer and refuse to pursue assistance. I have been seeing Susan, a psycho-therapist since 1989. There is nothing wrong in needing to talk to a professional therapist. Those who seek assistance are strong, not weak. If you need permission to take good care of yourself, I grant you that permission here and now.
As I have shared, "Everything’s the same, everything’s different." This is true for all of us with any disabling conditions we may have acquired.
Katie Rodriguez Banister works with audiences to embrace diversity
through motivational speaking and disability education.