Four Things My Disability Has Taught Me About Staying Positive with Limited Mobility
“I want to get out of my house!” I think the whole world would agree with me, in light of this still spreading pandemic. The funny thing is, I’ve been struggling with being at a “social distance” since long before most people had heard of COVID-19. I was born with Cerebral Palsy, a developmental condition that effects all of my muscles, including those needed for clear speech and walking. That means I usually spend anywhere from 12-18 hours sitting in my power wheelchair and along with that comes the frustration of not being able to leave my house independently. I need someone around to drive my van and listen well enough to determine where I want to go. Needless to say, I get stuck at home a lot more than I’d like.
So, how do I not get depressed and keep moving forward from within my walls? Here are four things my disability has taught me about staying positive when I can’t be mobile. I pray they give a little hope to you and your loved ones in these uncertain times.
1. Ask God what HE WANTS you to do while your time and attention are undivided.
As much as I hate having plans fall through and being cooped up at home, I’ve learned that in these situations, the Lord usually has a specific task in mind for me. Therefore, even if I’m disappointed about events I’m missing, I have to ask Him how He wants to work in this time. He knows that with my fine motor impairments, it often takes me longer to write and type, etc. than most people. So, if there’s a book or presentation He wants to use to bless others, sometimes He cancels my plans in order to give me the extra time I need to finish it well. He could also just want me to spend more time getting to know Him with prayer and studying His Word, so I can refocus my heart on doing His will. That question goes for you, too. What does He have in mind for you over the next few weeks at home? If you’re healthy, could you volunteer to get groceries for someone more vulnerable? How about joining an online Bible study? Or starting that project God put on your heart months ago? Ask and see.
2. Recognize the blessing of technology and use it wisely.
I’m aware that prior to the pandemic, there was growing concern over the relational disconnect in society, due to the prevalence of digital devices, but for me (and now for all of us), our devices are the main tools for maintaining relationships. Trust me when I say I know how easy it is just to zone out for the whole day while watching one’s favorite streaming service. But that can quickly make anyone lethargic and lonely. Instead, I suggest messaging your loved ones and start having those meaningful conversations we tend to put off. Applications like FaceTime and Skype are great tools for helping us stay visually present with one another, even while we can’t touch. In my case, Facebook is another huge lifeline because I can check in on friends and family I don’t often call or text. And, in the same way, Facebook gives me a platform on which I can reach out and encourage a broader scope of people through my ministry. I’m also grateful that even my church has moved all its ministries and small groups online via Zoom, so we can still grow in the Lord together. The same idea applies to your kids. If the webcam is set in the right place, using a platform like Google Hangouts could be a great way to let your little ones do school or have a playdate with multiple friends and there also lots of online multiplayer games with video and/or chat features.
3. Change your scenery.
In times like these, it’s not surprising if you have the urge to build yourself a foxhole on your couch and hunker down until this pandemic ends. However, in my experience I’ve learned that staying in one place too long only adds to my boredom and melancholy feelings. I find it helpful to move spaces at least a couple times a day. It seems to aid in clearing my head, so I can focus on different things. I have a desk in my bedroom, where I keep my iPad, most of my fiction books and journals for personal reflection. The décor is brighter and more whimsical than my actual home office. So, if you’re working from home or attempting to homeschool your children and start feeling stuck, try doing different projects in various places of your home or move outside!
4. Stir the air and be a kid again.
Due to circumstances and certain challenges of my disability, I still live with my parents, despite being almost 37 (cringe). Mom and Dad are both awesome people, but they’re getting older and like being in their own rooms much of the time. That means the house gets really quiet, especially when my assistants aren’t here. Sometimes I don’t mind the silence because it helps my concentration, though more often than not, it’s just lonely. Therefore, it’s usually better if I stir the air by listening to music that encourages and inspires me. It’s usually worship or Christian rock, but that also includes things like the soundtracks of my favorite movies and Celtic music. When I need a break from my writing but still want to keep my creative energy and spirits up, I just let myself be a kid again. That could mean coloring, reading a novel by one of my favorite YA authors, or getting swept away with a Disney classic. I don’t think my parents quite understand my love of fairy tales, and that’s ok. I know God does. You may want to stir the air with different sounds than I do. You probably also have differing favorite childlike hobbies. That’s great! God can always find ways to encourage you through whatever brightens your world.
Even if all of these four ideas don’t completely apply to your situation, the most important thing to do is find ways to keep yourself from closing off and getting lost down a dark and twisted rabbit hole. As long as you make room for God, He’ll move you forward from within your walls, no matter how tight they are.
“For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him. Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people. Hold firmly to the word of life; then, on the day of Christ’s return, I will be proud that I did not run the race in vain and that my work was not useless.” –Philippians 2:13-16