I guess I’m all into Problem Focused Coping Strategies (that’s not quite true…). I don’t know if you’ve felt that my strategies are problem focused if you’ve read my earlier posts? This is part 5 in my serie about MY coping strategies when down/depressed. You can read part one here. The Coping Strategy I’m gonna talk about today can be put in that problem focused coping strategies category but it can also be put in the category of Emotion Solving Coping Strategies.
Finding additional allies as a way of coping
For me it isn’t about sitting and pondering of ‘what strategies will I use for these problems/emotions’, and I doubt that you are doing a choice of coping strategies deliberately. It just happens when your reaction of the problem/emotion knocks at your door. When I was faced with my diagnosis I choosed to join an association for those with neurological diseases/illnesses to get support and good advices from others in situations as me. When your ‘new’ you don’t know how to handle all emotions and problems, both in the society but also in your social life.
Every second Thursday they gather for a cup of coffee and chatting about everything. It’s a place where oddly enough the main focus isn’t about you having a neurological disease, the main focus is you being able to meet others who doesn’t put you in the “being sick category”. Because I’ve been working or having healthcare appointments there are many gatherings I’ve not been able to attend. But on one of those I could attend last year ended up in me and my father joining Wings for life.
Coping with your disabilities
For me a big problem for me has been and is me not being able to walk. Walking is something I loved doing my whole life. And there’s another aspect to it; if you want to get from point A to point B – how do you get there? I had a wheelchair already at home so people could drive me when my legs failed me. Just so I would be able to go to vacation and similar without anything hindering me. After my attending in that Wings for Life my companions in that neurological association had a serious talk with me – they told me how to do to get a wheelchair like theirs.
They didn’t need to ‘talk me into’ that. I knew I needed and wanted a chair like theirs. It would be a freedom for me having that kind of chair. So last year I got one. I also learnt about ‘Rullegruppen‘, ‘the Wheeling group’. It’s a group where they teach how to wheel with the most minimal use of energy, how take yourself over hinders on your way etc. But they also play sports together.
Emotion focused and problem focused coping
Just to clear how I think when I categorize the strategies I used when having problems with my disability. I also remind you that this categorization I didn’t do at the time, this categorization is made looking back at ‘my situation’.
Emotions where highly involved when I realized that my walks were under threat. By getting myself a wheelchair I could drive myself gave me a freedom and increased my self confidence. Instead of feeling ‘I can do nothing’, ‘my life is over’ I gave myself the ability to think ‘I can do this’, ‘I can go wherever I want’ (not quite true, but yet). I used emotion focused coping strategies.
That I also used Problem focused coping strategies is I guess rather obvious. I also believe that many would say that every action I took where problem focused and so I thought too. Since I was going to write this post I had to toss and turn my ways of solving the problem and emotions over and over again. It ended up with my conclusion that I used both of these coping strategies.
Sense of belonging, not being seen as a sick person and know where I can ask for advices due to being sick
No matter whether you healthy or sick, young or old, working or not working, rich or poor, fat or thin, wimp or popular we all need a context where we can feel safe, accepted, being able to laugh ’til you cry or cry ’til you laugh and so on. Being lonely is an option that people can chose or being forced to be. Some of them who chose this don’t want to have it other way, while many don’t want to be alone.
Humans are mostly pack animals. We need our packs and they can consist of family, relatives, friends. We also have different packs – packs at home, packs at work (but the members of our pack at work aren’t always the ones we would choose) and packs in our sparetime. Me finding a pack in the neurological community was a way for me to cope with my new reality. I wanted to see others and see how well or not well they functioned in their everyday. Learn from them. You know the saying of “not inventing the wheel again”? Well, why should I do that when I could learn of their experiences?
When seeking others like you can go wrong
When I began going to these meet-ups I must admit that my patients fear had rubbed of at me. As a nurse in cancer treatment I have several times informed patients about the different association their type of cancer can contact for support, questions etc. Many patients have said that they don’t want to talk with others in their situation cause it would be a reminder for them that their sick. Some have felt “I don’t want to meet others and making each other depressed because a constant talk about the sick part of us”. Some have felt that if they have any questions or problems they need to solve they prefer asking the healthcare, even though an association would have more experience about certain matters.
I’m not saying that everybody has to join an association. It all depends on how you feel and what kind of use you would have of it. It’s up to you. And of cause, there are associations that probably just makes people feel more sick than they are. Who makes you feel depressed about your situation and they just feed that sense of “it’s not fair” and the thoughts about how unfair everything about their disease/illness is. I’ve met that kind of people when working as their nurse. I would not be helped by joining the same association as them…
My recommendation is that you try finding an association for your illness/disease and meet the people a couple of times. Then make the decision if the association can benefit you.
Coping strategies: laughter and trying disabled sports
Almost every week the ‘Rullegruppen’ also do sports. They’ve tried e.g. bowling, archery and I’ve participated in floor ball and goal ball. Soon we’re going a way for a day to try downhill skiing. There are also sorts of camps you can go to where they let participants try many different sorts of adaptive sports. Not all cities in Sweden have a well adapted forum for disabled to participate in or up hold their interests for sports. Where I live there aren’t to many alternatives but with ‘Rullegruppen’ I get to try some alternatives. But we’re not in any tournaments.
We have two very active faces in our group and thanks to them and some other citizens we in wheelchair will be able to take part of several runs during the spring and summer. I really need to start practicing wheeling longer distances… Attending those practices with the ‘Rullegruppen’ have given me so much. Advices and a incredible fun time doing these sports together. It doesn’t matter that we’re in wheelchairs our wills to win that game is just as strong and everyone is giving their best. Lots of laughters and lots of crashes. I’ve gotten the responsibility to bring the first aid-kit.
My coping strategies ‘finding a new community and an identity not being the Sick’
I guess I can be thankful of not being a person that just sit down on a sofa saying “it’s all over, I will never have fun again”. I know, there are so much that you have to think about when getting an illness/disease so you don’t have the strength to also having to look for things you never did before, like for me ‘learning to use a wheelchair’.
The three others in my family, my husband and my kids, have had their sports that they’ve been going away and practicing one-several times a week. I go to see my shrink. Or my doctor. Or leaving blood samples. Now I finally got a place to go to and meet others. I’m not saying that I don’t appreciate meeting my friends for before, they now that they are essential to me.
But I used to sing in a choir before
I haven’t done that for some years now. One of the purposes with singing in a choir was to meet others and do something together. People that most of them I had no contact with outside our singing but while singing we had and did something together. Difficult to say what I mean… ‘Rullegruppen’ has given me this kind of context again. I have a place and a ‘task’ to attend to every week. At least I need that.
Have your illness/disease given you opportunities that you didn’t have before? Have you joined some sort of association after your diagnosis? How do you feel about being part of association tied to your illness/disease?
Would love to hear your experiences!