Independence can be difficult to achieve when you have a chronic illness or disability, but it’s not impossible! It just takes some hard work, perseverance and belief in your own abilities to be great!
What does it mean to be independent? A definition I found from the dictionary states a person is independent when they are “not influenced or controlled by others in matters of opinion, conduct, etc.; thinking or acting for oneself”- (dictionary.com).
Unfortunately, a lot of the time, independence is something people living with chronic illnesses and disabilities have to fight for. Maybe you have mobility issues and depend on someone, be it a carer, family member or partner, to help you get around. Maybe you need help with personal hygiene, housework, cooking, shopping etc. Maybe you can’t be left alone for long periods of time due to your illness. These barriers to independence can be frustrating because they are caused by your illness, and a lot of the time there’s not much that you can do about it. However, there is one very important thing you must remember.
Asking for help when you really need it does not make you less independent. In my opinion, if you do all you can to the best of your abilities without assistance, then you are independent!
There are a few things you could think of when trying to increase your independence. Ask yourself “why can’t I do this for myself?” Sometimes if you’ve been receiving treatment from childhood where your parents or carers helped, you can get so used to them helping you. Try it yourself and see how it goes. For example, my mum used to manage all my medications, help me change my insulin pump site and keep track of all my clinics. As I got older, I started doing more and more things for myself. Now, I pretty much do it all! Mum is there if I need her, but I can look after my own care when I’m at home or at college.
You may need to sit down and figure out different ways of doing things. When I was going away to college, I had to figure out how I would change my central line dressing. This was always done by my mum or a nurse. I didn’t want to have to go into hospital once a week for a silly old (but very important) dressing change, so I tried it myself. It took a few tries and it takes me twice as long to do it, but I did it! It might seem so much easier to just let someone else do it, but trust me, the more things you can do for yourself, the freer you’ll feel!
Finally, adapt your surroundings (when you can) to make things easier for yourself. There are loads of cool new devices out there that can help make things easier for people with disabilities/chronic illnesses. A good way to figure out what you need is to make a list of the activities you usually need assistance with, then research and see what’s out there that could take the place of another person.
For me, the best way to grow more independent is to try new things. The past year, I’ve realised how much more capable I am and it is more than I ever imagined. I still need help from time to time, but going away to college has shown me how much I can do for myself when I really need to. Honestly, it wasn’t easy. There were plenty of times when I just wanted my mum to come and take over, but then I told myself that this is my life and if I want to have amazing experiences, I need to train myself to be as independent as I can be.