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Disability and Happiness: 6 Mental Health Strategies for “The Darker Days”

Springrose makes adaptive intimates for unstoppable women. Learn more >
08 Sep 2023

Disability and happiness, mental health strategies. A beautiful mature asian woman in a wheelchair smiling down at her daughter while outside on grass

We had people submit their questions to our Resident Sexual Health Clinician, Dr. Kathryn Ellis, OTR/L, OTD, AASECT-SC, an occupational therapist and American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists Certified Sexuality Counselor. 

Disability, chronic illness, or acclimating to a new limitation can sometimes be a strain on your mental health and cause depression. Here at Springrose we celebrate disability and know women are unstoppable. We hear tons of stories about how women preserve through many of life’s challenges.

That said, we know it isn’t always easy and we want to be able to support our community when they’re feeling low by providing some strategies to support your mental health.

If you’re actively in crisis contact the Crisis Hotline

Here are some strategies for meeting yourself where you’re at on the darker days:

1. Unfollow accounts that don't make you feel good about yourself. 

Social media has a plethora of information on it, but oftentimes we see the best of people’s lives and never their worst. The images are perfectly curated and never mention how messy life can get. 

Denise Hoffman from Dish with Denise has lived with limb loss for over 25 years. She gives the following social media advice: unfollow the accounts that don’t make you feel good about yourself and follow the accounts that do. 

When you’re feeling good about yourself, be extra critical of the accounts you follow. Ask yourself: if future me is feeling down in the dumps, will future me appreciate seeing this content?

2. Find a mental health provider who can meet your needs. 

It can sometimes take a while to find a mental health provider that you click with. Something that is helpful to finding the right fit is asking a potential provider a set of interview questions. 

You can either send them via email or request a 15 minute free consultation before deciding if you want to book your initial evaluation. Some people with disabilities feel mental health providers can sometimes be patronizing or biased about what is important to their clients. 

You can ask questions like:

  • Have you worked with people with disabilities before?
  • Have you done any continuing education related to working with people with disabilities?
  • How do you plan on getting to know me and understanding how my disability may or may not impact aspects of my life?

3. Create a self-care kit. 

In prep for darker days, write a list of self-care activities that you find helpful. This is another activity that is better to do when your mental health is in a good spot. 

Think about the self-care activities that have been helpful to you in the past. Write them down and if any of them require a physical product like essential oils or a journal, keep them in a self-care basket so you can pick and choose from the kit when you’re feeling depressed.

4. Do grounding activities. 

    When you feel stuck in depression or spiraling with anxiety, grounding activities can help bring acute awareness to the present moment and reality. Grounding activities are high sensory experiences that help center your attention to the activity. 

    For example, taking a walk, taking a shower, yoga, singing or laying under a weighted blanket help to give you sensory input for the present moment and give your brain a break from the consuming and distracting thoughts.

     5. Resource yourself with peer support. 

    Talking to other people who have had similar experiences can be very comforting when your mental health is suffering. Most organizations for people with disabilities have a peer support program, for example Amputee Coalition’s Certified Peer Visitor Program, that can offer perspective, hope, and guidance. 

    Connecting with people who share your experience can be a more affirming experience, because you don’t need to explain your reality to them in order to receive validating support.

    6. Feel the feels. 

    Do NOT, no, never, not once, tell yourself you shouldn’t feel a certain way or shouldn’t be upset. Mental illness can often get much worse when we don’t allow ourselves the space to just be upset about something. 

    I call the word shouldn’t “The S-word,” because it can often bring on more suffering when you’re feeling depressed, numb, or anxious because it is self-invalidating to your own experience and reality. You deserve to have fluctuations in your mental health and fighting yourself when you’re feeling low distracts you from the bigger issue, which is taking care of yourself at this moment. 

    So feel the feels, allow yourself to have days when you’re sad. You might notice, you have less of them when you take this approach.

    Try a few of these strategies out and see which ones you find are a good fit for you. 

    Also, check out some of our other resources that might be helpful to you when you’re experiencing depression. For example, "Unsupportive Partner After Surgery? Here Are 4 Things You Can Do" and “Why Do People Think People with Disabilities are Asexual?” 

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