Five Things Non-Disabled People Should Understand About Those With Physical Limitations
Chronic illness has continued to grow in the past decades with six in ten Americans living with at least one chronic disease today, according to the CDC.
Having at least one chronic symptom is considered normal in the modern world of today – and let me tell you, that’s a scary realization. Such symptoms can look and feel different for everyone, ranging from mild occasional discomfort to being physically limited in our ability to participate to everyday activities.
Yet non-disabled people dominate the population and culture in the US, which means our understanding of normal is wholly based around the perimeters for non-disabled ideas and activities.
This is something I know all too well. Two weeks after taking ciprofloxacin – a commonly prescribed antibiotic – for a UTI, I was practicing yoga and, out of nowhere, my leg muscles went into painful paralysis. I couldn’t walk or even move my legs anymore. I had to call for help – it was terrifying – and I was rushed to the hospital in the neurology department. All the tests came back negative, and no one knew what was wrong with me. After two weeks, they said it was probably all just in my head and sent me home.
I spent the next four years in a wheelchair, and after multiple misdiagnoses and unsuccessful medical treatments, I turned to holistic healing. I began working with a French naturopathic physician who informed me that my symptoms aligned with fluoroquinolone toxicity, which is currently not recognized as a diagnosis yet. Still, many cases of fluoroquinolone-associated disability are being reported, and doctors continue to prescribe them today despite the FDA advising against it.
Under the guidance of my naturopathic physician, I created a wellness routine that incorporated a healthy, plant-based diet, meditation, therapeutic movement, rest, and gratitude, and I am now 75% healed and can walk short distances again.
Going from a healthy, vibrant young lady to a handicapped 25 years old just by taking a few pills has not been easy. But what was even harder was how people treated me during this time.
And what I learned during this time is knowledge I feel is essential to share with others:
- Illness isn’t always visible.
It’s always wise to be careful with assumptions and presuming someone is healthy just because they don’t look sick. There is a lot that can be invisible to the eye and coming from a place of empathy when we simply don’t know enough about a situation or a person, is always a good idea.
- Dare to talk about it.
Avoiding complex topics because they might be awkward or uncomfortable can make a person living with a chronic illness feel even more lonely and unheard. Talk about what they’re going through, the struggles, the hardship, but also the joy and the little things that they feel grateful for.
- Not having a diagnosis doesn’t mean nothing is wrong.
So many people go mis- or undiagnosed by the medical profession and many assume that it must mean that there is nothing wrong with them and that they should simply resume their life. Yet the daily struggles and limitations are still there, and they can be very real. Continuing to offer your support and trust even when a clear diagnosis isn’t identified is one of the best way you can support someone you love who is going through a difficult time with their health. This type of support can greatly contribute to our recovery.
- Avoid suggesting that someone is lucky that they can’t work.
Being unable to work isn’t a privilege – it’s a consequence of chronic illness or physical limitations. Rather, helping that person find their mission and a passion in which they can contribute to the world can often shift their perspective and help them boost their self-esteem.
- People with physical limitations of disabilities are reminded every day of how life is different for them.
Be the person who finds and enhances similarities and makes them feel like they belong to the same group as healthy and non-disabled people. Invite them to parties, include them in group conversations, activities, etc. In the end, our cells listen to every one of our thoughts and so why not see life as everybody else should: full of possibilities, feeling confident, strong, and powerful beings.
And let’s not forget the power of love and positivity and the positive effects they can have on our health & well-being.
Being in a state of love and gratitude is in fact so important that it is a nourishment in the healing app Envol that my partner and I have created after my recovery.
Envol app is a holistic healing tool with a unique health-score tracking concept + algorithm, backed by science and doctors, that combines all the necessary tools to improve health no matter where people start–whether they’re recovering from a chronic illness or need some extra guidance when dealing with stress or anxiety.
I hope that people never stop believing in the incredible powers of their body. We are more powerful than we think. There is pure magic in us, and if we create the right conditions in our life to let that magic express itself, miracles can happen. Our cells respond to each of our thoughts and beliefs – and it starts with changing ‘I can’t’ into ‘I can.’
About The Author
As someone who’s spent years battling chronic illness, Julie Morin, co-founder of Envol, knows how difficult and pricey it can be to get our health back. She started to wonder about what would happen to our bodies should we give them the opportunity to heal from within. Julie explored that question and when she started walking again after 4 years in a wheelchair, Envol was born: an easy-to-use mobile app to guide and empower people to take control of their health and start feeling better.