Posted by: AJ the Irish Lass | March 4, 2021

The Unheard: Why Your Loved One With a Disability May Be More Frustrated Than You Think

Putting on a Good Face May Be a Good Survival Skill, But It Doesn’t Mean Everything’s Good

When a medical specialist tells someone what the cause of many of their frustrating symptoms over the past months has been, their journey doesn’t end there. It is just the beginning, and your loved one may have a rough road ahead of them. Much of it will depend on their overall mindset, the number of acceptable resources in their area, the quality of their support system, and whether they have good options for healthcare.

Depending on the circumstances, they may be going through times when it seems like they’re constantly snapping at someone over one thing or another. They might feel like they’re waiting for the next disaster, and have no reason for optimism. Most importantly, they may feel like people are only hearing their words when they express frustration, but aren’t really listening to them.

Most of us are now aware of the impact that stress has on our lives. Although there are things we can do to alleviate stress, taking the often-frustrating journey of life with a disability needs to be a team effort, and sometimes the team members like to go AWOL during the process. As hurtful or frustrating as it may be, “helpers” need to know when they are no longer being helpful.

Here are some frustrations that may or may not sound familiar:

“If stress can directly cause what I have, I know I have this job/family situation/relationship to blame.”

“Obviously, nobody takes my health seriously or they’d be doing this/not doing that.”

“Neither the government or private help have benefited me, I don’t want to hear about it.”

“It really seems like they’re trying to oh well/you poor thing, etc. me into complacency.”

“I’m sick of all the BS promises, if somebody says they’re going to help me, I expect them to follow through or at least stop promising me things.”

“This damn medical condition/a stroke/heart attack will probably kill me before anyone does anything to make my life easier.”

Although not true in all cases, in many cases, a lot of the stress and frustration a person living with a disability isn’t tied to one main problem. For some, the trouble might lie with several smaller issues that build and cause more anger the longer they are unresolved. Good communication is essential, and I can attest to the importance of communication based on my experiences with an MS diagnosis.

The Impact of Other People

We need other people in our lives, but sometimes a lot of the stress we experience has to do with other people. There is a chance that you may be contributing to their stress level without being aware of it. An honest self-assessment where you acknowledge the role that you may have played in your loved one’s stress level is important.

Realize that the fact you may have contributed to your loved one’s stress level does not make you a bad person. Instead, it means that there is room for improvement in your helpfulness. You cannot make the best effort to help your loved one if you are unaware of problems.

Your Actions or Inactions Speak Volumes

When you do the right thing for your loved one struggling with a disability, no matter how small, you are making a positive impact. Look for things that you can do that will help make life a little easier. If your loved one expresses concerns about a difficulty in their life, think about how you can realistically help them.

Don’t underestimate the power of inactions, or errors of omission. Sometimes a person may feel as though they are not getting the help or support they need, but don’t want to be a burden. Think about whether they feel that they can honestly talk to you.

What Helps One Person May Be Disastrous for Another

Every person’s journey with a disability is different, and two people with the same condition may have very different experiences. Some people may thrive in a support group setting, others may find such groups overwhelming or unhelpful. One person may feel an immediate need to apply for disability benefits, another may feel that trying to work as long as possible is beneficial.

Respect your loved one’s decisions, even if they are not the ones you would make. Avoid pressuring them or making them feel as though they are being pressured. Carefully listen to what they want or need, instead of making assumptions that might be completely off-base.

Useless Platitudes Are Just That – Useless

Platitudes, like “You poor thing” or “Oh, well” that lack any meaningful action to help are useless words and may do more harm than good. Sometimes, you may be at a loss as to what to say to your loved one. There is nothing wrong with not knowing what to say, but the right actions can make up for your not knowing what to say.

Be a good listener, IOW, make sure you understand what they’re getting across, instead of simply hearing their words without comprehension. Make the time to listen, without distractions like TV or radio programming, texts or phone calls, social media, or demands from kids, pets, or other household members. Giving your undivided attention will ensure you understand their struggles and avoid misunderstandings because of distractions.

Never Make Promises You Can’t or Won’t Keep

If you find yourself saying that you will do something on a certain day or by a certain time, and then not following through, you are possibly doing more harm than if you never made the promise at all. If your loved one is in a situation where they are at least partially dependent on others, this is a situation you must avoid. Life with a disability requires stability, which is not possible when people constantly let them down.

If necessary, make a plan for how you will follow through on your intentions. Remind yourself of what may be at stake for your loved one. Although you are not responsible for your loved one’s whole life, you share responsibility for following through on any promises made.

Final Thoughts

I can personally attest to how difficult it is to get a diagnosis you weren’t expecting. However, if you have a good idea of what some of the frustrations are that your loved one might be feeling, you will be in a better position to help them.

This blog post cannot and does not constitute medical advice, nor does it serve as a substitute for treatment by a qualified mental heath professional. If you or your loved one are in need of help, please seek the assistance of a mental health professional.


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