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How Can I Adjust to a Disabling Condition?


heart to heart
Question
Life, as it tends to do, has presented challenges: father deceased 12/05/96, mother 08/04/98, (my only sibling) sister 03/17/03. Four failed relationships (ranging from 1 month to 15 years). HIV January of 02. Now, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease in 06 with oxygen dependency 24-hours-a-day, which has ended a 24-year career in nursing as an RN. Multiple hospitalizations, too.

I know challenges are also lessons. I know that things which come our way are good or negative depending on how we look at them, and how we take them. Still, moment to moment, hour to hour, day to day, adjusting to this unsolicited disability, not working, is difficult (in many ways, not only financially, but also emotionally). Do you have any suggestions regarding coping with this adjustment?

Wallace's reply
Wallace
You have two debilitating conditions which have changed your life - as a result you are reviewing your past. This is natural. However why choose to remember the low points. True - you may have done things you now regret - but when you did these things you were doing the best you knew how at that time.

Consider making peace with the people in your past failed relationships. To do this write to them and apologize for the mistakes you made. You do not need to post the letter or send the email unless you want to. Writing and apologizing is the important thing. If your writing brings up heartfelt emotions, so much the better. Now is an important time to make amends because that will allow you to release the negative in your past and remember the positive.

Once your past is clear you will find it helpful to learn to live one day at a time. Although your life is restricted find something to be grateful for in every day. At the beginning of each day say a little prayer of gratitude and give thanks for another day of life and at the end of each day say another prayer and recall everything that you were grateful for in that day - then let that day go.

Although your body is suffering from deteriorating conditions remember you are not your body. Learning to be aware of, and feel grateful for, each day, is the beginning of having a meditative mind - a mind filled with present moment awareness. If your condition deteriorates further and your suffering increases, change from living from day to day, to hour by hour, then increase your awareness of the present moment by living minute to minute and eventually moment to moment.

Create a little mantra, or saying, that means a lot and that you find strengthening and say it inwardly to yourself. This will help you focus within and in so doing detach from reacting mentally to your suffering. In this way you can use the deteriorating condition of your body to transcend, by coming more and more fully into the present.

When we are living totally in the present moment we are escaping suffering because we are transcending the body.

Along with making peace with your past and living moment to moment, you will also find it helpful to focus on other people. If there is something you can do to help others, perhaps through the internet, then this is the best way you can help yourself. By focusing on helping others - even by offering something as simple as a smile - you will help take your mind off yourself and your ailments.

It is possible to use your situation to grow rapidly as a person. By growing in forgiveness, present moment awareness and love you will be able to transcend much of your suffering.

As far as your financial problems go I have two suggestions. Firstly consider putting all your expenses onto one credit card. Pay all bills, including annual bills, monthly. Then at the end of every month you will receive a statement that sets out your month's expenditure. Work out your income after tax per month. Now you will find it easier to track income against expenditure on a monthly basis and make sure they balance.

Secondly if you need more cash consider talking to a local independent financial advisor. Sometimes they can help depending on your circumstances. For example here in Ireland if you are over 60, and you own your own home, you can get an equity release plan on your home which would give you a significant cash lump sum. Also if a person is near the end of their life and they have life insurance, the insurance company will pay out prior to death.

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