Written by Carrie Torrans
Living with a disability as well as a mental illness is true because I live it. When I was born, I was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. For as long as I can remember, I always felt as though I was different, separate from others. Many children with disabilities are bullied and set aside, but in my case I felt invisible, as though I didn’t exist. In time I began to internalize the feeling of being constantly isolated and developed severe depression and anxiety. I constantly had thoughts like, “I’m not good enough”, or “No one understands me and what I’m going through.”
My mental health worsened as I developed Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. Many people with disabilities also deal with secondary health conditions. Multiple studies report that experiencing a disability or impairment during emerging adulthood is associated with heightened risk for anxiety and depression. People with disabilities are three to four times more likely to have behavioural, psychiatric or emotional difficulties. This includes symptoms like depression, which has been found to be 2 to 10 times more prevalent in those with disabilities in comparison to those without.
In my case, I developed many bladder and kidney problems which some days became life threatening and involved over fifty surgeries and the loss of a kidney between the age of 19 and 30. As you can imagine, I became terrified of hospitals and of any medical appointment.
Learning to Cope
Even though I still deal with these conditions, I strive very hard not to allow my mental health to stop me from living a fulfilling life. Yes, there will be good and bad days, but always remember that you are not alone in the struggle, and there is always help if you ask for it.
Those who might find themselves in this kind of situation should consider attending the Youth Without Limits support group. It’s a judgement-free and safe sharing environment that explores important topics like coping strategies, reducing stress and depression and building resiliency. Join us to learn more about yourself, share with others and talk.
Learn more about the Youth Without Limits Support Group
Canadian Mental Health Association: http://www.cmha.bc.ca/
BC Mental Health & Substance Use Services: http://www.bcmhsus.ca/
Here to Help: http://www.heretohelp.bc.ca/