So. It’s 3:45 in the morning. And I’m awake because of a “disability rough patch,” which is a term that I made up, to describe those weird moments–days, weeks, or months–when your disability seems to be getting worse, only to have things return to normal at some arbitrary point in time.
When you live with a boring old “non progressive, largely not yet understood” disability, these rough patches can make you feel like you’re losing it. For weeks your sleep can be irregular, your bladder can stop bladdering, everything can suddenly feel like your moving through all the spasms, just to do one little, stupid, fucking thing–and then poof, your mojo is back and you are back to regular programming. And because you barely know what’s happening, it can be hard to explain to others. So, as a person who’s had 10+ years in disability rough patches, here’s what I’ve learned:
- Disability rough patches are real, you didn’t make it up. Just because the heightened symptoms are temporary (with non progressive disabilities), doesn’t mean you’ve imagined them. As disabled people, we often have to explain ourselves to everyone, because unless you’ve got it, you just don’t really get it, so , on a base-level, it’s crucial that we validate our own, and each others’ disability rough patches.
- Disability rough patches usually have an end. Don’t worry, soon this will all stop and you can totally avoid the doctors’ in good conscience.
- You really do deserve extra self care when this happens. Something’s up with my emotional regulation thanks to brain damage, and that amplifies in times like these. Yesterday, I cried while reading a book I barely like, because one of the characters I barely know had a friend die. I straight up bawled my eyes out. It was 7:45 in the morning and the book is fiction. Please rough patch, end soon. (If that doesn’t scream step back and take care of yourself,, I don’t know what does).
- New problems show-up sometimes. And then they vanish. This time around, I’ve been waking from my sleep gasping for air. In the past, I’ve slept way more than normal, but then gone back to my regular sleep schedule weeks later. I think it’s normal that new and exciting problems show up and then leave again, just too keep you on your toes.
- I am not a doctor. There’s a chance that the “disability rough patch” is just my way of coping with the unknowns of my disability to avoid doctors. So, if you’re going through stuff that’s totally unrelated to your disability, maybe ignore everything I just wrote and go to the doctor.
Ways I take-care of myself during a rough patch:
- Disconnect from social media and email as much as possible, and give myself brain-space to actually think about what I need instead of people’s dumb, ableist, never-ending schedules and demands.
- Netflix. Hahahah, whatever, I do this when I’m great, too.
- Naps. Because, when you have no idea what the fuck is going on, why not sleep on it
- Forgive yourself. I know this one’s all cheese,but often because we have to justify everything re: disability to others, we have to justify it to ourselves too. Forgive yourself, you don’t owe an explanation and you didn’t do anything to bring this on.
- Hang out with other PwD. Or stay home with the cat. Your call.
- Go to the doctor? Make sure you’re in a solid enough place first through, this one’s usually terrible.