In the past, I would get up in the morning and head to the office, work all day, come home, eat dinner, watch a little TV and go to bed. Wash, rinse, and repeat. I never had to think about what I was going to have to do during my day. I never had to plan anything out; it was just routine. Things are much different now. Now, I have to think about what I am going to do for the day, or I end up doing nothing, which is unhealthy.
Now, my routine is this; wake up around 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning, if I sleep at all, do some Bible study, do about an hour or so of writing, maybe watch some Netflix, Hulu, or Prime TV. Somewhere between 4:30 and 5:00, I let Alonso, my eight-month-old black lab, out, then I watch the local news and have some breakfast. I then fill the rest of my day with volunteer work, playing guitar, reading, physical therapy, watching some more TV, maybe playing my PS4 for a while, work on my classwork, get a little exercise, and work on training Alonso.
My days are much different than what they used to be. Now, I will admit, there are days where I don’t want to do much of anything. Nights when I haven’t gotten any sleep at all, which is once or twice a week, I am so exhausted, I do not have the energy to do anything but write, read and watch TV. Those are the day that I feel most useless.
It is innate to a person’s psyche to feel like they have a purpose in life. Without this, you feel empty, listless, like you are wandering in the wilderness with no way to get to your destination. One of the hardest realities I had to face was finding a new purpose in life. I had to find a way to feel like a productive member of society. There are many days that I still feel like I have not accomplished this, and I feel like I am not useful to anyone, but I know that is just negative self-talk. I know that God has a purpose for me; I have to find and pursue it. The only way to be truly fulfilled is to find your purpose and pursue it. In many ways, I am still searching to discover what that is, but I have hope that it will become apparent to me.
Many of you out there face the same challenges that I do, asking yourself how do I live a productive life now that I am on disability? The answer is different for everyone and extremely challenging. I believe when people lose their careers, they go through the typical five stages of grief. Once they have come to acceptance, they can finally move on and determine how their new life looks. Coming to acceptance is not an easy task. For many, coming to acceptance takes much longer than others, and they find themselves in a sort of limbo, not only not knowing what to do with their day but not having the motivation to do anything.
I had to take it one step at a time. I was already involved with some volunteer organizations, so I had a good start. I got more involved with my church and decided to go back to school to get a second master’s degree. Even then, that only took up a small part of my day. I still find myself searching for significance and a new purpose, and I am in a much better place than I was two and a half years ago.
There are many things that I can’t do physically anymore, and that is very frustrating. I can’t really do yard work or housework or anything that requires much physical exertion. I am usually in so much pain; it is difficult to do any of these things. I have found that this is one of the most frustrating things about my situation. When I can no longer do the things I used to do, I feel very inadequate. There are days I want to write or play guitar; my hands are shaking so badly that I can neither. On those days, I just have to accept my limitations, find something else to do, or I end up just having a massive pity party, and I get nothing accomplished.
When you find yourself in a different life circumstance and have to rework your daily life, you must keep yourself busy searching for things that give you meaning. Another crucial element is the human connection. I make it a point to interact with other people during my day. I have several close friends that I talk to almost every day. They help motivate me, make me laugh, and generally keep my spirits up.
Some studies show that fandom, whether sports, science fiction, video games, etc., can help with overall mental health, but that is a topic that I will cover another day. The critical thing to remember is to involve yourself. Keep busy, play a little, find a hobby, and engage your mind. I still find that I have many hours of the day where I don’t have anything to involve myself, but I am searching every day to fill those voids. Trust me, I understand that you might not feel like it, and you may question if you will ever be a productive member of society ever again, but you can be. Take some time to figure it our but above all, don’t give up hope.