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Isolation at Christmas
My name is Rebecca McAteer. I have Cerebral Palsy, use an electric wheelchair for mobility and need some assistance with most aspects of daily living. I pride myself on being determined to live life to the full. I try to live each day with a smile on my face and want to inspire other people to do the same, irrespective of their individual challenges.
The festive season is synonymous with mince pies, the exchange of gifts and spending time with family and loved ones. One of the greatest pleasures, or so you might think.
Barriers faced at Christmas
When you are disabled, things aren’t so straightforward. Christmas can be very isolating and can cause severe anxiety which sucks life out of the Christmas cheer. These are just some of the thoughts running through my head at this time of year:
- Will any of my support staff be available to work over Christmas?
- Should I even bother making plans to celebrate the festivities with my friends?
- Where and how am I going to find time to spend with my boyfriend?
- Are any of these Christmas events I’ve been invited to wheelchair accessible?
These types of things are often taken for granted but for thousands of disabled people across the country, this is the reality of Christmas. Answering no to any or all of these questions can have a detrimental impact on their ability to share in the festive fun.
Managing isolation during the festive period
I am fortunate that I can spend Christmas with my parents but for others in similar situations it can be even more isolating. I love Christmas with my family, but it also reminds me of my limitations. My carers are quite rightly spending Christmas with their own families. This makes it hard for me to get out and about. My parents will take me anywhere but who wants to have their style cramped at a friend’s Christmas or New Year’s party when you’re an adult? This can lead to a series of negative thoughts and emotions, oh how I wish I could be back to doing my own thing without relying on my parents!
This can lead to feelings of isolation or sadness for the opportunities I’m missing out on, a form of FOMO I guess.
Everyone dreams of a white Christmas but for wheelchair users snow can be the stuff of nightmares. Even some wheelchair accessible vehicles can’t be driven in adverse weather conditions. Whilst snowy pictures might look good on Christmas cards, the disabled community are often glad when spring comes around.
Reflecting another year
Even though Christmas is seen by many as ‘the most wonderful time of the year’ it makes me remember that another year is almost over, leaving me to reflect on the things I haven’t yet managed to achieve. My lack of personal independence can become a debilitating factor and leave me feeling lonely.
For me personally, the build up to Christmas is more exciting than the day itself. I often get caught up in the euphoria of it all, eagerly anticipating what exciting things lay ahead in the new year. Part of me thinks that this is a defence mechanism to forget about the deep-rooted isolation I sometimes experience. It’s important to remember that it’s not just the disabled who can feel isolated at Christmas. The elderly, homeless and those who are sick can often be alone at this time of year with nobody to care for them.
Perhaps as we overindulge this Christmas, we could spare a thought for those less fortunate?
Have you ever experienced isolation at Christmas and what are your tips for overcoming it? Let us know in the comments below!