Soon we will be coming on another 4th of July- or Independence Day in the United States. I want to wish everyone a happy celebration with family and friends and thank those who fought for our countries freedom.

However, today, on July 3rd, I want to talk about a topic that in my life and the lives of many clients with disabilities and/or mental health conditions can be quite confusing especially during the Emerging Adult years. That topic is Independence. As you are recovering from a mental health condition, you may be feeling anything but independent. You feel so dependent on the staff, your therapist, your psychiatrist and others to make you feel more like the old you. You want to feel sure of yourself and capable to handle the world. When you rely on others to feel safe, you may feel bad about doing it. You think I should be able to do this by myself.

When you are recovering from the onset of a disability such as a paralysis you are told that your goal is to be as “independent” as possible. If you are recovering from a surgery or change in your disability whether infection, wound healing, or simply less strength due to age, you may desperately want to be as independent as you were before. Currently, that’s my biggest challenge. Will I be able to be as independent as when I was younger? Probably not. This is something I am working to accept.

I remember, reading in my college days about the term Interdependence. It’s the fact that none of us are totally independent. I depend on others for help with physical parts of my day, and I help others with the mental and emotional parts of their day. The physical and the emotional are so interconnected.

Even those without disabilities and mental health conditions are interdependent.  If we couldn’t depend on farmers or manufactures to provide us food, we would have to go out and get our own through whatever method we had available.  If we didn’t have the barber/stylist to cut our hair occasionally, we’d all probably have long greasy hair.  If we didn’t have the doctors to help us stay as healthy as possible, we would have to figure it out ourselves, (if we even could!)  If someone didn’t pay these people to do their jobs, they wouldn’t be able to get goods and services.  But this isn’t about capitalism or an economics report.  It’s just to remind us all that we can strive to be as independent as possible, but also remember, that just because we need help more often than we sometimes want to, this should not stop us from asking for the help we need. There is no shame in that.

Because of this, I decided that I would focus July 3rd on the ways we are all connected and “Interdependent”. You might want to devote a day (or many days to this idea).

Now don’t get me wrong…
I’m not discouraging celebrating Independence Day. Many fought for our country to remain independent and in that meaning of Independence is something I am grateful for. (Even though some would argue that we are really interdependent on other countries to help us as well. But that’s a discussion for another time).

I am just reminding us all that there is a time for Independence Celebrations and a time to be happy how we are interdependent on each other and we all have value and purpose that involves helping those in ways that you are able, and to accept help without fear or shame, when you need it.

Happy Interdependence Day to you all!

Sue Smith

Author Sue Smith

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