Independence – Misunderstood or Overrated?

This post first appeared on Living Like You July 18th 2016

Although we all love our independence – the ability to do what we want when we want – we also all fear losing it. As in all things, there are degrees of independence, and for people with a neurodegenerative disorder like multiple sclerosis, the degree by which we are affected becomes very important.

Our degree of independence not only varies immensely because of our position in life’s cycle, but also with our health status. The degree of disability governs the range of curtailments on one’s independence, and these restrictions can vary from minor inconveniences to major barriers.

We were brought into this world being totally dependent, and as our lives progressed we become less so. In early adulthood, there is a time when we come close to being truly independent, but even that eventually evolves into co-dependence with a partner and then to being depended upon by children. It is the cycle of life.

Throughout our lives, we are all connected with another or with each other. If that were not the case, the world would be an extremely lonely place to be. Love/Belonging is set midway on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs immediately below Esteem which involves connections with others. These two spots on Maslow’s pyramid are, in my opinion, crucial to the way we perceive independence.

If we are being brutally honest with ourselves, none of us are totally independent. On the other hand, who would really want to achieve total independence– it seems like such a lonely place.

Although we often fight long and hard internal battles before accepting the help of things like assistive technology (AT), tools like these can quickly become an integral part of our lives. Whether a keyboard with larger keys, apps that help us organize and remember appointments, or even tools to help us with our balance , technology can help to prolong our independence.

Why do we value our independence so much? Why are we so afraid to lose it? I think that a large part of the answer is that we do not want to become a burden on our loved ones, our families, or our friends. We despise not being in control, particularly of our own bodies.

I don’t believe that independence is overrated, but it is misunderstood. It is not in our nature to be alone or do things on our own; we like company and often require the assistance of a helping hand when it is offered. If you’re living with MS, don’t be afraid to accept the kindness of others.

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