Saturday, July 16, 2011

Denial



This isn't advice about reframing your diagnosis so it seems less shitty.   

This is about you accepting the fact you have a chronic illness.
 
We all have uncomfortable truths in our lives, and denial is the mechanism for pushing them away. On some level we may realize what we are doing, or we may not. 

Denial is mercurial, reflective, shifting to suit different situations and personalities. For example, my T-Shirt Guy probably denied the impact his actions had on my life. This allowed him to see me at lunches and act as though nothing happened, eliminating his guilty feelings. ( Or he could be a sociopath and I was totally hoodwinked. I'm definitely leaning toward the former....at least I hope). I was in denial about my contribution to our unstable friendship and as a result felt shocked when he left, even though there may have been clear signs to others. Denial helped us avoid discomfort, but ultimately didn't solve any problems, and may have even prolonged the situation.

Denial can be comforting for the chronically ill. Many are frightened, not connecting the dots for a diagnosis, refusing visits the doctor, or choosing to remain uneducated about their illness. Denial isn't just a murky river for the deniers. Play off your illness, and your loved ones may take their cues from you, further encouraging this maladaptive behavior.

If you're reading this, you may be wading through denial. You're off to a good start by recognizing this within yourself. Your job is to focus on what's right now. 

Right now you have rheumatoid arthritis. There is nothing you can do to change this fact. There is no magic bullet, no speedboat to whisk you away. RA is not a curable illness, it is not going anywhere. 

Take the opportunity to understand that you will have good days and bad, but stop the thinking there. You need to get out those water wings and swim over the drop-off yourself. Worrying what lurks down below is wasted energy. Energy you need for navigating the river. 

If you aren't ready to talk to a friend or family member, sometimes it helps to say it out loud, or write it down Writing can be therapeutic. Whatever approach you choose, do not get swept back downstream. Commit to the idea that this IS something you have, but it isn't you. This illness does not define who you are.

Once you are in a place where you can accept that you are a person living with a chronic illness, it sets the stage for what you CAN control, not the fact that you are sick.  You must be fierce in this acceptance. By admitting it, you are taking care of you. And aren't you worth that?  

Take a deep breath, jump in, and keep those eyes wide open.

If you think you are depressed, you should seek immediate professional help. The opinions expressed here are not a replacement for appropriate medical attention.

2 comments:

  1. I don't tell many people this (or really anyone at all), but sometimes it's scary to have RA. The chronic pain, the intense fatigue, the meds I have to take. I just want to feel normal, but now I have a new normal. So odd.

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  2. Funny how our silver linings change eh?
    Thanks for reading Melissa!

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