Living with a chronic condition can be challenging and unpredictable. One thing we don’t take into account or even acknowledge is that we are grieving our former life pre-diagnosis. When we thinking of grieving, we think of loss of someone, like a family member or friend. Grieving does not stop there, especially with those with chronic conditions.
One day I woke up with a foreign pain in my finger, not knowing the morning before would be my last day waking up pain free. That day forward my life changed, totally. Grieving doesn’t necessarily have a end date and it isn’t always linear.
Denial & Isolation
I was 21 when I got diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. A junior in college, just getting my feet wet. Joining organizations, networking, and trying to live my best life. Around this time was when the isolation stage hit. I isolated myself from others because I wasn’t sure what to expect from this diagnosis or how my daily life would be affected. One day I would be more social and energetic and other days I would be fatigued and isolated. A lot of people did not understand, hints all the judgement I received because of this diagnosis they knew nothing of. Making it even easier for me to be isolated. Fast forward today, I still isolate myself at times, but the difference is those close to me understand.
Why me? Is a question me and so many people who have chronic conditions ask ourselves. I probably asked myself that everyday for the first year. Angry at myself for eating all the french fries and chicken tenders back in high school. Angry that because of my past actions I am where I am now. What could I have done to prevent this? Do I deserve this? All these question plus more were raised because of my anger towards myself. One thing we have to let go of is the blame on ourselves. It is important that we allow ourselves to feel and express these feelings in order to move to the next stage.
Depression can look different for everyone. Especially those going through chronic conditions compared to a family loss. I believe this one is one a lot of people including myself have experienced. During this state, we are constantly looking back at our former life pre-diagnosis. A life where we could do what we want without complication or with modification. With that constantly in the forefront of our minds, no wonder we all can get into some type of sad state. I find this stage comes and goes with repetitive cycle of worsening and improvement of symptoms. It is important that we recognize that we are grieving the life we once had. All is this is normal and ok.
I recently made it to this stage, going back in forth in depressive states when my symptoms are at its all time high. Again, grieving isn’t always linear. The acceptance stage is where we have fully integrated our illness into our daily life. It’s coming to terms and finding ways to integrate the illness without making it the ‘driver’ in your story. It took me 6 years to get to the acceptance stage. I’ve been proactive in finding ways to properly manage my illness and care for my mind and body. But also found ways to be happy, experience new things and surround myself with people who understand my needs and help me achieve my goals.
Are you having a difficult time adjusting to your chronic health condition? Check out some self-care tips to incorporate in your daily life to help with adjustment.