Last night's post got me thinking about the stages of grief and how those can apply when diagnosed with a chronic illness.
The generally accepted stages of grief are:
These stages are not necessarily linear nor do they have a definite timeline. In other words, someone might not spend precisely two weeks at each stage and then be finished grieving. Grieving is a process and it is individual. It is also possible to go back to a previous stage of grief.
As I said in the last post, I have been in denial for the past four years. Denial was the overarching stage of grief that I was in. During the past four years I have also spent time being angry. I have tried to bargain with God, Creator, Higher Power, the Virgin Mary, the Universe whoever would listen to have the situation be different. I have been depressed, very depressed. I have made some movement towards acceptance. Mostly, I've kept going back to denial.
Denial has worked for me in so many ways. Denial got me through a Master's program. Denial helped me complete two years of internship for the graduate program. Denial also had me volunteering as a room parent. For all intensive purposes, denial helped me live an active lifestyle.
An active lifestyle that caught up with me and now I can't deny that I have to slow down, I have to let some things go for my sake and my family's sake. This, of course, is very difficult for me to do. I have always been the one that everyone else could count on, the one to help everyone else, the one to get things done. I have very, very rarely asked for help. It's not my nature, I have Wonder Woman syndrome. I've had it since I was a child when I learned not to count on anyone else but myself. This was also when I learned to be everything for everyone regardless of the cost to me.
And now, after a lifetime of always being there for everyone, doing the right thing, pushing myself to be the best at everything that I do, to not let anyone down, to always meet everyone's standards to just try to be good enough, it doesn't even matter. I find myself dealing with a chronic illness, an autoimmune disease that is aggravated by the constant assaults of the stress on my body. A body that is no longer listening to me and that I now have to listen to. And it is saying, "Stop! For the sake of everything you love, stop! Enough is enough!" and I have no choice but to listen.
I don't want to end up completely disabled and debilitated by this condition. I know that there are a lot of things that I can do to prevent it from getting worse. In order to take action and do those things that will help, I can't sit in denial any longer. I have to face my situation head on and keep moving forward. I will probably have moments of denial in the future, but not nearly as much or as long as it has been. I am strongly aware of this desire to look the other way and go on as if everything were as it was even five years ago. I am even more aware of the need to face my reality and take action, in baby steps if necessary. Some days will be more difficult than others, I know, and those days I will have to find that place within myself to be able to ask for help to get through it.