From Diagnosis To Acceptance: The Grieving Process of Chronic Disease

From Diagnosis To Acceptance: The Grieving Process of Chronic Disease

So many chronic illness sufferers have had to watch the death of who they once were, but this doesn't mean their new self has to be any less amazing!
375
views

Today is going to be spent doing the medication shuffle, a loving term I’ve given to the gargantuan task of predicting, organizing, and packing the cocktail of pills I’m going to need in order to successfully get myself through my vacation next week.

Before I was ill -- a phrase that should probably be in inverted commas due to the weight it holds -- budget travelling was my raison d’etre. My life revolved around scoring cheap flight deals, shacking up in hostels, and trekking for hours on end around wonderful and mysterious new countries. Now, life is very different.

I was ill for years before I knew I was ill. Let me elaborate: I was plagued with uncontrollable symptoms, endless fatigue, and shaky mental health, whilst simultaneously being told there was nothing wrong with me. If you need some perspective, the problems started when I was in my early teens; I didn’t get my first diagnosis until a year after I’d graduated university.

Like many who go through the long, arduous journey of finding and diagnosing their chronic health problems, as my illnesses began to stack up I fell into a sort of grieving process -- grieving for the life that I once believed I could have.

DENIAL

From my own experience, and what I’ve heard from others, there are two ways to react to your diagnosis. Either you feel like your life has fallen apart around you, or there’s an overwhelming sense of freedom from finally gaining an understanding of your ailments. I was pretty decidedly the latter; I ignored all the ‘incurable’s and ‘for forever’s and, instead, pictured my miraculous recovery. I saw myself gallivanting across the world again, after magically overcoming all of my problems. In short, I was in denial.

So time went on and I did all I was meant to. I stayed sober, avoided bad food, did regular yoga, and meditated when I could. Now I finally had a name for the condition and I had started to make headway with the doctors. It wasn’t long before I had three more shiny new labels to explain my myriad of symptoms, but still that didn’t deter me.

ANGER

Just before my diagnosis, I’d planned my trip for that summer. It involved a month inter-railing around Europe, before jetting off to Australia -- via Asia -- for another month or so. It was ambitious, even for the healthiest of travelers, but I was determined and on my leaving date I was packed and eager to go.

Four days into the trip, it was clear the plan was unsustainable. I was getting little-to-no sleep in the hostels, had no control over my diet, and the constant stress of packing up and moving on was taking its toll. After a disastrous train journey to Berlin, I had little choice but to fly home. Needless to say, I was an emotional wreck. I spent a long time beating myself up, hating myself and, even worse, blaming myself for the situation I was in. I felt useless, pathetic, and uncontrollably furious at the world for dealing me these cards.

BARGAINING

After a few weeks recuperation, I tried a different tactic. I decided I was going to go to Australia, but this time there would be no more hostels, no more overdoing it, and an extra effort to keep my diet in check. Surely, if I made all the necessary compromises then things would be OK, right? Wrong.

I did make it to Australia, and I did have an amazing time, but the deals I’d made with the universe were not providing me the shining health I was hoping for. Several outings on my trip ended at the hospital or doctor, and many more days were spent consigned to bed.

This period was perhaps the most difficult to deal with mentally, because I was so sure I could find a way around my health problems. This was not the plan; I was meant to have it all worked out; I prayed, I meditated and sent out good vibes, but every day still brought on the same familiar ache of constant symptoms and flare-ups.



DEPRESSION

When I got back, I was plunged into a pit of depression. Every-one kept telling me how amazing it was that I’d manage to get to the other side of the world and back, but for me all I could do was re-live how hard every moment had been and how much strength it had taken. I didn’t regret going -- far from it -- but I felt like I had finally been brought face-to-face with the stark reality that the budding young vagabond I once was, was now well and truly dead.

I spent most of the following year resigned to my bedroom, scared to attempt even the simplest trips for fear of struggling with a bad flare up. My travels were limited to the three-hour train journey to visit my parents and school-friends back home. Life as a recluse did not sit well with me, but it did afford me some valuable thinking time. Gradually, I began to see my new self: a warrior -- not due to my ability to overcome, but for my power to endure.


My health might always be bad, I might not be able to do the same things as other people my age, but I realized, with courage, wisdom, and strength, nothing can stop me from living the life of my dreams.

ACCEPTANCE

Everyone’s journey to acceptance is different; finding comfort within your illness is such a personal path. For me, it was about learning to take things slowly. To listen to myself and my body, and to throw away the unrealistic expectations and honor the hardships I have to endure with pride and grace.

This summer, instead of planning a trip to rival Marco Polo, I settled for 10 days split between Spain and Portugal. This means enough time to really soak up the sights, but not too long to make enduring any health problems into a living hell. If it goes well then I have another few potential getaways lined up for over the winter -- no pressure, no stress, just taking each day at a time and seeing how it all unfolds.

So whilst my vacation requires more planning than ever before, and the chances of me wasting at least one day exhausted or in pain are very high, that’s not going to stop me from doing the thing that I love most.

If there’s one facet of wisdom you can take from my experience, it’s to not beat yourself up. Yes, health conditions can change everything, but finding happiness in the compromises you are forced to make is a skill that, once learnt, will give you wings and the power to fly, no matter what life throws at you.



Cover Image Credit: Shutterstock

Popular Right Now

To The Friends I Won't Talk To After High School

I sincerely hope, every great quality I saw in you, was imprinted on the world.
52455
views

Hey,

So, for the last four years I’ve seen you almost everyday. I’ve learned about your annoying little brother, your dogs and your crazy weekend stories. I’ve seen you rock the awful freshman year fashion, date, attend homecoming, study for AP tests, and get accepted into college.

Thank you for asking me about my day, filling me in on your boy drama and giving me the World History homework. Thank you for complimenting my outfits, laughing at me presenting in class and listening to me complain about my parents. Thank you for sending me your Quizlets and being excited for my accomplishments- every single one of them. I appreciate it all because I know that soon I won’t really see you again. And that makes me sad. I’ll no longer see your face every Monday morning, wave hello to you in the hallways or eat lunch with you ever again. We won't live in the same city and sooner or later you might even forget my name.

We didn’t hang out after school but none the less you impacted me in a huge way. You supported my passions, stood up for me and made me laugh. You gave me advice on life the way you saw it and you didn’t have to but you did. I think maybe in just the smallest way, you influenced me. You made me believe that there’s lots of good people in this world that are nice just because they can be. You were real with me and that's all I can really ask for. We were never in the same friend group or got together on the weekends but you were still a good friend to me. You saw me grow up before your eyes and watched me walk into class late with Starbucks every day. I think people like you don’t get enough credit because I might not talk to you after high school but you are still so important to me. So thanks.

With that said, I truly hope that our paths cross one day in the future. You can tell me about how your brothers doing or how you regret the college you picked. Or maybe one day I’ll see you in the grocery store with a ring on your finger and I’ll be so happy you finally got what you deserved so many guys ago.

And if we ever do cross paths, I sincerely hope you became everything you wanted to be. I hope you traveled to Italy, got your dream job and found the love of your life. I hope you have beautiful children and a fluffy dog named Charlie. I hope you found success in love before wealth and I hope you depended on yourself for happiness before anything else. I hope you visited your mom in college and I hope you hugged your little sister every chance you got. She’s in high school now and you always tell her how that was the time of your life. I sincerely hope, every great quality I saw in you, was imprinted on the world.

And hey, maybe I’ll see you at the reunion and maybe just maybe you’ll remember my face. If so, I’d like to catch up, coffee?

Sincerely,

Me

Cover Image Credit: High school Musical

Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

5 Vital And Helpful Tips I Live By When Packing For A Trip

Try and pack smarter, not harder.

32
views

If you are anything like me, you tend to overpack thinking you are being a great packer and being ready for any scenario that life may throw at you. Well, that is, unfortunately untrue, and I have learned that you are only doing more harm than good. Over the years, I have come up with five tips I always use when traveling and have been proven to work. You've heard of the five golden rules of life, and, well, these are the five golden rules/tips of packing.


1. Start with a packing list.

This is the best tip I could give to anyone else who is getting ready to travel. Making a list is very useful, especially when stressed about your travel. You will not forget anything because you have it all written down. A packing list is a great way to keep organized when packing.

2. Use space bags.

Now, this is a tip my dad lives by. Space bags are great when you are packing because it protects your clothes and makes room to put a lot in your suitcase. The crazy story of a time when my dad was traveling, and his friend's bag was soaked with the shampoo he brought on the plane. All his clothes and everything inside the suitcase was ruined. So always use space bags because you never know what could happen on the flight. You can buy a space bag here.

3. Pack the essentials first.

I will be honest and say that I do over-pack a lot. I use the line "just in case" as an excuse to pack my entire house. But I have learned that packing for "just in case" is a waste of time. When you first sit down to pack, lay out all your essentials. For example, clothes that you will wear during the trip. You will be surprised to see how effective it is.

SEE ALSO: 10 Reasons Chicago Is The Best City In The World

4. ALWAYS pack an extra outfit in your carry on.

This tip is one that I have been very grateful that I used. A while ago during my trip to Canada, my check-in bag was missing and delayed for multiple hours. Luckily I had an extra outfit to keep me fresh and not feel gross. It is always crucial to this in your carry on In case of emergencies such as your bag getting lost.

5. Put identification on your suitcase.

Everyone in the airport somehow tends to have the same black or red suitcase that you have, which only means confusing when you're trying to find your check-in bag. To quickly identify your suitcase, put a sticker, or tie a ribbon on the handle. You can easily pick up your suitcase and leave. This will prevent any sneaky people trying to steal or claim that your suitcase is theirs.

P.S.: Use a bright color ribbon or a different sticker. Also, tie the ribbon properly to make sure it's secured.


I live by these five packing tips every time I travel so I hope you can use them the next time you take a trip!

Related Content

Facebook Comments