What does surviving chronic illness look like? It starts with realizing you are sick, you have a chronic condition, and it isn’t going anywhere. While it may be something of a challenge as you got through the roller coaster of grief, I can tell you that things will change once you get to acceptance. Not everything will be solved right away; it takes time. The grieving process starts with denial, anger, depression, bargaining, and lastly, acceptance.
Denial is the first thing to set in; there is an urge to fight the diagnosis, disbelief that one’s body is not working like it once did. Denial is a challenging first step; at times, I knew I wanted to be healthy; I wanted to be more like my friends and keep up with them. Over time I realized I couldn’t, and I wasn’t invited to events. Eventually, the isolation of having people leave made me slip further into denial; I didn’t want to be sick, I thought I could subsequently be healthy again. This thought pattern led me to anger.
Anger with illness part of the anger we feel can stem from internal ableism. Ableism is discrimination towards disabled people; the world we live in is set up for non-disabled people. When I got sick, I had some amazingly bad self-hatred going on. I couldn’t keep up with my friends; I have to miss out on events. I spent more and more time in bed and felt like I wasn’t achieving anything. My anger was directed inwardly, and this took me the path of depression.
Depression is an easy phase to get stuck in, and I have met many people with chronic health conditions that have been stuck in this state. Inward anger fuels depression and makes it more difficult. It is a challenge to deal with all of the doctor’s appointments, labs, the tests at the hospital, and eventually, all of that became all-consuming, and I wasn’t leaving the house for fun. Every time I left the house, I felt like I was going through illness motions again. I could maybe ask a higher power to make everything better, and so I began to bargain.
Bargaining praying to God, begging for things to be different. If I do this, you will heal me. No, no one made my illnesses go away; yes, my cancers were in remission. Still, at the beginning of being diagnosed with the rare diseases, I have this tiny blip of hope or something that was telling me I would be able to get away from it all at some point; maybe if I change my behavior, I would get better. Sadly, this was not the case; the only way to get better with a chronic illness is to gain acceptance.
Acceptance realizing you have an illness or illness is when you can start your journey with healing your mentality. Knowing your diseases will not go away and know they do not need to turn you into a negative person whose sole purpose is to be down on themselves is how one can come to acceptance. Knowing deep down I had value how I got to a place of acceptance; I was not merely my diseases; I was more, I wanted more than being hostile and angry. I wanted to feel at peace, and the way I go there was realizing I needed to accept myself full-heartedly.
It is vital to remember it is ok to grieve; we must mourn the loss of a healthy life. Without suffering, we are putting ourselves in harm’s way of potentially getting stuck in the process along the way. It is ok to feel it; it is ok to go through all of the grief motions; you need to go through all of the grieving waves to get to acceptance. It won’t be easy, but it will be liberating once you get to the point where you know you have what you have, and it will not go away.