Friday, July 25, 2014

The Big "C" and perspective

Many years ago when I first met my Rhuematologist, she refused to provide me with support groups for SLE (Systemic Lupus).  I was only 25 when I was diagnosed and quite honestly scared to death by the literature I had been reading.  I was also diagnosed with Fibromyalgia and Raynuad's Syndrome. In the blink of an eye I went from jogging 5 days a week, playing raquetball 2-3 times a week and living a carefree life to taking multiple prescriptions and cutting out most activity because of the pain it brought on and all just so I could make it from one day to the next.  This all seemed a lot to deal with and I thought wow, maybe a support a support group would help.  My doctor disagreed.  She believed my positive outlook would carry me farther than others sob stories and pity parties.  I didn't listen to her and sought out a support group anyway.  It didn't take me long into the meeting to realize that while it was nice to meet others with the same condition, the outcomes really depended on internal strengths and weaknesses and that my doctor was right, I needed to focus on the positives.

Shortly after my visit to the support group, I walked into her office and held out my hand.  In it was an entire day's worth of medications, something like 30 pills.  I told her I refused to live the rest of my life like this - taking all these pills each day and enduring not only the symptoms of the disease, but also the side affects of the medication, especially because they predicted it wouldn't be a long life.  I anticipated her telling me that it was just what it was and to learn to live with it.

I was wrong, she jumped at the chance to help me change my life, lifestyle and overall perspective!  My college training and background is medical in nature which makes for an unusual patient.  One that understands - sometimes too much or just enough to scare yourself because you anticipate what comes next.  

Ultimately, perspective and attitude travel hand in hand no matter the diagnosis.  Along with that culture, age and personality play into every attitude.  But, attitudes can be changed and updated, it's entirely up to us.

To refresh your memory these are the 5 stages:

The 5 stages of grief or acceptance:
DENIAL - "this can't be happening to me". Not accepting or even acknowledging the loss.
ANGER - "why me?", feelings of wanting to fight back or get even with spouse of divorce, for death, anger at the deceased, blaming them for leaving.
BARGAINING - bargaining often takes place before the loss. Attempting to make deals with the spouse who is leaving, or attempting to make deals with God to stop or change the loss. Begging, wishing, praying for them to come back.
DEPRESSION - overwhelming feelings of hopelessness, frustration, bitterness, self pity, mourning loss of person as well as the hopes, dreams and plans for the future. Feeling lack of control, feeling numb. Perhaps feeling suicidal.
ACCEPTANCE - there is a difference between resignation and acceptance. You have to accept the change or loss, not just try to bear it quietly. Realization that it takes two to make or break a marriage. Realization that the person is gone (in death) that it is not their fault, they didn't leave you on purpose. (even in cases of suicide, often the deceased person, was not in their right frame of mind) Finding the good that can come out of the pain of loss, finding comfort and healing. Our goals should turn toward personal growth.

Get help. You will survive. You will heal (at least emotionally), even if you cannot believe that now, just know that it is true. To feel pain after loss (loss can also be a chronic illness or even a situation where we do not have control) is normal. It proves that we are alive, human. But we can't stop living. We have to become stronger. Helping others through something we have experienced is a wonderful way to facilitate our healing and bring good out of something tragic.

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