Getting a diagnosis can make symptoms and the struggles those symptoms bring, more real. A diagnosis can help us by validating our physical or mental experience, but it can also limit how much we can deny the impact of our illness. Diagnoses, while beneficial to receive in many ways, can be tough to come to terms with, especially when the diagnosis is chronic, terminal or life-altering.
Just recently, I’ve been faced with a combination of diagnoses—relating to both physical health and mental health. The toughest was learning I have a serious dissociative disorder. Every “horror story” (true or fictionalized) I had heard about this disorder hit my mind when I was diagnosed. I was flooded with fear, confusion and anxiety.
Then I realized some important things. These are the ideas I want to share with you.
1. A diagnosis means we can take action.
They can be terrifying, sure, but a diagnosis can also be empowering. We can research symptom management techniques, find communities and read about other inspiring people living with the illness we have.
Of course, it’s important to focus on looking up positive information, rather than just falling into the wormholes a search engine can drag us into. Focusing on how our diagnosis can empower us to take charge of our health can make the news easier to bear.
2. A diagnosis may mean a “new normal.”
Our inner (and perhaps outer) world has changed with this new knowledge. It will take us time to accept and acknowledge this. It’s OK for this process to take a while. Sometimes, we expect ourselves to leave our provider’s office with a completely understanding attitude, but it’s usually not this easy to accept.
In truth, a diagnosis means we can let go of how we saw our “old” life and start to embrace a new life. We can think of it like a “new normal.” That’s what it really is, after all. It’s like moving to a new city, getting a pet, starting a job and various other major changes. It’s OK to be nervous, unsure and hesitant. Let’s try not to shame ourselves for these very real feelings. They are valid and it takes time to adjust. We can learn, one step at a time, to adjust to our new normal.
3. A diagnosis does not change your worth.
You are an amazing and incredible individual. Every single one of us living with an illness and choosing to figure out this new lifestyle is incredibly powerful. Society sometimes tries to knock those of us who live with mental or physical illness down, but we are just as worthy and awesome as anyone else. Even if your new diagnosis means you stop working, let go of friends or make serious changes, your worth remains the same. It’s infinite. Living with or without an illness, or several illnesses, does not change how worthy you are.
These things have helped me settle into a process of adjustment, a time of healing and acceptance. My hope is these ideas will help you also find some peace in the chaos of any new diagnoses in your life.
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Thinkstock photo via Grandfailure.