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When I Realized I Needed to Be Honest With Myself About My Chronic Illness

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After receiving a diagnosis and coming up with an agreeable treatment plan, you go through stages of grief. It’s pretty typical no matter the ailment. When you’ve been coping with a chronic condition that’s been mostly in remission for a while, it’s tough to keep a brave face because you’re tired of going through this. Again.

I very quickly became mad. Mad at myself for thinking I could relax and be safe. Mad that my stupid body was once again failing me. Mad that I’d finally gotten in a good place mentally. Just mad. I thought anger would help.

But then grief came along. Grief momentarily paralyzed me with fear. It would be so easy to fall into a pit of despair, and I understand why some people do.

So I quickly moved to denial. I never followed the rules, so my stages of grief did their own thing. In order to get out of the rabbit hole of depression, I found myself saying things like, “It’s not that bad.” People would ask me how I am, and I’d say, “Fine” or “OK” or something empty. I was saying it for me, but I was saying it for them, too. I didn’t want people to worry or look at me like I’m dying.

But then I realized today, after talking to my wonderful doctor’s assistant, that I have to allow myself to be honest. This sucks. This really sucks. I’m certain it will get better, but for now, my reality is that I’m in pain every day. I’m struggling holding it together. I’m experiencing side effects that are affecting my daily life. And it’s going to get worse before it gets better.

And the truth is, I’m a little scared. There it is. I’m scared of the unknown, not knowing what might happen and knowing the next six months of my life will be a question mark.

But that phone call today really made me realize that it’s OK for me to be honest, and that I’m not OK. It’s OK to be honest and ask for things I need at work, at home, with friends and my community. The future of my health is dependent on my honesty about what’s really going on with me. And it’s also dependent on the support I receive from my medical providers and the people in my life. They can’t help me if I’m not honest.

But I was also reminded that I’m not alone. I’ve already received tremendous support from the people in my life. But knowing I have that support from my medical community is so priceless. She told me they’re with me, every step of the way. They will intervene for me if needed. Both of my specialists contact me between appointments to check up on me. It’s every patient’s dream to be this supported.

I think it’s really important for people to not be ashamed of what they’re going through. You’re not wallowing in self-pity and you don’t have to think positively. You should be allowed to be honest about what you’re going through without being ashamed or fear appearing weak. People shouldn’t expect you to be brave. You will be better prepared to deal with the situation if you are honest with yourself, and those around you will be more prepared to support you, too.

And I guess that’s acceptance.

Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images

Originally published: August 14, 2016
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