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How I Reacted to Receiving 3 New Chronic Illness Diagnoses

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“I am just as sick when I walked out the door, as I was when I walked in,” is a frequent phrase I used this past week. I used this phrase as a coping mechanism as I left my doctor’s office. It is an odd feeling to receive more diagnoses when you already have so many. Most of the time, I cannot even manage to remember all of the conditions I have. So when I received three more diagnoses in one visit, I was shocked.

That phrase was used to comfort not only my family and friends, but also myself. A diagnosis does not necessarily make you any sicker than you already are, but it does change a lot. Treatment plans change, medications are altered and additional appointments are added to my calendar. As much I thought that this phrase would bring me comfort, I just used it as a shell to disguise my feelings. I felt overwhelmed; how could I possibly handle getting three different infusions all at different times of the month? How could I add more appointments to my already packed schedule? These diagnoses did not change the present, but they absolutely change the future.

When I first became ill, it was my mission to find a diagnosis for my symptoms. Once I discovered my initial diagnosis, there was a huge sense of relief. My symptoms were validated by something and I could finally explain the reason for feeling this way. However, this time, I was not searching for a diagnosis (let alone three). It was sprung on me, but I did not feel sad, frustrated, or confused until later.

It is an odd feeling when you are diagnosed — you have to look at all sides of the story. What are my options for treating this condition? What does my prognosis look like? Is this even treatable? Last week, I did not really consider these questions; I only focused on how I felt, right then and there. I was not relieved, I was not upset — I was calm. Being chronically ill is sort of like being an assembly line. You get so comfortable with this routine of being sick, treating your illnesses and then simply surviving. I thought to myself, “I just need to add to this assembly line.” But when your body is the only thing driving this production, it can get very challenging.

Of course, I have the support of my family, friends and medical professionals. But in reality, I can only rely on myself. I am the one who has to take the medications. I am the one who has to feel every symptom, and I am the one who these diagnoses affect the most. I am also the one who can look on the bright side of almost every situation. Perhaps these diagnoses can lead me to feeling better once I start treatment, or maybe I can simply just understand my body a little bit more. This past week, I changed that phrase to, “I am just as strong when I walked out the door, as I was when I walked in,” and that is how I will cope.

Photo credit: RossHelen/Getty Images

Originally published: July 7, 2019
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