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Going Through the Grieving Process After a Chronic Disease Diagnosis

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I never thought that in being diagnosed with diseases that I would lose a sense of purpose. It is a very odd thing to try to explain, but with having illness, it is almost the same process as grieving the loss of someone you love…in this case, yourself.

I have been seeing a mental health specialist for a few months now, and it’s been the saddest and probably the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to do. Most people out there think that disease takes over your body, but it can actually take over your mind and mental state as well.

Since being diagnosed, I lived with the daily obstacle of focusing so much on who I had previously been, and what I was capable of doing before. I was in denial that who I was prior was not going to resurface, and I was in even more denial that my rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune conditions would be something that I’ll have to live with for the rest of my life. Yes, medications are out there that may help to make your symptoms less severe, but there is no cure. It was during Christmas time that I had an appointment with my therapist, and we both decided that it was time for me to accept this “different” me and try to be OK with what I have been set up against.

I went through a grieving process, letting go of the exercise I was once able to do, the days of sleeping so soundly without pain and insomnia, and thinking back on how I used to be able to go full days without needing naps for hours in the afternoon.

I sat in the office and tried to come up with things that were positive about my current lifestyle. The only thing I could say was that I believed that this had all made me stronger. Almost three years ago, I’d never have been able to handle the amount of stress and problems that come with having chronic illness. Most days, I’m hitting so many roadblocks. But, like I said, current me can laugh about this and try not to stress.

From that point, I found myself closed up and into the next stage of anger. I had nothing to say. I held so much anger within at the fact that my life was the same everyday, no improvements. I felt like a broken record to not only my therapist, but my family and friends. Can you imagine being stagnant in a state where even after taking upwards of 10 medications, you can’t even say that you’ve improved?

I wanted to know what I had personally done to whatever higher being there is to deserve this. I kept thinking that I had somehow caused this, when deep down, I knew there was no way I brought this on myself. I blamed myself for being how I am because I didn’t have anyone else to blame. That is why chronic illnesses are so hard to understand. You question every single day why you are in the state you are in when there is no concrete answer.

I’d say that I’ve now moved on to the depression stage — the one where I am so undeniably sad and feel like I have lost all purpose in the world. I feel like I’m this lost person who wakes up every single day and does the same thing, only to repeat the next day.

Most people identify themselves by their career, and since I currently cannot work, I just feel like I am unsure of myself and don’t necessarily have a purpose. It’s a really hard thing to feel like you have a lot you can contribute to society, but you have no outlet in doing so. I am at a point currently where my fatigue is so bad that it’s hard to even make myself meals or stay awake for more than a couple of hours without needing to go back to sleep.

I know the final stage of grieving is acceptance, and that is my ultimate goal. I have a long way to go, but it’s incredibly important for others out there to know that it’s not uncommon to face mental health issues when you have physical issues.

In my case, my doctors never informed me this could happen. It just struck me one day, and I have been trapped since. I wish that I could easily wake up one day and be back in my previous life, but I know that isn’t a reality, which is why I must keep going.

I do have a good support system, which I am very grateful for, but I know they do not understand the extent to which I am experiencing these things. It only makes it that much more important that I learn to depend on myself, and find the strength I need from within.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 741-741.

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Thinkstock Image By: prudkov

Originally published: March 23, 2017
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