Denial serves a wonderful psychological purpose. Thus the “NO!! ” when someone gets terrible news. It is nature’s built in kindness to buffer the inevitable. Slowly, carefully, each according to his or her own psyche, we absorb the pain.
There are some medical diagnoses which, while not immediately life threatening, pretty much alter your life. At least eventually. Since lupus is my poster child, that’s the one I speak of here.
You learn very quickly that there is no cure. The disease may attack any of your major organs. Heart. Brain. Kidneys.
No! you think. No!.
You learn that there is treatment. You also learn that the treatment itself may kill you even if the disease does not.
No! you think. No!
If you are lucky enough to get relief from the medication at first, you can go about your normal life for a long time. You can still do your life’s work. Interact normally with friends and family. I must be one of the lucky ones, you think. I’m not as bad off as some people you hear about.
No! you think. No!
Then you get a flare and you’re knocked into bed and out of your life for a while. A week….longer.
No! you think. No! I’m just having a little setback here but I’m not sick.
Eventually you find yourself in bed more often and for longer periods. Or maybe the doctor decides to try stronger medication. With stronger side effects. You could have a remission that could last for years. Or not. In any event, finally, inexorably it dawns on you: I am no longer as I was before.
Your medical condition does not define you. But it does define your life. What you can and cannot do. The plans you can’t make because you can’t count on feeling well enough on any given date. The plans you want and need to make because you can’t count on anything anymore.
Yes, you whisper quietly to yourself.
Yes. I accept.
This is a defining moment. Now you are ready to grow.