FibroDaze is hosting PFAM carnival that will be up on November 23rd and her prompt is: "when you have made some sort of peace and are coping with the chronic illnesses you do have and “life” throws you curve balls in the form of a new diagnosis, how do you deal? What are your coping mechanisms? How do you come to terms with the new diagnosis?"
This prompt is very pertinent for what I am dealing with currently. This year has been a year of curve balls. I was diagnosed with yet another disabling chronic illness, Meniere's disease in January 2011, which ended up in surgery on my head in March. It was devastating to have this disease, but more so because it sealed that my husband and I will not be able to become parents.
It has taken me all year to come to peace with my life as it is, even before I was diagnosed with Meniere's. And not just a peace, but a joy in the nooks and crannies of what my life is. I have found spaces where I have purpose: writing & photography. I am NOT my diseases/conditions even though they disable me and dictate what I can do in my life.
So, this November 10th (less than two weeks ago) when I was diagnosed unexpectedly with yet another chronic and currently quite disabling condition, I felt I had been thrown a huge curve ball. Although this diagnosis is chronic life-changing and life-challenging, it has not depressed me in the way that my Meniere's diagnosis did.
How do I cope?
*I learn about my diagnosis.
-Knowledge is power. The more I know the truths of what my diagnosis actually is I can feel
more confident in what I am facing. I am also able to discuss it with more confidence with
those who have many questions. And I am able to find hope in possible treatments. I find
this information by asking my doctor for reliable books and reliable internet sites.
*I reach out to those closest to me: those who I know I can break down in front of and feel safe and validated.
-A new diagnosis can be quite overwhelming. and so I find that in the beginning when a
diagnosis is fresh, I keep the group I share it with small. Taking care of myself is priority
number one. As I feel more comfortable and knowledgeable, I share it with more people.
*I give myself the space to process what it means to have this new diagnosis and also space to grieve that things have changed.
-I process by writing in my journal, by talking with God, by talking with George, by talking
with my counselor. I find outlets to express my feelings.
*I delve into something that gives me joy, giving me a break from the grief.
-As I love the art of taking photographs, I submerse myself in that. I also love to cook;
although this is not something I am able to do often, when I can, I do because the
creativity of altering recipes and creating something delicious holds my attention
for a while.
How do I come to terms with a new diagnosis?
*Coming to terms is an active and passive act. It takes time.
*I come to terms with a new diagnosis by making sure that I do not let my emotions overwhelm me to a point that I am not able to move forward with my life.
*Living with chronic illnesses means living WITH them...not despite them. Learning how to live with a new diagnosis is critical in being able to move forward.
*Lately I have found my self writing "I have __________." The more I write it and say it out loud, the more real it becomes and the less devastating it is to write/say.
Chronic illness often makes us look into the face of a life of adversity and choose to find joy and life and love. When faced with another diagnosis, this is incredibly important to remember. We need to give ourselves the time and the grace to grieve what we have lost. And then we need to move forward and discover what life can be like with this new challenge.
As for my currently new and raw diagnosis, it is quite challenging for me right now to even think. I am quite verbal person, but as part of this new diagnosis and also my emotional reaction to it, I find myself unable to think, shutting down and often times withdrawing. I know at some point, whether the symptoms are better controlled or not, I will find a way to live with a fullness that I had before this diagnosis and all of the prior diagnoses.
Until then, I will give myself the grace to walk through this part of the journey how I need to as I know from previous experience, the rawness of it all will at some point fade away and I will find a new normal.