Denial is the first stage of chronic illness. But don’t you believe for one second it doesn’t rear its head again and again. Coping is a process, not an end game, so it can crop up at any time.
Denial, in the beginning, is a sort of denial this will affect our lives. Denial it will have any sort of impact on us. Denial we even have it. Denial our lives will change or have to change.
Denial is my favourite stage. Many of you might not have much of a battle with it, some of you might. I do.
When I was very young I didn’t but when I hit my late teens and went to University, still undiagnosed, I hit denial the first time. I wanted to play with other the other boys and girls. And I couldn’t keep the pace. At all. I denied it was going to have an impact on the life I wanted to lead. But it was having an impact. And I needed to change.
And it hit me hard. I recovered by moving off campus and taking a year off. But it… lingered. In the sense I believed wholly and completely FM could take my body, and limit what I could do with it, but not my mind and what I could do with that. Things wouldn’t get worse, I thought also. It wouldn’t affect my career choice. It wouldn’t affect the life I wanted to lead. But it did. And for a bit I wasn’t in denial.
It hit again after I compromised on my academic career and found a job I thought I could handle instead. For a bit, I did well. But they got worse fast because I was exceeding my limits. My health declined. Things were bad, but I thought at least I can handle this. Can’t have the career I wanted, but I will manage this one. But I couldn’t. The pain was worse, I now had chronic migraine that were not treated yet effectively. But I was determined to push through the pain to keep my career.
And every leave of absence that occurred. I still was in denial. Damn, I wanted to hold onto that career so bad. I could do it. I was sure of it. 7-8 short term leaves. And still, I strived. Surely things would improve and then I would be fine. They never improved. Things were never fine. Things got worse because I pushed myself so much. To daily migraines.
It led to a poor outcome to but it very mildly. And a long term leave I never should have been taken off of. (insurance companies are cheap and fools. I couldn’t function and had established that, but they couldn’t care less). More failure trying to work full-time. Led to another compromise and working part time. And not succeeding well at that either. But in this case having no choice because insurance company doesn’t care if I am disabled or not, so I must work, disabled or not.
But now I am not in denial. I get it. I cannot work full time, if I can’t seem to manage to even work part-time most of the time. I get it. After so much time making myself worse. Causing depression. Suicide attempts because of all that pain. I admit it. And that, my friends, is the power of denial.
Because we have wants, goals, desires and ambitions. Those do not poof out of existence. We have bills and obligations those don’t poof out of existence. So we strive. We want to strive to have normal lives. And it Costs us, in pain, in fatigue, in stress, in worsening health, in mental health.
Denial will sneak into my reasoning even now. For financial reasons. Maybe if I tried to it wouldn’t go like it did before, I think. If I just push hard. But I know, I know, I would fail. And failing takes a toll on a persons self-worth over the years. It is brutal. Because it is that your physically unable to do it, but you Feel like You are the Failure.
Denial has haunted me a long time, except when I was young and understood my limits perfectly fine. But once you are out in the world, you want to be a part of that world just as much as anyone else does. A part of me doesn’t want to accept I can be in control over my own financial wellbeing and must be dependant on others to live.
Denial can impede our acceptance. It can impede out progress. It can impede our ability to improve our quality of life by making the compromises we need to make when we need to make them.
We could be making choices that are within our limits. We could be looking for solutions that help us. We could be doing so many things other than denying our situation.
When do we know when we are striving and when we are in denial? When we are in denial we are exceeding our limits daily. But we are pushing through hoping for some improvement in the future that never comes. We may be getting sicker. We may be missing work. We may be struggling.
We have to determine what sort of compromises we can make, if any. If we can work at all even. We have to talk to our doctors and figure out if there are treatment options that can help. We have to talk to our employers about accommodations. We have to make hard choices. Because denial is there when we do not want to make those choices. We refuse to make them, even when we cannot keep continuing the way we are.