Anyone without health problems most likely will not understand this post, and will likely consider it overly dramatic. But, unfortunately, chronic medical conditions are dramatic to those individuals involved. Let me assure you that I am far from a drama queen, but life isn’t always as easy as one would hope.
A diagnosis of fibromyalgia brings all sorts of confusing feelings. Relief at finally obtaining a label for your problems, panic at knowing it doesn’t have a cure, concern about how it will effect your quality of life, you name it, the feeling is there. It seems that for most sufferers, myself included, the five stages of grief are experienced. Granted, no one died, and you aren’t dying. But a part of your life has died, and for that, it’s perfectly normal to grieve. No one experiences the process in the same order, intensity, or period of time, but generally, it goes a little like this:
1. Denial and Isolation: “I HAVE FIBRO WHAT????? I CAN”T POSSIBLY HAVE THAT! Test me again. It has to be something else, something with a cure…. go away. Leave me alone. ”
Followed by more self-isolation where you simply don’t want to talk about it, yet it seems that everyone else does. After all, this can’t possibly be it. (Personally I skipped this step, but I was only 14, and little was known about it at the time- and no one had heard of it!)
2. Anger: Reality sets in. “It’s not FAIR! I’m a good person! I want to help people. I want to help animals. I only want to do good in the world. Why did you allow this God? WHY ME?”
Seeing as how I was a teenager when I was diagnosed, life already seemed unfair. My parents were always protective, but became all the more so once I was finally diagnosed, ensuring I followed all Dr. orders regardless of what I wanted to do. Naturally I lashed out at them (bless them for their patience!) but I also was furious with God. My dream of being a veterinarian that took care of children’s pets while she sang… was now in jeopardy. I knew God was supposed to be good, but how could this POSSIBLY be a good thing? For goodness sake I read my Bible, prayed every day, and tried to follow Christ’s footsteps- why would He allow this?
I’ve returned to this stage a number of times over the years, but have learned that if I don’t get angry, I get sad, depressed, and spiral into the vicious cycle of fibromyalgia and depression. So, for me, anger can be a very GOOD thing- especially considering the alternative.
3. Bargaining: “I’ll read my Bible more. I’ll pray an hour every day. Just make it go away. Deal?”
No deal. Others may wonder “if I’d only gone to the Dr. earlier,” “maybe if I get a second (or third, or fourth) opinion….”
This lasted about a week for me. My mom helped a lot in getting through this stage. More about her another time. 🙂
4. Depression: “What if I never graduate college? What if I can’t get married? I can’t do anything anymore. My life is over. No one understands. I hate school (due to my peers at the time). I’ll never amount to anything, and I’ll have to live with my parents forever. Who would ever want to date me?” Oh, the thoughts.
And then the guilt over thinking and entertaining these thoughts! It wasn’t until I was in one college Bible study that I learned that I don’t have to claim every thought I have. Just because a though enters your head doesn’t meant that it is YOUR thought! There is so much FREEDOM in that! There are thoughts from God, and thoughts from Satan…. so if a thought isn’t from God, say “get behind me Satan, that’s not my thought!” and move on. Granted, it’s easier said than done, but just because a thought comes in on your river of consciousness doesn’t mean that it has to dock! Just let it float right on out. (OK, so this last part was from my years seeing a psychiatrist.)
Yet another stage that comes and goes, and must be fought on a daily basis. Remember when I said I get mad instead of sad? That’s a huge part of how I avoid depression. Despite the new Dr. now and then who has no idea that anyone with fibro will likely be indicated as depressed on any depression scale. Now THAT makes me mad. Ignorance.
5. Acceptance: “Gotta make do. I need to be there for my family. I refuse to be a victim of my body. Just because I’m pain doesn’t mean I can’t do something productive. I can still make a difference in the world. I’m gonna kick some fibro butt!!!”
Most people will expect you to skip directly to this phase. “You have fibromyalgia? My (aunt, cousin, mom) has that. You should try ______ it works for her.” They will then expect you to immediately try their suggestion and feel better. In fact, you should feel better just knowing that something helped someone somewhere!
….whatever. Today, I’m at number 5, bordering on returning to number 2 as I am prepping for yet another procedure. Where are you at?