those of you with chronic illness know it all too well. You get stuck inside your head, and your body takes over your mind. You start to feel like a "weak person" instead of a strong person with an illness. And you start to want to "give up the fight" and just let it all take over.
If you know this feeling all too well, please keep reading.
There are different psychological stages of illness. When I was first diagnosed, I was in denial. I thought that this was just a phase that I could reverse. I thought that diet and healthy lifestyle could make it all go away. I didn't listen when my doctor gave me a note to give to my boss, to take me out of work. Or when he gave me a prescription for some heavy-duty meds to help me. I threw it all away and barely told anyone about the illness for 2 months.
Then I ended up in the hospital. Still, I refused to take the medications or stop working. It didn't occur to me that I was "sick" because I was STILL in denial.
I shouldn't have been doing certain things by myself but I refused to ask for help when I needed it. I would do house work and clean by myself, and then lay in bed for hours instead of cooking or eating. I sacrificed certain tasks for other tasks. If I wanted to do the dishes, I had to put off cleaning my car til the next day. I did this for a while until I lost the ability to do most things at all.
People became concerned because I was losing weight, getting confused, sores all over me, I was pale, my house and car were complete messes, and I was just not acting like myself. Rumors started that I had an eating disorder. And truth is, I was border-lining one. I wasn't anorexic, but I had sworn off all food that wasn't organic and gluten free, and sometimes I would even throw food away if it touched another food that wasn't "healthy" to me. I didn't realize how warped my mentality became until a friend put a piece of her chicken on my plate of fruit, and I freaked out, and threw the plate away because it was "contaminated." She got really upset and had a talk with me, and I started to realize something was wrong with me.
One person even asked me if I had been checked for breast cancer and things like that, because of how sick I was started to look. It was during this time that I started to be honest with others about my illness because I didn't want people thinking I had cancer or anorexia.
I finally started to realize that I was ill, not only physically, but I was becoming mentally ill, but I still was not accepting any of it. I was convinced that if I was "really sick" that I must be responsible for for it, so I continued to eat a certain way and change my lifestyle to "reverse" the illness. I ended up in the hospital a handful more times, and then one of my doctors said, "if you don't listen to me, you're going to die."
Funny thing is, at that point, I wanted to. I never felt good anymore and my mental health was deteriorating because of my physical illness and my inability to accept it and do what I had to do. But I thought of my loved ones. My family, my boyfriend, my friends. I couldn't let myself just die and leave them to wonder why I didn't fight harder, why I didn't do it for them, if not for me. So, I did it for them. I took my meds and I let my doctor take me out of work. But I stayed in school and I got through it.
I then entered the "sick role" and started to let people help me. I accepted the fact that I could no longer do certain things for myself. And it was one of the hardest transitions of my life! I am independent and love to help others.. I do not like being the patient. I felt inadequate and dependent, and weak.
But over the next 6 months I noticed myself transitioning, from a "sick" person, to a person who fought so hard to get better. The recovery phase. And that was the greatest transition I have ever experienced in my life. I listened to my doctors and I did what I had to do and eventually I was able to go back to work and I became more independent again. It is still a constant battle, because my medications have nasty side effects, and I am not in remission yet. I still wake up in pain and I still sometimes wish I didn't wake up at all. I still have trouble eating and maintaining my weight. I still have days where I want to flush all my meds down the toilet, or throw them out the car window when I have to pull over from the nausea. But in years to come, this may all just be a thing of the past.
Because I accepted the fact that I was sick, I was able to get better.
I see a lot of people go through these phases and get stuck in some of them. Whereas I was stuck in denial, others can get stuck in the "sick phase" and they hold themselves back from getting better. They get used to being dependent on others and their disease becomes a crutch. I never went through that myself but I know people who have, and it's not a way to live.
I understand that there are illnesses that make people dependent for the rest of their lives. It is important for people with these illnesses to maintain whatever independence they still have, but not feel guilty or inadequate for the things they can no longer to for themselves.
Whatever phase you are in, whatever illness you have.. just remember.. YOU ARE NOT YOUR ILLNESS. You HAVE an illness.
Sometimes I lose sight of the positive and courageous person I have become, when I focus on the fact that I physically feel weak, and sick, and tired a lot of times. My body is so exhausted right now, from the disease, and the meds I'm taking to fight it. This has been a battle for quite some time now. I am better but when I have my bad days, they are pretty horrid. But the trick is to keep my mind strong, and not lose sight of who I am. Because I am not my illness.