When I was a college student I had taken a death and dying class where we learned about the stages of grief. I am sure many of you can recite the list from any introductory psychology class you have taken. There are variations of this list but mostly the grief stages include: Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. It is one thing to memorize such a list for a college quiz. It is quite another to go through these stages in real life. Grief does not know any boundaries of age, race, income, or gender. It doesn't matter if you live in a mansion in Beverly Hills or a one bedroom apartment in New York City. Grief will visit you one day. The time will come when you will experience a loss. Grief isn't contained to the emotions felt upon losing a loved one. One can also feel grief over the loss of a job, a relationship, or even your health. It is the grief experienced when dealing with health problems that I wish to talk about today.
For many of the people who come to Health Central to look up a particular disease or medical disorder, grief can be an accompanying issue especially if what you are dealing with is considered a chronic condition. On a personal note, this is how I came to find this health site. I was struggling to cope with my diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis and was told about Health Central as a place to find support. I found that I was not alone in my struggle. In fact everyone who faces a diagnosis of anything from Bipolar Disorder to Diabetes will experience a feeling of loss. It can be frightening to hear your diagnosis. It can be even more daunting to hear that your condition is on-going and you will have to find ways to cope with it your whole life.
I am going to tell you about my personal experience with the stages of grief I encountered when I heard that I had Multiple Sclerosis. It has been over two years now (I got diagnosed in the fall of 2007) and I can honestly say that I have finally found some acceptance in all this. But some days I fall right back to the beginning stages and am in denial once again. Grief isn't some predictable point A to point B kind of thing. It isn't like you graduate from grief and get some sort of diploma saying you have achieved acceptance. It is more like you take things day by day, sometimes feeling every emotion at once, as you attempt to live with an uncertain future.
Through a strange set of synchronicities I *knew* I had MS before I had my first MRI. I remember experiencing some of the first symptoms of my disease such as muscle weakness and feeling off balance and sitting on the edge of my bed to rest. My mind was racing with the banner like thought of "What does this mean what does this mean?" And my mind would answer, "You know what this means." As each new and bizarre symptom would appear I would try to dismiss them with other logical explanations. "I must be tired, clumsy, or crazy." As more tests and doctors visits would lend credence to my impending diagnosis, I still clung to the thought that perhaps this was all some big mistake. It was not. I had MS. Yet even after the official diagnosis was made, I would ask the neurologist, "Are you really sure?" expecting that somehow my doubts could magically change reality.