Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A Brutally Honest Viewpoint on the Stages of Loss and Greif

By now popular psychology has informed most people that there are five stages of loss and grief.  I studied them relatively in depth in college and have used them in my practice more times than I can count.   But I've never actually experienced them myself, certainly not so acutely that on any given day I can quickly pinpoint that "Ok, today appears anger.  Alright then."  But that's where I am- and this is what it looks like.

You listen to the doctor explaining what the test results are and which diagnosis is likely (because apparently your PCP will never give you a definitive diagnosis, you need a specialist for that) and you focus on what the next step is.  Which appointments do I have to schedule?  Can I get someone to cover for me at work?  When I can I see the endocrinologist?  How am I going to afford all these co-pays?
You get way more information than you can really process and you do everything you're supposed to with a smile on your face: learn how to use your new devices, get all your prescriptions filled, go shopping for all the healthy food.  You show people your cool new medical alert bracelet and talk about the lifestyle changes you're making.  You tell yourself that you'll use this forced change as a perfect excuse to get healthy, which you need to do anyway.  You believe people when they tell you that in no time you'll be so used to it you won't even have to think about it.  You feel strong, capable, like you'll be better because of it.

You realize that finding things to eat is a lot more difficult than you thought it would be.  You resent the nice co-worker that brought cookies to work and put them on the table to share with everyone.  You wonder why traffic, supermarkets, insurance companies and the rest of the world won't accommodate you since you're having such a tough time.  You find yourself mentally cursing your friends for wanting you to be happy.  You wish death on the world in general because it's another really bad day. 

You listen to the people who tell you that once you've controlled your diet, you'll feel better and won't have to do all this anymore.  You think about how once it's under control you can go back to living the way you did and not worry about it.  You tell yourself that you can have that cookie or donut and it won't really do any harm.  You fantasize about the next big meal you'll have once everything is back to normal. 

You suddenly remember how much your life in general sucks and get hopeless about it improving.  You feel sorry for yourself and resentful at the same time because you know that so many people have it so much worse.  You hate yourself for feeling this bad over something so trivial in the grand scheme of things.  You overreact to everything and lose all perspective.  You cry all the time, for no reason.  You get sick of seeing your pathetically sad face every time you look in the mirror.

You get better at remembering to pack your lunch and eat meals at around the same time.  You become skilled at administering your medication without hurting yourself.  You get accustomed to what you can and can't do and don't think it's so limiting anymore.  You remember that the rest of your life is far more important.  You go back to enjoying your time off, planing for the future, challenging yourself to do better.  And life, as they say, goes on.

At least that's the plan.  Right now I seem to be stuck ping-ponging between anger and depression.  One of the things I always hated about this theory is that there's no linear progression- you can cycle through a million times over, even hit acceptance one day then revert back again.  And there's no set time line of how long it's supposed to take.  Day by day I wonder if I'm done yet.  I think I am because I'll feel good when I wake up, optimistic that things are finally going back to normal.  Then my mood shifts and I'm back in one of the earlier stages.  I

I try to be patient, but it's hard.  I guess I'll see what it all looks like when I'm on the other side of all this.

1 comment:

Thank you for your comment! I will love it and hug it and pet it and call it George. Or, you know, just read and reply to it. But still- you rock!