Stages of Emotional Acceptance
Chances are, you’ve heard of the 5 Stages of Grief by Elisabeth Kubler Ross and David Kessler in which we process the loss of a loved one and learn to continue to live with that loss. But what do we do when the one we’ve lost is ourselves? How do we process that? How do we accept it and move on despite the loss we’ve suffered?
Since my psoriatic arthritis diagnosis, I’ve noticed that I’ve gone through a similar process of emotional acceptance and living with my diagnosis. It continues to be a difficult journey, but one I’ve come to embrace and understand a little more each day. Living with psoriatic arthritis is about so much more than just a diagnosis.
It’s natural to question news that we don’t want to hear. It’s normal and healthy to want to be sure that the diagnosis is accurate. But we also know that doctors are human too, despite their best efforts, they can make mistakes. Especially with PsA where there are no hard and fast rules for a definitive diagnosis, it is easy to spend a great deal of time wondering and questioning. Is this even right? Is this diagnosis correct?
Once I read through all the available information online, triple-checked every symptom, and accepting the answer to my questioning was the correct diagnosis, I moved on to bargaining. IF something can take this pain away. IF there was a way to fix it. IF there was some miracle answer, THEN I’d do anything. Literally, anything. I’ll take better care of my body. Or I’ll be more grateful for the good days. I’ll be a better person. If only I could just feel better.
It took me quite a while to realize that there was no “trade” or bargain that I could make for a miracle to end to my pain. That sole thought, that there would be no magical cure, sent me into a tailspin of despair, depression, and anxiety. Instead of fighting the pain, I chose to almost wallow in it. In an effort to mourn the person that I was before psoriatic arthritis, I fell down a rabbit hole of anxiety and depression. Fueled by pain, I pushed well-meaning family and friends away. I couldn’t bear for them to see that I was no longer myself. I didn’t want them to see that the old me was gone. I felt the loss of the old me very deeply.
This is probably one of the most difficult stages for me to truly understand. It is so hard to emotionally accept that this is it. This is my life, for the rest of my life. Not only to accept it, but to be okay with it. It is one thing to know something in your head, it is quite another to truly accept it in your heart. To not only accept that this is the new normal but to be okay with it is such a powerful and freeing moment.
I now understand that this is all part of my journey. This is all part of what makes up who I am and who I will be for the rest of my life. Instead of an end to my life, I look at it more now as just a fork in the road. I understand that I can choose each day which fork to take. I can take the road that leads to depression, regret, and pain, or the road that leads to acceptance, strength, and healing. I know which I am going to choose today. Which one will you choose?
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