Grieving Life Before Psoriatic Arthritis: Does It Ever End?
When someone we love dies, we go through a grieving process. Losing the life I once had before psoriatic arthritis took over has been a similar journey. The process can be very difficult sometimes, but it's important to allow ourselves the space to grieve.
Grieving is a personal experience, and there is no "right" way to do it. To move forward, I had to acknowledge what would never be the same and, although difficult, give myself the time needed to grieve.
What does the grieving process look like?
I was hit with a whirlwind of emotions when I first received my diagnosis of psoriatic arthritis. There was joy in having an explanation of the symptoms that didn't fit my other conditions and a feeling of hope that I might improve.
Soon came frustration over a lack of information and treatments available back then. And then sorrow over having yet another incurable illness that nobody understood. Allow me to go through the stages of grief from here...
Then came denial
For me, psoriatic arthritis was the 3rd out of 4 chronic illness diagnoses. Not that it would have made much difference, it should have been recognized and diagnosed with psoriasis two years earlier.
Yet after receiving the others and experiencing no relief, I began doubting all my diagnoses.
Feeling the effects of bargaining
No matter which direction I turned, there seemed to be no hope. Doctors quickly went from spewing false hope to issuing apologies of sorry, you are as good as you will get.
I made all kinds of promises of things I would do better or begin doing if God would just remove my pain. When that failed, I looked at how I treated my body. Bargains of eating healthier or exercising all failed to bring relief, yet I continued.
My 4th painful chronic condition was diagnosed just six months after psoriatic arthritis. When the fix for condition number 4 failed, and pain from every illness ranged from 8-10 on the pain scale, I felt defeated.
The thought of living the rest of my life with the pain my body was experiencing at that moment was something that I couldn't wrap my head around. This sparked a long battle with depression. One that always reappears whenever my body faces a new health battle.
I know anger isn't typically thought of as a good emotion, but it has saved my life countless times. Anger over failed treatments, lack of support, insufficient information, and poor medical care powered my transition to the final level of grief.
Without the anger stage, I would not be able to pull through the depression. Before recognizing that I was in the anger stage of grief, I'd often take my frustrations out on those closest to me. I would get angry over things that weren't in their control. Looking back now, I wouldn't have wanted to be around myself either.
Reaching acceptance of a psoriatic arthritis diagnosis and the changes it has made in my life isn't like a kumbaya moment. The stars don't align, and my life doesn't become pain-free or easy. Acceptance is not being happy about my conditions but accepting I have to live with them.
For me, acceptance is letting go of what was and allowing myself to live the life I have. My life is nothing like the plans I made for it 20+ years ago. But that doesn't mean the life I have now totally sucks. Yes, it is painful, but it is also beautiful because of the changes I made.
Does it ever end?
Psoriatic arthritis and other chronic illnesses may have thrown a curveball, but I hold the bat. I decide what needs to change in my life to make it easier to function, work, and play.
The short answer to whether the grieving process ever ends is yes and no. That is why it is a process. The more I learned about the grieving process, the more I was surprised to realize how many times I have gone through it without recognizing or realizing it.
Grief isn't a one-time thing. Chronic illnesses like psoriatic arthritis are progressive. There has been and will be more loss of abilities. For each loss, a grieving process begins. It is not uncommon to go through multiple cycles, each at a different phase.
I am currently in the anger stage of one, denial of another, trying to bargain my way out of another one, and nearing acceptance of something else. The key for me is allowing myself to go through the process and feel all the feels, no matter how uncomfortable they may be.
Have you allowed yourself to grieve your life before psoriatic arthritis?
This or That
When it comes to hobbies with PsA, I've had to:
Were you ever misdiagnosed before being diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis (PsA)?