Monday, September 10, 2012
The Five Stages of Grief and Invisible Illness
Somehow it worked out really well (or poorly in my opinion) that my most recent fibromyalgia flare up came just before the beginning of invisible illness week.
It began by the typical fatigue that comes after one trigger or another, followed by a few days of trying to rest, then another few days of getting frustrated and saying, "Screw this! I still have things to do!", followed by a day in the dark because of a seven hour long migraine, mixed with severe muscle aches, stomach pains and insomnia . . . all leading up to last nights emotional breakdown in the shower, crying because I can't control my body.
I went through the same stages (denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance) when I began dealing with my mental illness. I'd been in denial with it for years, and it took me a long time to get to acceptance. Thankfully I began blogging through my issues. Blogging didn't heal me of my illness, but it was a tool that I used to get me to acceptance with less hurdles. It opened up a world of others accepting me for who I was. Others telling me that they knew how it felt, and that I wasn't crazy or imagining things.
But now that my invisible illness is physical, it's harder.
Denial was easier when I was just hiding my mental illness.
I'm washing my hands because they're dirty, not because my OCD tells me that I need cold water on my hands to monitor my body temperature. Denial.
I'm just tired and having a bad day because it's rainy, not because I have Depression. Denial.
I just like being home, not because I have Agoraphobia and Anxiety and am terrified that I'll die if I go outside alone. Denial.
It's easier to hide from people too. I hid my mental illness from my own husband for several years before it got too overwhelming and the crazy started pouring out of me.
Being physically limited is not as easy to hide. It's hard to hide the fact that your body is in so much pain that very limited movement still hurts. It's hard to hide the fatigue in your body when you fall asleep in the middle of a car ride to the grocery store. It's hard to hide the insomnia, and the migraines, and the sensitivities to sound, smell and touch.
I tried to jump straight to acceptance.
I have fibromyalgia. I declared it on my blog, I told my family and friends and I tried to be an advocate. Then I decided in my "acceptance" that I would be a better and stronger person. I started dieting and exercising more often (denial) saying that if I exercised more, maybe it would all go away (bargaining). When I over did the exercise and it triggered a flare up that left me overwhelmed by pain and fatigue I locked myself up to "rest" (depression) which brings me back to last night, in the shower, crying at my broken body (anger).
Denial. It's the gateway drug to the five stages of grief.
I have fibromyalgia. I don't want it. It's not a way to get attention. It's painful and frustrating. I know others who have it. Others who have it better than I do, and others who have it so much worse. Looking at those who live with it and still function 90% of the time make me frustrated. Looking at those who live with it and have to be on disability, or get surgery, or are loaded with medication make me scared about the future. No one person suffers the same.
I can't bargain my way out of it. I can only try to manage my illness while dealing with the depression and anger (and yes, denial) that come every so often.
One day I hope to find acceptance.