Being told that you have a chronic health condition is one of those things that you don’t realize the impact of for awhile.
When you first hear the diagnosis, your response might initially be one of relief above all else. This is especially the case if the quest for diagnosis has been a long one. If you have been unwell for some time and have undergone a series of (often invasive) tests, then you can find yourself feeling nothing but relief when you are told what the underlying cause is. Your problem – awful as it is – has a name that you can put to it. Now you and the doctors treating you know what it is, the healing can begin.
The only problem is… that’s not always the case. Sometimes, the diagnosis is not something that has what most of us would recognize to be a ‘fix’, a cure. Instead, you are told that while there are many things you can do – and medications you can take – to lessen the impact of your problems, they are never going to go away forever. You’re just going to have to learn a whole new way of living your life.
“Just”. It’s a strange word in these circumstances. On one hand, you have that same sense of relief as you now at least have some idea of how to move things forward. And it definitely sounds preferable to have a condition you need to learn how to manage to one that could potentially be life-threatening. However… there’s no taking away from it. It’s a big change.
The type of illnesses that receive this kind of diagnosis vary. The most common would be the likes of Celiac Disease, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, or even skin conditions like psoriasis. They’re not going to kill you – which is always a good thing – but from the moment of diagnosis, you know your life is never quite going to be the same again.
Coping with this kind of chronic, serious-but-not-too-serious diagnosis is a very long process. There are all sorts of feelings, emotions, and upset that you can go through when the initial relief of knowing what the problem is begins to fade. If you ever find yourself – or someone you know – going through this situation, then it might be useful to know the way you are thinking and feeling is entirely normal.
So what do people going through a diagnosis of a chronic condition tend to think and feel? Pushing aside the initial relief – as that’s the nice bit! – some of the thoughts that rush through your mind can be dark and upsetting. That’s why it’s essential to acknowledge that you’re not alone and that these kinds of feelings are all ways of processing your new normal.
You Can… Begin To Think You Should Get A Second Opinion
In some cases, a diagnosis of these kinds of chronic conditions is not welcome, and there is no feeling of relief. If your symptoms have been severe, it can be difficult to convince yourself that it’s “just” a chronic-but-manageable condition. This is especially true if you were once cleared of the condition that you have now been diagnosed with.
You can begin to doubt the diagnosis, which is entirely normal. Your mind whispers to you that there must be something else wrong, something dire, and you’re being dismissed because the doctors and nurses just want to tick you as ‘solved’ and move on. Is it paranoid and unfair? Yes. Does it happen? Yes. Is it normal? Of course.
When we get this kind of news, there’s a part of us that just can’t accept the huge amount of change that it’s going to bring forth into our lives. Unless you have real reasons to doubt the diagnosis, then a second opinion is likely to just drag the experience of waiting to find out what’s wrong all the longer. If you do seek a second opinion, do try and tell the second doctor that you have already had a diagnosis – that way they can know, through their own means, what they are ruling in and out.
You Can… Worry You Won’t Be Able To Cope
Most of us lead busy lives where we don’t have a lot of time to ourselves, so how are you going to be able to cope with such a huge, life-altering diagnosis? You can quickly decide it’s impossible.
If you find yourself suddenly thrust into a world where you have a huge amount of terminology to learn, medications to understand, and routine changes – then of course, your head is going to spin with it. That’s completely natural. You’ve never had to think about these things before, so right now, the management and the techniques you’re going to need can sound extreme. You’ll never get to grips with them, you think.
The thing is… you will. No one – not even the professionals – know what they are doing with health condition management by some innate gift. It’s not like doctors are born with a clipboard and mastery of Latin medical pronunciations from InRebus.com; like nurses are ready to look for jobs for nurses in Staffnurse.com the moment they graduate from high school. These are specialist skills and coping techniques that, like the professionals before you, you’re going to have to get to grips with.
Coping with this stage of the diagnosis is all about being honest. If there is something you have to do that you don’t understand, tell the person who is managing your treatment. Not only are you likely still unwell, you’re also going to be glazed by the worry of what happens next – it’s totally understandable you might not be absorbing information as well as you used to do.
You Can… Feel Isolated
During the process of learning how to cope with your new reality, you can begin to feel more and more like you’re an island alone. It’s normal to look around your closest friends and family and feel somehow offset from them. You have this new situation that they have no hope of comprehending. They will be sympathetic, but they don’t really know what it’s like to go through what you are contemplating.
This feeling of isolation can make everything – managing symptoms, coping with new routines – feel all the more overbearing. That’s why if there is a support group you can attend for your condition, you should do so. This is a useful thing to do at any time, but it’s particularly vital in the initial stages of diagnosis when you’re most vulnerable to feelings of depression and isolation.
Even if you have always been rather dismissive of the idea of therapy, it really can help to talk things through with others who have been there and gone through what you now find yourself coping with. And remember, if you don’t feel comfortable attending such things in person, then you can always try online forums and Facebook groups for specific health conditions.
You Will… Realize You Can Cope
It might take awhile but one day, you will wake up and realize that you have made the adjustment. Rather than feeling overloaded, alone, and unable to cope, you’re used to managing your condition and you’re able to claim your life back from its clutches. Try to remember – even in your darkest days – that you will reach this point so long as you give it time and let it happen naturally. All you need to do is keep patience until you get to that point all on your own.