Tuesday, 3 January 2017

The Joy and Despair of a Diagnosis

Image Credit: Darko Stojanovic from Pixabay.

The dream of receiving a diagnosis is fresh and tortuous. After all, a diagnosis means an answer has been found. Answers lead to solutions.

This is what we’re taught in school and by our parents. Find the answer and you’ll find the solution. That’s the path to success.

Real life has a bad habit of not being like what we’re taught. In the instance of chronic health and unknown illness, a diagnosis may very well bring you great joy in the moment because you have an answer for your suffering. It may also bring you great misery. An answer isn’t necessarily a precursor to a solution. Sometimes it’s just that. An answer.

Sometimes it’s one of many.

It is a slippery slope to talk about being desperate for an answer. Many of us who have finally received one (of some kind) usually have buyer’s remorse. How couldn’t we? We thought that a diagnosis would bring us closer to being better. It usually doesn’t. What’s more is that after receiving a diagnosis, the news that we’re screwed based on the limitations of modern medicine settles in.

We know so much about the human body, but not quite enough to help those of us who are in the grey area of having something wrong with them but nobody knowing why. With a diagnosis you will continue to suffer as you did before. You’ll continue to cope instead of cure. But -- and this is a pretty big but -- a diagnosis does lend you some benefits.

For instance, we can be bitter over the fact that the system and our society is built on commonalities and specifically leaves people like us in the dust. However, we can also be appreciative of the fact that a diagnosis, even if it’s not a perfect fit, affords us access to the programs, medications, and specialists that are really meant for “common” illnesses.

Antidepressants, anticonvulsants, steroid injections, various therapies, and countless other methods of treatment would be dangled in front of our eyes if we didn’t have a diagnosis. The government, in its monstrous proportions, needs to fill in the blanks when determining what you, the patient, need. For now, “I have no idea” is not a valid diagnosis when seeking treatment or benefit considerations.

Maybe that’ll change someday, but that’s not the case for us today. Reality trumps our ideals.

"Reality trumps our ideals."

So! You have your answer. You have a diagnosis. Perhaps it’s not a great fit but it at least lets you move forward with finding treatment of some kind. You can’t help but focus on this answer, though. It’s an answer that makes it very real that your ailment, whatever it may be, will keep eating away at you. Probably until the end.

It’s unfortunate. It’s sad. It’s also highly conflicting. How could you have wished for something so much only for it to crush you once it was yours?

Most any sufferer from an unknown illness will find this to be a true experience. Fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, unknown pain syndrome, and any other multitude of conditions that are really just big question marks or widely misunderstood all face this problem. They face this problem because there is no solution on the horizon and doctors aren’t equipped to deal with obscure, evidence-deficient healthcare concerns. The doctors that are well-suited for dealing with health issues such as these can’t help but be honest with you: the road ahead of you is tough. Any solution will be a miracle.

It’s tough to feel joy in a situation like that even if you do have a nice name to write into the diagnosis box now. Being sad makes sense. Feeling afraid is a given. A stoic approach may get things done but it ends up being very unhealthy for your well-being. Learning to accept what has happened and what will happen from now on is an essential first step to developing a life post-diagnosis.

And make no mistake… even if you accept it today, you will relapse. You’ll begin to resist on some indeterminate date in the future and this rodeo will start all over.

This is okay, and you need to know that’s okay. Because our lives revolve around not giving up. It’s hammered into us by our self-help books, our therapists, our doctors, our friends.

Don’t give up. Keep looking for a solution. Nothing is hopeless. So it makes sense that every now and then you suddenly won’t settle for “this is the way it is”.

The reality is that while things are the way they are, you need to prevent complacency. A diagnosis can pave the way to that if you’re not careful especially if the diagnosis is one that leaves you with little hope for a solution down the road. It can be easy to give up and begin sabotaging yourself. I’ve done it countless times myself. I find myself doing it now.

You need to ask yourself a very important question: how do you accept that your diagnosis is both a terrible and wonderful thing?

You answered the what (diagnosis), it’s time to answer the why (reaction). After that, it’s the whens and wheres. It’s like English class in elementary school except this time you’re a big person and you don’t get nap time and a juice box.

I know, it’s super unfair. Juice boxes, right? I want one of those. As long as it won’t trigger any of my sensitivities. Man, those little kid have got it good

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