At some point on your journey with chronic illness, were you accused of being in denial?
It is a term used to describe the reaction of individuals confronted with death, trauma, or addiction. It is also used to refer to women coping with the stress of invisible, rare, and chronic illnesses.
Denial as a Coping Mechanism
Do you remember when you were first experiencing symptoms such as fatigue and pain?
Harmful coping. If you ignored them, hoping they would go away all on their own, what happened? If you remained paralyzed and avoided getting help, denial was likely a harmful response that allowed your symptoms to progress.
Healthy coping. On the other hand, the Mayo Clinic reminds patients that denial can also be a healthy coping mechanism that gives you time to adjust to distressing situation. Perhaps a small amount of denial protected your mental and emotional well-being. It allowed you to process changes in your body and absorb the impact of future challenges.
Eventually, as the original distress calmed down, you were ready to face reality and take decisive action, such as scheduling an appointment with your doctor.
Denial from Your Doctors
Are patients the only ones in denial when it comes to coping with chronic illness?
People can be in denial about anything that makes them feel vulnerable or threatens their illusion of control. This can be true whether it’s happening to them or to someone else. This is why doctors, friends, and family members may use denial to cope with their fear and anxiety about your situation.
For example, doctors may initially dismiss your convoluted symptoms or refuse to investigate a diagnosis that is not yet popular in the medical community.
It seems easier to ignore baffling symptoms than to admit the limitations of their knowledge and expertise.
As one doctor explained, many medical professionals feel insecure when they can’t solve your mysterious and long-term ailments. Medicine appealed to their desires “to cure disease, to save lives, to be the helping hand, the right person in the right place at the right time.” When you don’t get better, they are frustrated.
How to communicate with your doctors:
- Most importantly, show respect for their position. They want to use their training to help you and may be slow to implement any research that you share.
- Don’t come on to strong, but allow them time to adjust to any propositions you make. Of course, the exception to this is when you are not shown respect in return.
- Trust your gut and partner with a doctor who clearly has your best interests at heart.
Denial from Your Family and Friends
The same goes for those closest to you. When you first feel sick, they may wonder if it is all in your head or imply that you are a hypochondriac.
They are terrified to realize there is nothing they can do to fix you.
How to communicate with your family and friends:
- Be patient with them.
- Admit that you are scared, too.
- Assure them that you don’t expect them to have all the answers.
Explain to them the effect your diagnosis has on your physical and emotional health. Ask them how they are feeling. Give them time to adjust to a new you and seek out those who can support and encourage you.
Coping with Your Own Denial
When you come to terms with your diagnosis and accept your new life as a patient with chronic illness, you can cope effectively. If you feel like a victim, however, you may deny all the ways in which you do have control over your quality of life – even with a chronic illness.
It will do you more harm in the long run to deny that you are sick or to force yourself to keep the same pace as the old you. Wearing a mask adds an extra layer of suffering. Not only are you dealing with the pain and uncertainty of a chronic illness, but you are also living out of alignment with your true self.
It is important not to isolate yourself, but to find support from others who can relate and who can help you forge a new path to becoming whole. I specialize in helping women to identify and heal the root causes of their autoimmune disease to take back their lives!
To see how I can help you, click here to schedule your FREE 30-Minute Discovery Session.