Friday, July 1, 2011

Stages of Grief

     I knew you went through the stages of grief when someone died, but I never realized that you go through the same stages when you have a chronic illness like Fibromyalgia or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
     The first stage is denial.  I dove into this stage.  To prove I wasn't sick, I did twice as much work as I had been doing.  I had major flare-ups during this stage because I refused to accept what my body was telling me.  This led easily into the second step - anger.
     When I realized I couldn't just ignore it, I got angry.  I blamed my doctors for not being smart enough or caring enough to help me.  If my doctor told me one more time I would be cured if I would just exercise and lose weight, I would curse him with this disease.  I blamed my family and friends for not understanding what I was going through when they said things like, "I get tired, too."  I got angry at God for making me sick.  Mostly I raged at myself for not being able to fix it.  For the first time in my life I couldn't will myself to overcome an obstacle, and I felt like a failure.
     When anger didn't work, I began bargaining with God.  When that didn't work I bargained with my family and friends.  What if I stay home and rest tomorrow, then can I go to the party Friday?  When they didn't have the power to fix it, I turned to bargaining with myself.  The problem was I never kept my part of the bargains.  I would end up back in denial, pushing myself too hard, and then angry when it didn't work.
     After spiraling through the first three stages several times, I got depressed.  Why should I even go on living if I was going to live with excruciating pain, unable to dress myself or hold my baby?  I spent a lot of time in this stage and those dark days were a pain all its own.  My doctor thought I was in pain because I was depressed.  I knew I was depressed because of the physical and emotional pain of the Fibromyalgia and CFS.  I wish I could tell you how I made it through those days, but they are a blur of blackness when I try to remember them now.
     The last step is acceptance.  I reached this stage by starting this blog and reaching out to others in pain.  I read everything I could on the subject and began taking better care of myself.  I stopped thinking of Fibromyalgia as the main part of my identity and began seeing me as Tiff again, with a new aspect to my life.
     I wish I could say that once you reach acceptance you are done, but that's not the case.  I still spiral through the stages every time something new comes up in my life.  Monday is a memorial hike for someone I loved.  I really wanted to go and immediately went into denial that there were any reasons I couldn't go.  Then I began bargaining.  What if I am careful?  What if I promise not to overdo it?  What if...
When I found out it would be an all-day eight mile hike up a rough terrain, I knew there was no way I could go.  I was so angry at myself for not being able to do something that was so easy for everyone else.  Then I got depressed that I wouldn't be able to honor his memory in such a spiritual way.  I'm still in this stage today, but I hope to move into acceptance soon.  My daughter and I plan to choose a flower that represents him and plant it in our garden so I will have a special place to go instead of the hike.
     After dealing with Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue for the past ten years, the steps are just as painful, but they are easier to go through and I go through them more quickly than I did originally.  I hope you are able to find acceptance in your life, but I'm here for you while you go through the other stages.