The Seven Stages

The Seven Stages of Grief are:

Shock/Disbelief
Denial
Bargaining
Guilt
Anger
Depression
Acceptance and Hope.

Today, I am in the Depression phase.

People who are in the throws of the Seven Stages of Grief will experience all of these emotions, they say, but not necessarily in order, and some only perhaps for a fleeting second.

This is true.

After receiving my initial diagnosis of Chiari Malformation, I was heartily in a mixture of shock, disbelief and denial for several days. I bargained with myself about elements in my life: If I need brain surgery, I’ll put it off for two years until I finish graduate school. That’s what I will do.

Then I got diagnosed with the associated conditioned of syringomyelia. More serious, involving the spinal cord, and progessive, it makes it far more likely I will need brain surgery. If not now, then in the near future. It’s a For Sure. And that I’ll have this pain and exhaustion forever, even after surgery. On top of grieving the loss of my plans for the next few years, I began grieving the map of my actual life. Guilt set in. It’s not fair to N. I won’t be able to clean the house. I can’t take care of our new puppy like I should. I am not supposed to even lift a goddamned laundry basket. I can’t do the things I am supposed to do. I feel like I am letting N down if I quit school, which is what I want to do because I want to enjoy my weekends when I have good ones instead of writing papers and sitting in uncomfortable chairs discussing how therapists fuck up, which I already know a lot about, seeing as I’ve been to plenty who have.

And I get angry. Angry at friends who can’t offer words of support because they don’t know how to deal with the answer I give them when they ask how the last MRI went. Don’t ask, don’t tell, I want to shout. How is it, I wonder, in this society that stigmatizes mental illness so, that all of you can accept my bipolar disorder easily, yet you are fleeing and speechless when I tell you about the growing hole in my spinal cord? Are you worried that I will ask you to wipe my ass should I lose functioning of my hands? Or that you will catch it?

Fresh off of two great days of limited pain, I had convinced myself that I was in prime shape. I would not need surgery. There was nothing wrong with me! Denial, denial, denial. I began to get nauseus. A blinding, painful headache set in, along with confusion and clumsiness. All I could do was go to bed at 7:30 last night, and so I did. When it was time to get up for work this morning, I looked around my house at the complete disaster it was, and wanted to crawl back under the covers and forget that this was my life, and would be for the rest of it.

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3 Comments

  1. Autonym said,

    August 19, 2008 at 11:34 am

    I’m sorry.

  2. August 19, 2008 at 3:12 pm

    I know that there’s nothing i can say to make it better, that the emotional roller coaster is unfortunately part of the package. But i if there’s anything i can do, be it help find online resources, provide an ear to listen or a shoulder to cry on… please let me know what i can do to help, and i will happily try to do it.

  3. Pam said,

    August 29, 2008 at 9:03 am

    Scary scary stuff. My husband copes with a diagnosis of Lewy Body Dementia (ugly stuff, but at least it didn’t hit until he was 60) by making the most of what he can do. I cope with his diagnosis by planning for the future–learning what medicines work best, straightening out our financial affairs, etc.. What has helped me most is a therapist who is dealing with a neurological disorder himself. His illness turned out not to be progressive and he has slowly put his life back together and is realizing the strengths of being a wounded healer.


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