It is difficult to admit defeat. It is even more of a challenge to acknowledge something as a loss. Living with chronic illness and pulmonary hypertension, I’ve felt defeated many times in my life.
Sometimes, I failed to pay attention to the loss and refused to let it take up space in my head. I was never one to quit and always pushed my body past its limits. When loss happened because of illness, I was like a boxer demanding a rematch against my body. I had to learn the hard way that no matter how many times I got back up to keep fighting, the loss was still there and would push me down when I least expected it.
Coping with loss is hard for anyone. Losing my health has caused me to grieve for the parts of myself that I will never get back. When I go through periods of grief, I feel stuck in a state of denial, which makes me forget about the health conditions that need my attention.
Denial clouds my judgment and makes me believe that I’m “OK” to do what I want. Sometimes my denial is strong enough to put my physical and mental health in danger. I have learned that the only way to pull myself out of this is to accept a loss for what it is. To reach acceptance, I must allow myself to feel the emotions that go along with it.
My mind wants to deny the losses that come with chronic illness because it seems easier. To “feel happy” about the opportunity to adopt one day versus thinking about my infertility and inability to have a biological child. To say to my friends, “At least I can eat soft foods and drink fluids,” instead of telling them that I long to be able to tolerate more foods. It is a loss not to be doing more than what I’d hoped. It is mentally and physically painful to continue to require tube feeds to meet most of my nutritional needs.
Forgetting about a loss or acting as if it’s “no big deal” and saying “everything is OK” works — for a little while, until it doesn’t. When my mind and body force me to recognize my true feelings, the loss I am experiencing feels overwhelming, frustrating, and, at times, infuriating.
I am working on moving through my denial stage of grief with a little more ease. I no longer want it to obscure what I am supposed to be doing for my physical health.
After spending a little over an hour crying in the emergency room this week, I recognized how powerful it was to acknowledge loss. I realize that I am human and allowed to cry when things are difficult and feel out of my control. I can say, “This is really terrible.” I’m worthy of support from others who can help pick me up when I’m struggling.
This week I truly felt the loss. I cried and said aloud how terrible it is to feel as if I’m living in another body. My pain, emotions, and struggles had been eating away at me for a very long time.
Our bodies know when enough is enough. Denial is a comfortable place to stay when we’re going through grief, but remaining in that state is both physically and mentally damaging. Cry it out, have the breakdown, feel the loss and pain, experience the struggle and hurt. This is how we can move forward after all is said and done.
Note: Pulmonary Hypertension News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Hypertension News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary hypertension.