What I Learned From Grieving the Loss of My Health

If this sounds dramatic, it is: on October 14, 2014 I lost my health. After an intense month of wide-ranging medical symptoms, I finally hauled myself to the doctor’s office to receive the news that I had been dreading: I had type 1 diabetes.

Two weeks after the diagnosis I sat in a week-long diabetes clinic that taught newly diagnosed T1Ds the ins-and-outs of managing the disease. I distinctly remember the diabetes educator commenting on my stoic demeanor and how she was concerned that I was not processing my diagnosis. I felt defensive towards her comment, like “back off lady – you don’t know me!”  When the conversation came up later that week about how people grieve the loss of health I was already tuned out.

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Shock was a thick fog that hindered my ability to see the truth.

I was very sick for a long time before being diagnosed. Part of the reason I did not seek medical help is that I knew I had T1D. I know that is hard to believe, but my intuition was screaming loudly and clearly. I felt the longer I went without a diagnosis, the longer I could be normal. The kind of normal that allows one to go days without checking-in with their body.  The kind of normal that allows one to jump at new experiences without a second thought.  The kind of normal that doesn’t induce anxiety because you feel unsafe in your own body.

The day I was diagnosed the doctor stepped into the room to advise that she thought I had T1D. All I said was, ‘oh.’ What a response. I sat in my own isolation for 48-hours before I found the strength to tell a single person.

I learned that time truly lends perspective. The journey to healing had already begun that day.  

Denial allowed me to keep pace with the lies I told myself.

Outside of my parents and siblings it took me a few weeks to talk to my closest friends. This is crazzyyy, but I thought in the most irrational part of my brain that I would feel so stupid disclosing the diagnosis, when the doctors were going to come to me any day and say, “Just kidding, you’re totally fine now that your blood sugars are stabilized.”

I sat with the feeling that the diagnosis was a mistake for so so long. I was convinced that my body would right itself and I’d carry on my non-T1D life. This posture was utterly damaging. In the way that it manifested for me, at a time when I was in the most need of support, I was completely closed off.

Hello, life. I learned, despite believing that I could handle my sitch, I needed to lean on trusted family and friends. I will never repeat this mistake. 

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Anger caused a subtle shift in my character.

As I left the hospital directly after my diagnosis and I walked to the train to take me home, I had a thought that maybe this would make me a better person. What does that even mean? Would I be gifted with unlimited patience? Would I become a champion for the downtrodden? Would I become a weightlifting champion?  

If you guessed that none of that happened – bonus points for you. Here is the ugly truth that I hate admitting: I became critical and dismissive of anyone whose disease was not worse than mine. For anyone in my inner circle, I feel genuine compassion when they are physically or mentally unwell. For everyone else, whatevs. You may notice that I wrote that in the present tense, because I freaking struggle with this to this day. It is not my place to judge how difficult someone’s path is. 

There is work to be done. My biggest lesson remains here. I write affirmations about compassion. I set my intention during yoga practice. I struggle. I seek grace. 

Bargain with God or the devil, whomever is listening.

Oh man – I did this. Hard. I’m not even religious and I found myself praying for this situation to go away. From promising to dedicate my life to service to becoming a professional hitman – whatever it took. I stayed in this place for a long, long time. It was uncomfortable. It is amazing how personal misfortune can bring out the worst parts of ourselves. I wish that I went to a place of healing and light, but releasing pain is just so so difficult.

I learned that the diagnosis was always out of my control and that I could refocus my energy on improving my health to the best of my ability. 

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Depression keeps the fog veiled in front of my eyes making it impossible to see.

During one of my endocrinologist appointments last year I was overcome by emotion, which took me completely by surprise. I cried as I told my doctor that I was ashamed of the way I was taking care of myself. Truth be told, I was completely overwhelmed by the personal responsibility and pressure to “successfully” manage the disease. I also felt extreme guilt for being lax in my self-care.  

As I sat in front of my doctor, I finally allowed myself the space to feel sorrow and powerless to my condition. I gave a voice to my feelings of inadequacy and frustration that plagued me. As for what happened next, he reminded me that I was actually doing a great job at managing the disease and that I needed to really think about disease management over a lifetime, not a rough few months.  

I learned to be kind to myself. To release the emotions that are not serving me and to heed the advice of my doctor. Be the tortoise. 

Acceptance moves me closer towards joy and love.

I really struggle with the word acceptance because it implies that I’m okay with this reality. I’m not. It freaking sucks. I think of this last stage as Acknowledgement. More of a “you’re here, I’m here – let’s be cordial.” And after all these years there is still work to be done. 

I learned that living with a chronic disease means every decision I make should be supportive to my body.  This is important so I can show up fully to be of service to the people I care about.

I accept my situation, I am where I am and I can build on that.

– Louise Hay

I want a fulfilled life of purpose and joy and the only way I know how to achieve that is through continuous reflection and growth. The loss of my health and accompanying challenges have spurred:

  • My passion for health, wellness, and nutrition. I want all the knowledge. I want to share all the knowledge. I want everyone to feel healthier and happier.
  • The need for community. I have fought this for far to long. I am finally seeking out the T1D community for support and to be supportive.
  • My inner strength.      

Upon reflecting on your own journey, have you experienced growth from a challenging situation? Comment below to share. 

2 thoughts on “What I Learned From Grieving the Loss of My Health

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