Living a healthy lifestyle and seeking regular medical advice can help you to prevent a major illness or identify it in its early stages. Unfortunately, even when you are proactive about your health, this isnít always possible. When you are first diagnosed with a major health condition, things may seem unreal, and you may feel completely hopeless or even paralyzed.
Whether youíve been diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, a chronic condition, or an incurable sexually transmitted disease, moving forward through a treatment plan can be extremely difficult on its own. Youíll likely be surrounded by a team of medical professionals whose goals are to support your physical health. Dealing with the emotions surrounding this crisis isnít as straightforward, yet this is crucial to your recovery and wellbeing.
Here are some strategies for coping with the emotions you may feel when facing a serious diagnosis.
Seek Personal Acceptance
Your initial reaction may be to ignore or deny the diagnosis. It might seem better to keep it out of your mind and march through your day-to-day life as if nothing had happened. This is a common way of dealing with extreme emotional distress and anxiety. It may take time to fully absorb the reality of your diagnosis, and a short period of denial can actually be a healthy way to come to grips with your condition without going into an emotional tailspin.
Eventually, however, itís important to acknowledge this turn of events in order to live a healthy life moving forward. Of course, this wonít be a painless process, and you may need use a variety of techniques and seek professional help in order to come to a place of acceptance.
If you feel like youíre stuck in denial or someone suggests this to you, try to take a step back from your situation and examine your thoughts and behavior. It may benefit you to keep a journal about all of your feelings during this difficult time. At some point, you might try examining and listing your fears as specifically as possible. Without obsessing over these, understanding the exact points where your fear is rooted can be helpful in accepting this condition as reality.
Trying to deal with these intense emotions can be especially difficult if youíre trying to process this crisis all on your own. You might try talking with a trusted friend in order to externalize issues youíre struggling with. Although your friend might only be able to listen, this can be a great first step toward acceptance. Similarly, a mental health provider can help you express and understand yourself, although they can also help you uncover hidden emotions and offer advice about healthy coping strategies.
Find Others Who Share Your Condition
One of the best ways to begin understanding how to cope with your diagnosis is to join a support group related to your condition. While your family and friends will surely sympathize with you, they likely wonít fully comprehend what youíre going through, including your fears as well as your successes. A support group filled with others suffering from the same condition can offer you the chance to share your experiences with people who will truly understand what you are going through.
People within these groups may share stories and experiences you can relate to, which can help you feel less isolated. From these stories and any surrounding discussions, youíll likely learn new coping strategies you hadnít considered. Sharing your own story can also help lift the burden of living with your condition, if you feel comfortable speaking within the group.
Friends and family members wonít always know how to best support you, but that doesnít mean you should shut them out altogether. While you may not want to burden them with your condition, itís important to acknowledge they are likely facing significant emotional challenges as well.
Because of this, some groups created around a particular illness encourage family members and friends to attend meetings. This can also be a major learning opportunity for those closest to you, and they may find new language for speaking with you as well as a better understanding of the intricacies of managing and coping with your condition.
Feel Your Feelings, But Donít Give Up
People around you may encourage you to keep a positive attitude, maybe even offering sentiments like ďeverything happens for a reason.Ē This might genuinely encourage you. However, it might also pressure you to put on a cheery facade to pacify those around you and hide the fact that youíre struggling. Itís unrealistic to expect anyone to be positive all the time, especially when facing a serious illness.
Having to deal with shock, anger, depression, and anxiety, and a vast array of emotions, along with what might be an intense treatment plan, may leave you feeling hopeless. Itís understandable to feel this way, and itís important not to deny your emotions. However, you shouldnít let this go so far that you completely give up.
It may take all of your willpower to maintain a positive attitude, even for small amounts of time. When possible, aim to find a balance between false happiness and complete despair. Cautious optimism is a realistic goal. While you might feel powerless and vulnerable, it may also help to focus on the things you can control, such as your diet, exercise, and continuing your treatment schedule.
As you move forward beyond the diagnosis, continue to seek ways to examine and express your feelings. When you feel comfortable doing so, reach out to others for help, whether you need someone who will listen to you, someone to keep you company and create a healthy distraction, or professional advice about a particular problem youíre having trouble working through.
Facing a serious diagnosis can be one of the most devastating challenges youíll experience. There is no right or wrong way to reach a point of acceptance with a serious condition, and you may struggle daily, even after seemingly peaceful periods. By keeping your mind open to new options and perspectives, you can manage the intense emotions associated with this time in your life and move forward in a healthy way.