Elisabeth Kubler-Ross introduced the 5 Stages of Grief way back 1969 namely, Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance, in short DABDA. And, DABDA is the best way I can summarize these past 2 years, since I was diagnosed with RA.
I guess more than the fact that Rheumatoid Arthritis is a lifelong, incurable, debilitating illness with an unknown cause, is the reality that I am a trained Physical Therapist. I knew what RA was and I’ve treated patients with RA, and yet I was convinced that I was probably just having sacroiliitis. I’ve gone through several lab tests with different hospitals, and yet the glaring results convinced me that this might just be acute inflammation. I delayed treatment because of this denial, and in the end I regretted it.
More than anger, I felt so much frustration deep inside. I kept thinking about what I ate or what I’d done to get this. I recalled feeling feverish for several days a few months back, and I hated myself for not taking any action. I am a physical therapist, how did I not see this coming.
At this point, I was hungry for information. I wanted to know everything there is to know about RA. I was hopeful that there was an oriental cure for this, or maybe western medicine has had a breakthrough. I tried a lot of different things and I spent a lot of time doing research. I was willing to spend money on food allergy tests even though I knew food had nothing to do with RA.
I didn’t realize I was depressed until I found myself wanting to be alone, burning time watching all sorts of TV series. When I look back now, I was exhibiting different sorts of defense mechanisms just to get by, I was subconsciously trying to feel normal. I was 25 years young and having a lifelong illness just didn’t seem right.
Acceptance was a long a process. To feel normal, I had to be normal. So I went back to work, did my laundry, cleaned my room, had dinner with friends, watched a movie, bought groceries, laughed out loud, went to Church, scrolled through Facebook feeds, and stuff. The ultimate resolution is that I am not as capable as I was before, but I am still the same person as I want to be, or maybe even better.
It wasn’t just about accepting the fact that I have to take medicines everyday, or the fact that I will be experiencing joint pain and stiffness more often than not. It was more about being smart, knowing my strengths and limitations, then building on my strengths and making sure that I TRY to turn my limitations into strengths.