Sometimes when I think about my diagnosis, I get really scared. It is never far from my conscious thought that as an autoimmune mess, my body is constantly moving towards failure. I don’t consider myself a pessimist, but when you face a scary diagnosis there is a harsh reality you cannot help but come to grips with because it throws itself in your face. When that frightening realization creeps into my consciousness, I find myself quickly filled with anxiety and fear. I don’t want to live in fear, so here are 7 things I have learned to remember that make me brave when it threatens to overwhelm me.
1. You are not alone.
There are many other people facing the same scary diagnosis as you. You are not the first person that has had to navigate the emotional and physical storms of your illness. Make it a point to connect with others that are also facing the same battles. You will learn ideas from them on how to manage your way through it and how to cope with the effects it brings into your life. More importantly, you will be surrounding yourself with a community of people who can deeply empathize with you and offer your the support you need, to not feel alone.
2. You can control where your thoughts take you.
We choose what we think about. We all experience fleeting thoughts of uncertainty and deprecation, but whether or not we choose to continually entertain those thoughts until they form an established thought pattern is up to us. We can make a conscious choice to stop a thought in its tracks and replace it with a better one. If we allow ourselves to dwell on negative thoughts that produce fear and anxiety, we will quickly spiral downward. When our thoughts are out of control, our emotions quickly follow. So when fear threatens to overwhelm you, take a deep breath and a step back, then look at what thoughts you might need to exercise a bit of discipline over. Don’t be afraid to ask others that love you to help you with this. It is not an easy thing to master!
3. There is still a lot of good in your life.
When we receive a scary diagnosis it is understandable for it to consume us. It changes everything. The entire world as we know it seems to tilt with the news and throw everything askew. Fear often comes when our perspective is skewed. It is easy to be overwhelmed, but don’t allow yourself to believe that your scary diagnosis is the biggest part of your life. Keep it in balance with all of the good things that make up your life. There is so much good in our lives that we should appreciate. Whether it is the gift you have for drawing or singing, or the feel of the wind on your face on a warm autumn evening, or the smile on a face you love, you need to make every effort to enjoy the pleasures of life. Magnify the good in order to keep a clear perspective when the bad feels crushing.
4. You get to choose how you are going to respond.
You are absolutely the only person who gets to decide how to face a scary diagnosis. Everyone will and should run the gamut of emotions and stages of grief that an alarming diagnosis raises. It is healthy to deal with these responses by giving ourselves enough time and grace to work through them. The danger lies in when we get stuck in them instead of working through them. Are you going experience some fear over your diagnosis? Of course. Does that mean you have to live in fear and become a fearful and anxious person? No, it doesn’t. You may not have been able to decide the diagnosis that happened to you, but you do get to decide how to react to it. We are not helpless victims to our emotions. Whatever we are the most, is our character. When we allow negative emotions like fear to control us then it becomes our character. So choose to deal with your emotions in a healthy way by working through them, instead of allowing them to become your character by constantly working through you.
5. Take it one day at a time.
When we are diagnosed with something that scares us, it is because we realize the physical threat that the diagnosis brings. It can be terrifying to face a grim prognosis or look mortality in the eye. It is vital that we choose not to focus only on the what if’s or will be’s of our situation. We have to live in the present. Take each day for what it is. Don’t borrow the problems of the future because they will rob the moments you should be enjoying today. Better than ever before, after a scary diagnosis we realize that life is precious. So don’t miss any of it by trying to live anywhere but the present. Deal with today, it’s enough.
6. Think about others.
It is pathetically easy for our thoughts to be centered on me, me, me. After all, we are dealing with something that legitimately turns our thoughts towards our own lives. However, we must not allow our thinking to remain self-centered. If we do, we can quickly become miserable whether dealing with a scary diagnosis or not! It is impossible to be truly happy when all you think of is how to make yourself happy. Instead, focus on others. While you may feel like your world is caving in, don’t let that isolate you from offering love and goodness to others. You are not the only one who has something to be scared of. If you have learned through a scary diagnosis that time is precious, then also learn to use it wisely. Use it to help others, and you will find yourself helped along the way, in ways that you could not imagine.
7. Take time to balance yourself.
Chronic disease and scary diagnosis often leave us feeling isolated. Isolation is not always the worst thing for us. We need to actively pursue moments of solitude in which we can center ourselves. We cannot fight the frightening battle of disease that we face without being properly equipped to give our best. Take time to mentally prepare yourself for the onslaught of the emotional toll that your physical battle will inevitably bring. Sometimes that means creating a time and place for quiet. Even if all you can do is put on headphones to drown out the noises of a hospital, then listen to a favorite uplifting song. Find whatever helps you calm yourself and brings you into proper perspective and balance. Carve out a little haven of rest for yourself and retreat there as often as you need to regroup your strength and stability.