Grief is defined as a deep or intense sorrow: something that causes distress or suffering. Grief is a common denominator amongst humans. We have all lost someone or something important that we love.
Those of us with chronic illnesses are certainly no strangers to grief. My multiple sclerosis diagnosis sent me into despair. I felt I was no longer the person I used to be and believed I couldn’t experience the life I was destined to live. Physically I felt different and mentally all I could do was think about my life before this life changing diagnosis. I thought congenital heart disease was difficult, I discovered that MS was a totally different adversary.
I have been through every step and truthfully, I continually revisit each one from time to time. I’ve learned there is no truth to “getting over” a loss. We simply learn to live with the loss and make the necessary adjustments in order for us to continue our journey called life. Grief is so intense and complex, there is no fathomable time frame.
I will never forget the day I received my diagnosis. I was in an absolute state of shock. As my tears seemed to seep into my soul I said to myself this cannot be true. A clear case of denial, I felt as though my ears were deceiving me. I have one of the best MS specialists, and I still could not believe I was receiving this diagnosis. Emotionally and physically I was in pain. My body was ailing and so was my mind. I felt guilty wondering if I had done anything to render myself vulnerable to this disease. I incurred a work related permanent shoulder and neck injury and I could only wonder if that created the opportunity for multiple sclerosis to surface.
Somehow I blamed myself, intuitively knowing my diagnosis was no fault of mine. I experienced intense rage, asking how could this be? I rationed that I am a good person, how could this illness come to me? I lashed out at those closest to me feeling as if no one understood my present condition. I bargained. I would do anything and be a better person, if this disease could go away. Again, deep inside I knew this was not an act of punishment, it was an occurrence of life.
Depression has become a familiar foe. We travel together more often than I am comfortable admitting. Depression is a bandit and has the capacity to steal hope and joy. Both are needed in order to fight adversity. Reflection became a major component in my life. It felt as though I watched my entire life pass by. I couldn’t stop thinking about who I used to be before my diagnosis and I longed for the loss of the woman I was before multiple sclerosis.
At times, it feels as though my life took a wrong turn down a one way street with no road leading back to my original, vivacious and authentic self. The longing I felt and still feel at times is overwhelming and often inexplicable. It’s ironic how you can be surrounded by tons of people and still feel alone, fighting a battle only you know exists. I try and compose myself and realize I still have so many reasons to be grateful. I am well loved. My spouse, family, friends and faith are my anchor. I exalt in knowing I am alive and my living cannot be in vain. My existence is on purpose. This qualifies as the upward turn.
The upward turn is the point in which the resilient human spirit fights for its life. We recreate ourselves and learn to embrace our limitations. This is my reconstruction phase. I am learning to accept who I am today, all of me. I embrace my scars, flaws, pain, triumph, emotions and everything that is undeniably me.
The most important message is to allow ourselves to feel and experience all of our emotions. In order to grow and become all that we are destined to be we have to go through trials and tribulations. No one is exempt. Everyone is fighting some battle. The tragedy is not in falling down, it is in giving up. We must prepare ourselves for battle and arm ourselves with hope. Grief is not a destination. It is a process. We are MS Warriors.
Did you grieve after your multiple sclerosis diagnosis?
Teresa Wright-Johnson is a 43-year-old MS Warrior and Congenital Heart Disease Survivor. She has had multiple open heart surgeries and cardiac procedures and was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in November of 2014. She also is a community activist with a background in Criminal Justice and Social Services. She aspires to use her life to empower and inspire others. A retired Sr. Parole Officer, a Poet and an Inspirational Speaker, she enjoys spending time with her loving family and friends, writing, reading and listening to music.