Sharon Coyle-Saeed’s March guest blog post is ready for you to read! Make sure to check back in April for her next post.
Happy reading 🙂
As my social work internship for the coming year is working with hospice patients, I am re-reading the DABDA theory which Elisabeth Kubler-Ross coined. It is a processing of emotions upon hearing one has to face mortality quite sooner than they thought. They are steps one goes through when dealing with loss. I believe a more common term is, “the grieving process.”
DABDA is an acronym for the following emotions. The first D is for Denial, the A is for Anger, the B is the bargaining which occurs, the next D is Depression and the final A is for Acceptance. DABDA. As I read through the chapters on the steps, I felt that this theory can be applied to losing one’s past life from a chronic disease. The loss that happens of our former self and hope that this resonates with some of you as well.
The first emotion, which I would like to explore in this blog is the feeling of denial. The initial shock!
This can NOT be happening to me and in some cases, thinking this is NOT happening to me. I was stuck in this one for awhile….and to some extent, still am (gosh, after all these years).
When I first learned about my diagnosis of ulcerative colitis in 1990, I thought that it was clearly a wrong diagnosis. I truly believed that it was because of drinking “tap” water. I switched to Evian and did not see a difference. So, I moved on to flat out denial. I am not sick so therefore, I do not need treatment. I would go for some periods of not taking my medicine(which I am not recommending. Just pointing out this is also an extreme effect of denial). I clearly recall auditioning and appearing in a community theater show, The Cradle Will Rock, and being so very ill and not even telling a single soul. It was a horrible isolation. Isolation, is also mentioned by Kubler-Ross, as a denial reaction.
I think I came to the realization that I was “not well”, when my local gastroenterologist said I needed to see an IBD specialist at Mount Sinai who sent me to a surgeon that same day. I had my first part of the J-Pouch surgery the next day. Clearly, this was a lot to digest(No pun intended). When faced with this extreme, I had to own to the seriousness that my condition had taken.
My next “shock” came when I started to have more frequent hospital visits in 2011 as a result of small bowel obstructions. I clearly remember my best friend, Theresa, after calling her for the umpteenth time and letting her know I was sick again, “I think it is a stomach virus or something I ate.” She replied with, “It is not that. It is an obstruction.” I was in TRUE shock. I truly believed with my whole heart that this was not chronic, and that I was just reacting to something outside of me and not something that was happening inside.
Is this healthy? Is this normal? It is not only the former two things, it is also a coping mechanism to deal with the stress of loss. In this case, our “healthy self.” “I regard it a healthy way of dealing with the uncomfortable and painful situation with which some of these patients have to live for a long time” (Kubler-Ross, 1969, p. 52).
My feelings are we all can relate to some extent to this state of denial and it is a normal feeling and okay to go through as long as it does not become so radical that we do not take our medications or deny our body’s limitations. This I still find challenging.
I have this inner core that says, “Tell me I can’t, and I will show you that I can”. Some say it is resilience. I say it is an inherited stubbornness(thank you Daddy). This worked to my benefit when I was told that it was highly unlikely to conceive due to the J-Pouch surgery and having a belly that is prone to concrete adhesions. That was all I needed to hear. I am happy to report I have two happy and healthy sons!
It also works against me many days when I do not pace and set limits to what my mind wants to do and when my body screams, “Stop! Enough! I need a break!” Having any chronic disease or health condition, it is important to honor our body even more so and not see it as a weakness or a limitation.
I run myself to sheer exhaustion more than I would like to admit. I recall just last week when I visited my wellness doctor and told him, “I am hungry and tired.” I thought to myself, you do not get any clear of a message than that. EAT AND NAP! EAT AND NAP! Which I am happy to say, I did both(fell asleep on one of the treatment machines after eating a baggie of gluten free Cheerios). When I woke up, I felt….refreshed! Imagine that!
Perhaps “balanced” denial can be beneficial when it does not become too extreme. In the meantime, I am in the process of meeting different specialists, trying to listen to my body, but, also, push the limits on many days and admittedly, I still get very shocked when the pain of the obstruction comes. Is this really happening to me? Maybe it is just a stomach bug…..a 26 year long stomach bug.
Hoping that you will leave a comment below to share how you feel denial resonates with your experience with your condition. Join me next month to explore the next step of…………ANGER when we transition from, “This can not be happening to me!” to “Why the *#@# is this happening to me?”
Kubler-Ross, E. (1969). On Death and Dying. New York, NY: Touchstone.
Author Bio: Sharon Coyle- Saeed: Health Activist, CEO/Founder of ibdjourneys:
Sharon Coyle-Saeed was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis in 1990. She has three Associate degrees in Psychology, World Language, and Theater. Sharon’s Bachelors is in Journalism & Mass Media with a Middle Eastern Studies minor from Rutgers University. She is currently a graduate student of Clinical Social Work at Rutgers University with a focus on Aging and Health. Sharon just completed an internship at Robert Wood Johnson/The Steeplechase Cancer Center. She is a Reiki Master Practitioner, a freelance reporter for Gannett NJ, an IET Intermediate practitioner and holds certifications in EFT (Level One), Angel Card Reading, Angel Realm Reader and Aromatherapy (Stress Management, Essentials and First Aid). To help others is her sole and soul’s desire.