“Accept your diagnosis. It is not healthy to live in denial.” Upon diagnosis, we begin to hear such statements quite often. While they may stem from good intentions, they often irritate us by making us feel misunderstood. This is normal for both parties involved, both the attempting helper and the unsuccessfully helped. Oddly, we receive these suggestions, as well as others similar in nature, mostly from healthy individuals. Those who are also ill tend to step back and give us the necessary space required for us to grieve and cope appropriately, knowing each individual has a different path to travel, and aware that such knowledge and respect of boundaries is far healthier than pushing their own paths upon us. They tend to understand that doing so merely places more stress on us to accept the seemingly unacceptable.
Regardless, we relentlessly hear the phrase, “you need to accept your diagnosis.” True to the nature of most situations in life, achieving this feat is far easier said than done. When coming from a loved one it sometimes makes us feel as if they are discrediting our pain and trying to lessen our despair on behalf of themselves, as a means to refrain from enduring the pain they are in from sitting idly by and watching us suffer with no way to make our suffering end. This is not always the case, though. Many times, our loved ones truly do mean well. Unfortunately, meaning well often falls short of doing well and, more importantly, getting us well. It may instead push us further away, making it more difficult for us to accomplish what they so desperately long for us to do –reach a place of serene acceptance.
“It is not healthy to live in denial.” As far as this statement goes, I believe it is fair to say few would stand in opposition to it. However, the few that would oppose it would do so because they have been in our shoes themselves and are very much aware that denial is a crucial and essential stage of grieving. We must go through it thoroughly, not around it, if we ever wish to truly reach a place of acceptance. In this sense one could claim denial is indeed healthy, to an extent. Others, as well as myself, have found denial be an absolutely necessary step in reaching true acceptance rather than reaching a place in which we have successfully perfected the art of plastering a mask of positivity upon our face and within our words to please our family and friends. Here, the seemingly unhealthy thing to do, which is to be in a state of denial, is in reality the healthy thing to do, as long as we move forward and learn from it rather than dwell on it forever. It is one of the, what would seem to be, rare instances in which the good can only come once the bad has been acknowledged and explored extensively and deeply within ourselves. As we continue on this journey, though, we learn the majority of truly good things in life come as a result of first enduring tragedy and heartbreak.
We must not beat ourselves up over the initial and absolutely normal stage of denial we find ourselves in upon receiving a life-altering diagnosis. Denial is merely a phase, meaning it should not be allowed to manifest itself into a lifestyle. Furthermore, we need to remind ourselves we are not weak in this stage. We are perhaps stronger than ever, as the weak thing to do would be to deny our denial, to bury it under a fake smile, and thus render it a stale lifestyle. Exploring the dark feelings of denial and acknowledging them for what they are, which is merely a phase, requires insurmountable amounts of courage.
Thoroughly walking through the stage of denial in order to reach a state of acceptance hurts, but eventually brings us to much healthier states mentally and spiritually, both of which have direct effects on our physical states. Simply put, we have two choices: Smother denial and avoid it at all costs and live with it chronically buried within; or face it and allow it to hurt us, knowing it to be an act which will essentially aid in the healing process. We can choose a chronic and steady yet dull pain that is long term, or an intense and acute pain which quickly burns off entirely, enabling a new light to ignite within. A light whose flame burns not from the type of fuel that leaks from denial of truth, but from that of truth in itself.