Permission to Thrive—Part 4: Accept Your Diagnosis
By April McGraw, RN. NOTE: April has taken the time to compile her experiences and life lessons as a nephrology nurse and person on dialysis into a book that she shares with the renal community free of charge for download. She has given MEI permission to serialize the book once a month in KidneyViews—and we hope you will share the link with others who will benefit from her wisdom, compassion, and empowerment. A course and workbook are in progress as well, so watch for those!
Once you are able to accept your diagnosis, you are often able to move on. When you accept your diagnosis, you can go on to the next step in your coping, which is vital to continue moving your coping skills in the right direction.I knew that I had started reaching some acceptance when I gave up my dialysis nursing job at the hospital and started looking for a new job that worked with my dialysis schedule. I accepted the fact that I no longer had the energy or stamina to perform my job as expected, and therefore I could not maintain the job that I really enjoyed.
In order to get to real acceptance, I decided to write down all of the things that I felt I was no longer able to do and what I could do instead. For instance, on my list, I could no longer work 18 hours on three days on duty and 3 three days off schedule, but I could work 12 -16 hours per day on my non-dialysis days. That meant I needed to look for a job that could accommodate that type of schedule for me. Because I was fortunate enough to work and still make a living, I then intentionally set out to find a new dialysis nursing job, which I did, which softened the blow somewhat.
From there, I went down the list of things that were important to me. Traveling would require some prior planning, but I could continue to travel despite it. Another biggie, my diet. Now full transparency, I did not adjust and accept this part of my illness so readily. I had horrible, I mean horrible eating habits, and my monthly labs told on me. I was a long-term dialysis patient and a nurse, so I definitely knew what to do. I was attempting to maintain some level of control, but I was doing it the wrong way.
I needed to accept and come to terms with my new life and what that meant in totality. Being positive and redirecting my negative thoughts, feelings, and emotions helped me with this. By taking mental notes of my thoughts, feelings, and emotions, I became more conscientious and in tune with my feelings. I was then able to recognize when I needed to change my own mindset and move more towards acceptance.
For me, grieving the diagnosis and acceptance were the two hardest steps; however, they laid the foundation for effective coping as I went through the remaining steps. This time around, I was much more knowledgeable than I was in previous setbacks, which takes me back to step #1 in educating yourself. When you are newly diagnosed with a chronic illness, you won't know what to expect. You will need to focus on learning to pivot in life to cope by making a conscious effort to focus on the things that you can do and not what you can't do.
Acceptance is not easy but necessary. It will require some deep thinking on your part, asking yourself questions such as “what is next for me?” “What can I offer to the world now?” “How do I raise a family, or be present in my relationships?” “What gift and or lesson am I to receive from this?” I found these to be excellent questions that I could go back and revisit as needed.
If you journal, these are great questions to set you on the path of acceptance of your chronic illness. You may or may not need to work with a counselor or therapist at this stage; however, if you feel the need to, it is perfectly fine to do so.
When living with a chronic illness, you want to accept the fact that having a chronic illness isn't like having a common cold or fever, where you recover rather quickly. It means that you don't have any certainty of when you may get better, and in fact your illness may never go away.You need to learn how to cope, as this revelation may affect you physically, mentally, as well as cause you to be emotional and anxious.