Adjusting to Your Diagnosis: Tips and Advice
Last updated date : December 30, 2022
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It takes time to overcome the shock before adjusting to your diagnosis. Strong emotions such as fear, anxiety, and sadness may surface as you’re adjusting to the new illness. Even if we’re prepared to hear the result, that doesn’t change the gut-wrenching feeling of hearing it spoken aloud.
As Broadcaster Clare Balding says, “you hear the word ‘cancer,’ and you think it is a death sentence. In fact, the shock is the biggest thing about a diagnosis of cancer.”
Whether your diagnosis is a mental or a physical illness, whether it is life-threatening or not, the shock of it remains. But, unfortunately, many people see their diagnosis as the end rather than beginning a road to recovery and wellness.
Diagnosis and the Five Stages of Grief
Psychologist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross came up with the five stages of grief that many of us know of as stages of losing a loved one. However, she created it for patients going through a terminal illness. The five stages she made are:
The reality is that adjusting to your diagnosis isn’t quite as straightforward as these five stages. You might skip some of these, linger in other stages, and have your own unique stages that aren’t represented here. Grief isn’t always this nice and neat. It’s sometimes far more overwhelming and messy.
Studies have shown that there isn’t a clear path for those diagnosed with any form of illness. There is no wrong and no right way for you to grieve your situation. It is unique to you. So if your process fits these stages, that’s perfectly acceptable.
and if your method doesn’t fit it at all, that is also perfectly acceptable. Instead, look closely at the feelings that have arisen since your diagnosis. Is there a fluttering in your stomach or a sense of mental fog? Are you feeling anxious about the future? Are you afraid of seeking support? Then ask yourself why?
Why do I feel that I am incapable of the changes my diagnosis requires? Why am I sure that this is the end and not a new unique journey I can learn from?
Mental “Disorders” (Diversity)
If you’ve been diagnosed with a mental disorder/ disability, or as I like to reframe it, mental diversity. The first challenge can be the shock and awareness of your mind being different from what society deems “the norm”. Sometimes it can make perfect sense when looking back over your life, and other times we can be completely unaware of it.
It’s not easy to come to terms with, and that’s alright. However, life will inevitably change after receiving a diagnosis for your mental health. You may need to take medications, be supervised, do therapy, which can be challenging transitions.
Make sure to get multiple opinions from mental health professionals and medical professionals on your diagnosis. Then once you’re sure the diagnosis is accurate, you can begin to receive the support you need to either recover or ease symptoms depending on what you’ve been diagnosed with.
There is no shame in speaking openly about your mental health, only strength in it. Know that you’re not alone in having a mind that operates in a different order and that you can still thrive in life. The term disability isn’t a great word, it’s more that people have mental diversity because it can give you extraordinary abilities that nobody else has.
If anything, I hope you see that whatever your diagnosis will form one of your greatest strengths. Once you’ve gone through the process of adjusting to your diagnosis, you’ll begin to understand your mind a lot better.
Also, it will define aspects of your experience, but it is not you.
In terms of adjusting to new illness, similar principles apply. We can start the process feeling alone, different, and upset, and sometimes, the diagnosis almost doesn’t sound real. I can’t have XYZ, because I just can’t!
Sometimes we might even feel anger, blame others or even ourselves for the condition we are met with. But it’s not about blame; it’s about getting the treatment that will lead you back to health or help you live with what you have.
Some people talk of their diseases or illnesses as friends, as something that taught them a lesson about life. Others go on to help people with the same condition, which is a beautiful lesson in itself.
As for how to cope with your diagnosis, there is no real quick-fix solution. I wish I could provide you with the answers you seek, but the truth is, nobody but you can provide these answers. You can find charities and support groups to ease that sense of loneliness. You can also speak with a mental health professional to unpack your personal feelings.
But, it’s a process, don’t try to rush yourself to feel better. It’s a time of rest and putting yourself and your condition first—a time to heal as best as you can.
Ways to Ease the Effects of a Diagnosis
As I said, there is no quick fix in adjusting to your diagnosis, but there are some tips you can keep in mind. Of course, these are super general, as we’re covering a lot of possible diagnoses. Nevertheless, here are a few ideas on easing the effects of discovering your diagnosis:
- Avoid Googling It: Googling symptoms and reading articles about your condition isn’t the best idea. Instead, talk about it with a professional if you want accurate information. Look at charities that help people with your diagnosis, too, as they will be more uplifting and provide better support than regular articles that might insight more fear.
- Tell People When You’re Ready: There is no rush. Tell people in your own time and in your own way. Never fear speaking up about it. There is no shame no matter what you’ve been diagnosed with. But it’s your right to tell who you want to and to do it in the time that feels right for you.
- It Doesn’t Define You: You are not your condition; you are far more than that, you are a human being.
- You Are On The Mend: A diagnosis is a wonderful thing. You’re now able to get the treatment that will help you the best. It’s easy to get bogged down in the details of the diagnosis, but remember, it’s a sign that you are on the mend. Also, don’t fear the new medications or routines that make up your treatment. They’re there to help you.
- Take The Rest You Need: I remember hearing once that someone preferred to call depression deep-rest-ion. Healing from anything requires you to take the rest you need, to allow the body and mind to recover.
- Allow The Emotion To Come Up: Sadness, anger, exhaustion, frustration – you are allowed to feel these, notice them and let them be.
- People May Treat You Differently: Many people have a hard time comprehending anything that is the slightest bit different. You’ll no doubt get tired of explaining your condition and even suffer from people’s ignorance. But remember, your own self-acceptance is far more valuable than anyone else’s opinion of you – and even that can take time and consious effort.
- Make A Hospital Room, Home: It can help a lot to bring pictures, cushions, blankets, books to your hospital room if you need to go there. Making the environment more personal can help make it less fearful. Although it can seem like a scary sci-fi world in there, it’s ultimately a place of healing.
- There Is No Such Thing As “Normal”: Nobody is “normal,” everyone has a different definition of wellness and a different root towards attaining it. Celebrate that your journey is unique to you but that many others share similar ones.
The Importance of Mindset
Whether you have been diagnosed with a chronic illness or mental health diversity, mindset can make a difference in adjusting to your diagnosis. Thoughts like “what’s wrong with me?” or “am I broken?” can start unhelpful spirals. Instead, thinking of our illness as a friend, a teacher, a journey can help. It’s a process that will help you understand yourself and others that have experienced the same better.
You have a specific insight into the emotional fluctuations, the feelings, and the hardships felt by those with your diagnosis. To which the rest of us are ignorant of – if anything, that sounds like valuable knowledge to me.
I don’t want to say look at the bright side, especially if you’re in and out of hospitals and therapy – I know that that doesn’t help. But, instead, ask yourself, what have I learnt? Who can I help with my knowledge? And what experiences am I grateful for despite the hardships?
Adjusting to Your Diagnosis
It is such a valuable and free tool to help you accept and negate the stress of a new diagnosis. No matter your diagnosis, sometimes feelings of anxiety may arise, and meditation is a way to become aware of that and understand your feelings.
There are plenty of online guides you can find for free, but here is a simple one you can do right now to help. You can sit or lay down. Notice your breathing.
Just notice whether it’s slow or fast, without the need to change it. Feel your body, noticing any sensations that arise without labelling them. Become aware of your room, look at the objects without assigning any name to them, and just be present with the objects. Notice any sound; allow the sound to flow into the space and out of it.
Allow any thought or emotion to pass through without becoming attached to it. Then relax the muscles in your body, each inhale say in your mind I am healing, and I let go with each exhale.
You don’t have to be happy with your diagnosis to accept it. What you are going through can be painful, hard, and incredibly difficult. But, acceptance is about allowing yourself to be present with it. Also, allowing this change of circumstance, being here in the now with it, and understanding that it may change again.
Resisting the reality of your diagnosis could cause additional suffering that could make you feel worse. Know that whatever your diagnosis that you can overcome it. It starts with accepting the diagnosis for what it is, understanding your emotions towards it, and working towards nourishing your health.
Also, remember to be patient with yourself. It will take time to accept it and work towards recovery.
Honesty & The Learning Curb
You are allowed to complain about this diagnosis, and you are allowed to feel upset about the changes to your lifestyle. Because, you may have to work with a new nutritional plan; you may need to do specific recovery exercises, and you may need to learn about your thought patterns.
It can sometimes feel incredibly overwhelming how much change is required. That’s perfectly fine, don’t hold back from speaking out about it from an honest place. Even if those around you don’t particularly understand the frustrations, know that you’re allowed to have them.
That’s why support groups are so beneficial because you can voice these concerns with professionals and others that share the same ones. You can also find online forums where you can talk to others that share your experience.
Remember that the changes are a learning curb, that it may seem overwhelming at first, but soon you will settle into the new routine.
A New Chapter
Now is the time to move forward with adjusting to your diagnosis. You have a unique insight into who you are or who you will become. A diagnosis can be liberating, as now you know what you need.
You may even have received a diagnosis of something that you’ve been struggling with your whole life, and perhaps that offers you a sense of understanding of what you’ve experienced in life better.
Think of it as a time for transformation, a time to become more at peace with your ever-changing circumstances. Begin this chapter with putting your healing first and learning how to take care of yourself in a new way.
As always, seek help and guidance from professionals in the field to help with adjusting your diagnosis. Then follow that guidance and see where this new road will take you. We wish you the best on this journey and hope you find solace in knowing that others face the same things as you. You’re not alone, whether you realise it or not.
Then follow that guidance and see where this new road will take you