For some, diagnosis comes at the end of a long road of looking for answers about their health. Finally discovering what is wrong with them brings a certain kind of peace; the solution; the cause they have been seeking. No longer do they have to scramble to try to find their way – they can move forward.
In some respects, those people are lucky – even if their road to diagnosis was a painful one. They have been anticipating something for years as they age and can find relief in discovering their condition.
For those less fortunate to have known such a thing was around the corner, being diagnosed with a health condition can be terrifying. There is a myriad of ways you can find yourself being told you have a health condition and you had no idea it was on the cards. Maybe you dismissed symptoms you have since learned you shouldn’t or something minor became something major. Perhaps you just had anomalous results on what you thought was a standard testing procedure.
However it’s happened, the reality is stark. Last week, as far as you knew, you were healthy. Maybe you need to lose a bit of weight or cut back on your alcohol consumption, but that was all. Now, you’ve been told you have a condition and that you are due to undergo treatment.
How do you learn to cope?
Step One: Don’t Panic
Panicking doesn’t solve anything. In fact, with some health conditions it might actually exacerbate the problem.
Of course, saying “don’t panic” is not going to make it so. No one chooses to panic; it just happens to us. What you can control is your response.
Focus on self-calming techniques such as meditation and positive self-talk. They might sound like New Age mumbo-jumbo, but they work for millions of people – and you’re going to need a clear mind to get through this.
If necessary, seek professional advice on this through a therapist. You don’t have to worry about burdening your family and friends with your concerns, but you still have an outlet. It doesn’t have to be a long course of therapy, but a few chats to help your articulate your feelings could be beneficial.
Step Two: Research Mode
If you have been diagnosed out of the blue, then you can find yourself faced with what feels like an uphill struggle. You have a new, complex medical term and you suffer from it – but you know nothing about it.
At this point, it’s natural to want to go and research it – and to an extent, you should. Just try to bear in mind that you will find horror stories of even the most benign of illnesses, so try to take everything with a pinch of salt. This is especially true if you’re doing your research online, when people are more likely to embellish. Don’t be frightened by what you read.
This also gives you an opportunity to learn more about treatments. Unless you have been keeping abreast of scientific breakthroughs, you’ll be surprised by how much you have to learn. Treatment for illnesses is evolving all the time, and the prognosis of the patient is improving at the same rate. Medicine does not stand still.
You may discover revolutionary new treatments such as gene editing techniques that you want to try, and there’s no harm in bringing them up with your doctor. Focus on areas that are medically recognized and being conducted by doctors.
Step Three: Avoid The Crackpots
In the course of research mode, you will find yourself confronted by a snake oil salesman or twenty who will promise a cure for a bargain price. Don’t be tempted.
While alternative therapies like acupuncture can have some therapeutic benefit, don’t be swayed too much by alternative remedies. It may be tempting that someone has the fix you have been longing for, but if they did, then they wouldn’t be selling it online – it’d be being channeled through big pharma. So be skeptical and always discuss anything that you want to experiment with through your medical professionals.
This is especially important to remember even if you are usually more sceptical. You might not be in the right frame of mind to apply your usual reasoning to anything you read, so be wary of that and ensure that you take your time. If necessary, always bring up anything you want to try with a friend and see if they think it’s a good decision.
Bear in mind this is not just about protecting yourself financially – it’s also a health risk to try a treatment that is not medically verified. This is especially true if you’re taking a supplement that has not been tested, so go cautiously at every point.
Step Four: Talk To Others
While you’re online, support networks are there waiting for you to explore. You can talk to those who suffer from the same condition. Even if you don’t learn anything in terms of your illness, it will at least give you some insight into how others cope.
You’ll also need to talk to your friends and family. Try and keep it brief. Explain you are unwell, what the next steps of treatment are and how it might impact your ability to interact with them. This is a difficult thing to do, and don’t be ashamed of not being able to face it in person – email and explain your decision to do so if it helps.
If you’re tempted to keep things to yourself, don’t. You’re going to need support, and you’re going to need people to be understanding. By all means keep it brief, but definitely make sure people are aware.
Step Five: Acceptance
When all of the above is done, you will be on better ground than you were when you were diagnosed. Try and keep in mind that now you know, you can do something about it. Better that than an illness be discovered when it’s too late to take action – so go forward with optimism in mind.
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