The Stages of Grief in a new Graphic Illustration
This is a graphic than I ran across at Facebook. I found it very validating to read through it and reflect on my passage through the depression that came with the diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis eight years ago. It may take some people less time to move through these stages, and it may take some people more. I can look at this image and see the low point as four years after diagnosis … just over four years clouded with nightly injections in which I had no faith and during which I resented every one of the one thousand five hundred “one size fits all” prescription for a DMD (disease modifying drug.) I was angry and disappointed with myself for having accepted that prescription. I feared that I was becoming too passive as a patient during those four years. And when I lost my classroom, my daily contact with treasured colleagues, and all that I had worked so hard for through so many years, my fears reverted to a self-defensive anger, and the tide turned.
I posted my reflection on Facebook, but have since deleted it as I think it is better left here in my blog … the blog that only the people who want to know how I am doing will go to and read, no one that doesn’t want reminders of my diagnosis will encounter it on their home page.
There are those who don’t want reminders, and I understand that … and there are those who accept updates that I make accessible here but not imposed, and I appreciate their willingness to share my story.
Here’s my analysis of how this graphic depicts my eight year passage down into depression and loss and back up again to a life worth living:
Eight years since the trials of my MS diagnosis; at year four I was so low I had to leave my profession in the classroom …
- Year one I was in total denial, disbelief and loss
- year two began with anger that turned to fear,
- year three I was quietly looking for support in my classrooms and family life,
- year four realizing that I couldn’t remain a teacher if I couldn’t be at my best anymore, and during that year my brother and my sister died within six weeks of each other. I had no strength to continue to give of myself, and reluctantly retired. I also left my neurologist, and stopped the prescribed nightly injections that had overwhelmed my emotions.
- In year five, at home and without a schedule or students and parents depending on me, I published several small books, writing it all out before I lost recall of it;
- in year six I published a few more and began helping other new authors to self publish.
- Year seven I opened my own quilt / fabric shop, opening the door to a new self-image.
- and now eight years after diagnosis, I am teaching children and adults to be comfortable with their sewing machines, and am converting antique and vintage machines to hand cranks to share with my shop customers.
- I’d say this cycle is right on, as witnessed over these past eight years. Look out, world … I’m out of the low ditch, and back on top, doing my “new best.”
Does this mean that life is hunky-dory now? By some measures, certainly. I have a strong, loving husband, two grown children living their chosen paths, two grandchildren finding their way through college in preparation for the choices ahead for them. I have replaced my chosen career, hard won and long enjoyed, for another that came about through a series of new choices and different talents. In my quilt shop I meet new people every week, and enjoy sharing my love of fabrics and colors and mechanical sewing machines. If I break even in the shop at the end of each quarter, I feel that is enough. I have my teacher pension, albeit slightly less than I’d planned due to the early medical retirement, but it is enough to pay our bills and share what we can with our family.
MS may never see a cure in my lifetime … tens of thousands of people continue to raise money for research toward a cure, but all I wish for is symptom treatments that would help those who cannot walk … I would say I am ‘blessed’ with mobility but that phrase suggests preferential blessings, and I would not assume that. My symptoms remain primarily invisible to others, but are very real to me and to those who live and work with me. That so many people in my life can accept and accomodate the shorcomings that come with the cognitive changes I experience … the forgetfulness … the relentless fatigue … the disorganization … the loss of concentration, the inability to enjoy reading … all of the things that I once saw as strengths are now challenges for me. and for those who might have depended on the old me. That I continue to try to promise things and then have to apologize for not delivering what I’d promise is a humbling realization that I haven’t yet reached a full acceptance of this new path, but I am trying. I appreciate all who understand that and continue to encourage me to offer what I can deliver, and accept what I may not really have to give.
The above graphic is more optimistic than the old “cycle” of depression, which could seem like an endless loop. I’ll go with this one, and continue to pray that what looks like a U shape does not become a “double-U.” At least not in my lifetime. And I’ll appreciate the doctors who do recognize my wish to continue to share what I can in my life, and understand my reluctance to take medications that would limit my ability to do so. I’m not a very compliant patient, but I am content with the person I am becoming. As I’ve said before, quoting Carl Rogers, “I am not perfect. But I am enough.”