Stayin’ alive

A kidney dialysis/transplant diary

5 stages of grieving

My Primary, Jane – she who speaks for me with the care conference committee, bolsters my spirit, tracks my labs, etc. – stopped me on the way to my recliner a couple of treatments ago to get my input on a report she was assembling.

As part of their ongoing training, she said, the staff was trying to get a feel for how dialysis patients deal with the five stages of grieving since those suffering from chronic illnesses go through those stages as well.

Yes, we do, sometimes all five stages at the same time.

What are those stages:

  • Denial – this can’t be happening to me
  • Anger – why me?
  • Bargaining – attempting to make deals with yourself or your higher power to change things or stop them
  • Depression – overwhelming feelings of hopelessness, frustration, bitterness, self pity, mourning the future. Feeling lack of control, feeling numb. Perhaps feeling suicidal.
  • Acceptance – You have to accept the loss, not just try to bear it quietly. Acceptance is different than resignation.

Psychologists say the process of grieving is similar whether you’re grieving over death, divorce or a life-changing chronic illness.

So how am I doing?

Denial – I tell people I’ve changed my name to “Cleopatra, the Queen of Denial.” I’ve used that joke for years, but it still remains the truth. I assume I’m still in denial because I am still having major problems controlling my liquid intake. If I were in acceptance, would I not willingly do all I need to do to ease the strain on my body from non-functioning kidneys? I would think so, but that is not true yet.

Anger – I have little flashes of anger that flair mostly from frustration at the roadblocks the disease and my physical deterioration cause. Right now, I get very angry when the pains in my legs and feet become bothersome (usually about an hour before I can take another pain pill). As I said in the last post, I haven’t had that big internal or external blowup about this whole situation and “why me.” The why me was immediately thrown out for “why not me?” I don’t feel like I have a dark cloud hanging over me. I don’t feel singled out for a dastardly fate. I’m more likely to say, “I must have been a real turd in a former life to give me this kind of karma.”

I’ve also mellowed, I guess, because I’ve realized for some time now that anger is pretty useless in most cases. Doesn’t seem to help with things large or small and is really bad for my blood pressure. I seldom even deal with counting to 10. My attitude is usually, “well, that’s the pits. Now what do we do to solve the problem.”

Bargaining – I’m still not sure who, on a higher level, to bargain with. I suppose I do bargain with myself with those seeming selfish interests winning out over the sane, prudent path. Most of my personal bargaining seems to be over that next drink of iced tea. My mouth is always parched, it seems. Some of that comes from the diabetes, of course, some of it, I think is just knowing I’m not supposed to drink makes me want to drink. Must be the kid in me. huh?

Depression – Well, yeah. Who wouldn’t be occasionally? I don’t think I’ve fallen into a big time funk, but there are days … and sometimes hours during days … that depression settles in pretty strongly. Those are the times when I wonder if I’ll ever feel well again and prompt me to ask questions like, “Mom, will you still love me when my body’s lobster red and covered with weeping blisters?” (Asked after bright red contact dermatitis set in on the front half of my right foot shortly after the prognosis from the dermatologist that what’s happening on my thighs is like what already happened on my calves.)

That depression creeps over me, too, when I see dialysis patients with prosthetics — sometimes double prosthetics — getting their treatments. That’s when I begin wondering, “What would be the final straw that would make me say, ‘Enough, already. No more dialysis. Just let me give up the ghost for real.'”

One of the things they mention in depression actually is the thing that makes me feel most angry: loss of control. I really do feel like a pawn in the overall chess game sometimes and that makes me angry, though I try not to express that anger. Don’t read that wrong. I don’t feel like all my anger is suppressed, but I see no sense in railing at people who are trying to help me. It seems not only unproductive, but sometimes destructive.

Acceptance — I’m not sure if I’m really there, but I am resigned. I know dialysis is the only way to keep me alive right now. And for right now, I prefer to be alive.

 

 

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June 10, 2008 - Posted by | diabetes, dialysis, fistula, health, kidney, renal diet, renal recipes, transplant, weight loss

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