“I just got hit with a new diagnosis. Now what do I do?”
A new diagnosis means change. New symptoms, maybe limitations. Treatment regimens. Adjusting your routine to accommodate additional medications. Concerns about interactions and side effects. Lifestyle changes. Annoying, if not downright disruptive. And what does all of this mean for the future?
The normal reaction to the challenge of a new diagnosis – no matter how expected or unexpected, denied or dreaded – is to feel some combination of fear, uncertainty and doubt, along with a lot of other emotions.
In many ways, dealing with a new diagnosis can leave you feeling like you did when you were first diagnosed. Sure you’ve been here before. But that doesn’t necessarily make it any easier when you find yourself here again.
It’s time to add some more muscle to your coping skills. Here’s how to get started:
Talk. Find someone who can listen without making you feel judged, and who won’t get caught up in trying to “fix” you because of their own feelings of helplessness. You may have a family member of or a friend who can be a listening ear, but if you don’t, consider talking to a professional counselor or a therapist who is trained and experienced in working with clients who are facing illness.
Don’t report yourself to the positive thinking police. Familiar feelings, new feelings, “good” ones, “bad” ones… Don’t confuse maintaining an optimistic attitude – which promotes health – with denying yourself permission to let yourself feel the way you feel. It’s all normal.
Confront the fear factor. Fear is only a feeling. Struggling against it can be emotionally exhausting, and keep you frozen in place. Acknowledge your fear, and you take a lot of its power away, even if it comes back to visit once in awhile.
Research your (new) condition. Information-gathering – bibliotherapy – is an antidote to fear. So power up with information. Drown the fear in facts.
Decide where you need support and then ask for it. Consider support groups that you can join as a source of both emotional support as well as practical advice. You may also find encouragement and support through a religious or spiritual community. Look around you! Look up! And keep in touch with us!
Choose to get moving. A medical diagnosis is another reminder that life isn’t fair. The challenges of a new diagnosis can leave you feeling like you’re at a fork in the road. You can choose the path of victimhood, and allow yourself to be engulfed by the sense of unfairness. But this is disempowering and can leave you spinning your wheels. Or you can choose to look beyond the “why” question and move forward to meet the challenges ahead. So beware of adopting the victim role, even if you think you deserve to.
Look back. The first time you received a medical diagnosis, what helped you to deal with the feelings you experienced? What coping skills helped you the most? Anything that inspired you? Who gave you support? Take an inventory. It’s time to reach back into that toolbox!
Look forward. Okay, another unplanned bump in the road. Time to update your strategy for your life based on what’s realistic and what’s possible. Stay focused on your vision for your future!
Get prepared for the road ahead!