Look Inward

What Changed from the Day You Received Your Diagnosis and the Day Afterward?

Staying centered — and hanging on to what is really the essence of who you are as a person and not as a patient — takes some work. It all begins with looking inside.

You were diagnosed with X. And that diagnosis has a lot of implications as to how your life will proceed. Sometimes we hear a diagnosis and it feels like a death sentence, that a few words from a physician can leave one with a past, but no future, or at least not the future that anyone might have anticipated. But ask yourself: After that conversation in your healthcare provider’s office, what else changed? A medical diagnosis is an additional challenge thrown into your life’s path, to say the least. But it doesn’t mean your life is over, and it doesn’t mean your life is only going to be about that condition.

Remind yourself that you are still fundamentally you — what you love about yourself, and what others love about you — the gifts, the faults, the quirks — are still all there.

Don’t Get Caught Up in the Blame Game.

It is human nature to want to know why this has happened to me. All of us would want to know why we specifically were diagnosed with whatever has been handed to us and, unfortunately, we often cycle back to blaming ourselves. I am always concerned about clients who get caught up in assigning blame for their diagnosis.

And what is the consequence of being blamed for doing something? Punishment. And in the absence of knowing whom to blame, or how to punish them, this anger grows until it is turned inward, onto ourself. Then we begin to rationalize that the condition is somehow deserved, or that it is our fate. And if so, it should only lead to further misery. So why have hope?

Healing, though, begins with a very simple thing — your attitude. Blame and punishment only keep us stuck in a negative zone. I don’t know why bad things happen in life. But I have seen what happens when my clients agree to release the need to know or to blame, and to focus on what is — in the here and now — and what is possible for the future.

Embrace Your Own “New Normal.”

Back to that ever present question: How can I be normal again? The answer is not to accept that you aren’t normal. Instead, I encourage you to consider what is normal for you. This may mean working closely with your healthcare providers to determine a realistic strategy for maximizing your health, including modifications to your diet and lifestyle, and to understand the benefits or implications of medical treatment. Your definition of normal may require some updating. But this doesn’t mean you aren’t normal.

It comes down to the question, is your cup half empty or half full? If you think that life as you know it is over, you are establishing at the start an attitude of the half-empty cup that can probably never be filled. As a result, your definition of who you are, and what is normal, will inevitably create a series of negative definitions: I am not, I cannot, I will not and so on.

It is not surprising to me any longer that clients report never having had a good talk with their healthcare provider about the nature of their condition or what they can expect. Nor is it a surprise that few are able to do their own research on their condition. But given the power of fear as it relates both to the potential effects of the condition and the fear of being too hopeful, I understand why. However, real, sound, and authoritative information is the best way to control the fear. You drown the fear in facts. And when you know the facts, you are in the position to define the possibilities.

And here are some guidelines to help you answer these questions: