After receiving a diagnosis of mesothelioma, a myriad of emotions are likely to occur—ranging from grief about their own mortality to anger about the asbestos exposure that caused them to become ill. Some people experience an overwhelming sense of shock and disbelief, struggling to comprehend the news they have just been given. Whatever the nature of that initial reaction, coming to terms with the reality of such a devastating diagnosis involves a long and complex process that will progress through many different phases before finally reaching acceptance.
Understanding and Overcoming Denial
Denial is the first of the five stages of grief, as outlined by pioneering psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her book “On Death and Dying.” Denial is common amongst those facing a terminal diagnosis, a reaction that is both natural and normal. Characterized by overwhelming feelings of disbelief and sometimes disconnectedness, denial is the product of the mind’s attempts to reconcile a concept that has not been previously encountered and causes significant distress—such as a diagnosis of mesothelioma, something devastating and wholly unexpected. In this sense, denial is the mind’s way of protecting itself from emotions that it is not yet ready to process and can be considered a self-defense tactic of the psyche rather than outright snub or reality.
Overcoming denial is something that usually happens in time, occurring organically, without outside intervention. As the mind is able to overcome the initial shock a traumatic event and process its implication, denial tends to clear in the same way a rolling for eventually retreats back out to sea.
Knowledge is Power in Times of Uncertainty
Understanding the background and impact attached to a diagnosis of mesothelioma is often vital to the acceptance process. Asking questions is key, and you should not hesitate to request additional information or explanations of things that you do not fully understand from your physician and the rest of your medical care team.
This is especially important in regards to decisions about mesothelioma treatment, which should be made as soon as possible after receiving a diagnosis of mesothelioma. When contemplating treatment options, be sure to do as much research as possible so that you armed with all the knowledge you can gather as you enter what will quickly become the battle of your life. In addition to helping you make the best decisions regarding treatment and other aspects of your medical care, being informed also gives most people a sense of power and control—one that may have been perceived as lost after finding out about the illness.
Combating Post-Diagnosis Depression
Feelings of depression and also anxiety are common after a diagnosis of mesothelioma. To combat these emotional speed bumps on the path to acceptance, take good care of yourself by eating well and getting plenty of sleep. Exercise is hailed by experts as one of the greatest all-natural cures for depression and anxiety, so get as much of it as you can—even if just a brisk walk around the block each morning.
A licensed therapist can be an invaluable tool in combating post-diagnosis depression and processing some of the difficulty emotions that stand in the way of acceptance and healthy coping. Look for a therapist who is trained in grief counseling or specializes in working with the terminally ill.