Sometimes I’ll set out with a column idea and it gets completely transformed over the course of the week. This was one of those times.
I initially intended to talk about the emotional struggles of people with disabilities over different life phases, such as graduating from high school and trying to figure out if college is the right option. Then the idea turned into the emotional struggle through difficult decisions involving illness, such as trying to decide whether or not to have surgery or if a new medication is appropriate.
I call these transition phases. I have been caught in multiple transition phases over the last two months. Then I discovered this Reddit post, which led to this column.
In the Reddit post, the poster asks how others deal emotionally with having multiple diagnoses. I thought I could build upon that post. My typical diagnosis of cerebral palsy has been changing, and in many ways for the better. Over the last two months, I’ve been on better medication and I’m more active, for the most part. I don’t have as much pain in my day-to-day life. But getting there has meant that I’ve really had to plug back into my treatment programs and be more involved again. And I’ve been lining myself up to make some hard decisions about my health.
I also received two more diagnoses: ADHD and generalized anxiety disorder (which I’ve talked about here). I also suffer from chronic pain.
So, how do you emotionally deal with having multiple diagnoses? First, let me point out that everyone’s journey is different. Some people, like me, have been disabled for a long time, some are diagnosed in adulthood, and others are newly diagnosed. I think that the category you’re starting in really plays a part in how you cope. I was born with cerebral palsy and incorrectly diagnosed with some other disorders as a teenager. So, when I finally straightened out my “issues” as an adult, it was a validating and almost comforting experience.
However, I can vividly remember sitting in my specialist’s office at 16, while she shook her head and told me that there was nothing else she could do for me. I would be in pain from that point forward, and I would depend on a walker until I ended up in a wheelchair. That was the road map of my life. It was crushing. I cried for months. I ate my feelings.
It didn’t turn out that way, though. To be completely honest, when I first received that news it was a lot to take in, and I couldn’t accept it. But to change it, I needed to accept it.
Writing had always been my outlet, so the first thing I would recommend when dealing with multiple diagnoses is keeping a journal and writing your feelings out. In my case, I started a blog because I wanted to see if anyone else with cerebral palsy was going through what I was, and what did they do about it?
Find your support. The truth is that your friends may change. It stinks, but if they can’t accept and support you in what you’re going through it is probably best to weed them out anyway. Your family is there for you. The internet has a wealth of resources and people like yourself — so reach out to them. They want to talk, and they want to help. But keep that journal handy in case you need a place to truly vent.
Find and do things that make you happy. When I struggled to go out and take walks like I used to, I became a movie and TV show buff. When I was mobile, I didn’t have the time to watch all of the things I wanted to watch. I can now and it distracted my mind. My family and friends enjoyed going out to lunch a few times a week to get me out of the house. Today, you can find accessible activities — escape rooms, for example, are usually wheelchair-friendly.
Sometimes, you can’t change the cards you are dealt, and that’s why acceptance is so important. I still don’t walk the way I used to or want to, and it took me a while to embrace my mental health. But just being honest with yourself about where you are and finding things that still bring you joy in the face of it are both key.
Note: Cerebral Palsy News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disorder. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Cerebral Palsy News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to cerebral palsy.