Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Good and Bad of Denial

by Donna L. Watkins

Richard M. Cohen writes in Lifting a Life Above Illness - Blindsided - A Reluctant Memoir, about his process of the journey with a degenerative autoimmune disease.

© 2008 Donna L. Watkins - Palamedes Swallowtail at Bivens Arm Nature Park
Although not written with a Christian viewpoint of healing, and with a bit of cussing, the book was very inspirational to the fortitude and mental processing of diagnosis and progression of a devastating disease.

I have determined from the beginning that the disease would not be the end-all to the diagnosis, but that Jesus died for our healing and that we can walk it out if we listen closely and seek the path towards it. We must all find our own "method" of living with such a life change, so there is no one path to seek in finding our way out.

He writes his thoughts after getting the diagnosis of multiple sclerosis by phone: "At that moment, my journey to a strange new land began. That place would be both exotic and rude. There would be no certain return. 'Illness is an unexplored frontier,' Virginia Woolf wrote in a 1925 essay. Sickness would take its place with love and war and jealousy as the forces of a newly defined life. They would be joined by coping, a word I did not really know."

Disease can bring about a lot of good in one's life. It certainly has in mine. I would not want to have lived without it, because I feel I would have never really lived. I was always in super speed mode. I am actually grateful to have been given a chance to slow down and really choose what I wanted my life to be all about.

God promises to use the bad circumstances in our lives for good, but often the "systems" of the world tell us that something is impossible, when in reality it is not. God's Word is more Truth to me than what the world (or medical system) has to say, and so my goal has always been healing ... although I can't claim that it's always been my focus. More on that later.

Obviously, any person with a disease that affects every waking moment requires learning a lot about living in a manner other than what they were used to. Having rheumatoid arthritis (RA) has required that of me. There is the realm of denial that all must process through in various ways and various lengths of time. I thought Cohen made a grand analysis of this word that is generally thought of as being bad for us:

"Serious sickness was a large reality sandwich for a skinny young man to swallow. I seem to have viscerally and quite accidentally stumbled upon a coping mechanism of some value. Denial. Misused by amateur shrinks. Misjudged by those who just think it is bad. Misunderstood by those who have not thought it through. Yes, denial can put the brain to sleep, anesthetizing the mind that refuses to face the truth and see the approaching freight train hauling the heavy load of hard reality. But denial has two sides, and I have been favored by its more attractive side.

For me, denial has been the linchpin of the determination to cope and to hope. Denial allows any individual with a problem to invent his or her personal reality and to move forward with life in the belief that he or she is in control and can do what needs to be done to keep going. Denial encourages anyone to test perceived limits and, as a consequence, to postpone concessions.

There is nothing wrong with that. MS lasts a lifetime, and I have learned that self-knowledge and coping arrive in their own time. I was setting out to prove to the jury of one, me, that I was just like everyone. I was not like everyone anymore, of course, and would not be again, but I could not bring myself to face that simple fact. Not yet."

Months back I realized that I have lived too comfortably in a suite of denial rooms with pieces of my life tucked neatly away into each of them. I had found a supplement program that managed the pain well enough, although the deformity and destruction of RA moved right along. My energy pattern resembled a jackrabbit, a day of darting about to catch up on tasks, or a sloth, sitting frozen still with severe fatigue.

My focus was on being strong and managing with the disease, staying close to God, with my emotions held captive in the dungeon, not allowed to see the light of day because what we allow ourselves to dwell on will become who we are.

In being strong and working hard to ignore the destruction, I was quite cozy with denial of some sort. What I recently realized was that I had not faced the disease head-on for battle. I'm pretty independent and strong-headed, so my conclusion on dealing with RA was to find a way to live with it, although my heart and soul wanted to live without it.

I can relate to Cohen saying, "Human endurance is a vast proportion that most of us do not realize. We think we are weak, failing to recognize our intrinsic strength. I was stronger than ever I realized."

During this period of many years, God has done so much in my life and personality and giftings. While the devil stirs up strife and sickness, God is all the while using it for our good (if we will love him through it as Romans 8 explains). Oh! the glorious Light of His love in the midst of all our darkness.

Cohen's father also had MS and he recounts that his father simply went about his business saying, "When limitations came on, I just went along with them ... I did not involve myself with histrionics, saying, 'Oh lord, I am going to be a cripple.' I just went day to day." As Richard Cohen states, "That is the crux of the coping challenge, to keep the ball in play and the door to dramatics shut tight."

What a great ball game that is. It's like ignoring the elephant in a small room, but yet you know if you acknowledge the elephant you will also be trampled by it.

For now my comforts of denial have been thoroughly cleaned out, no longer of use, and the dumpster now even holds the passiveness I've lived in, as I am now in direct battle with the disease. I scheduled the attack on every front. A prayer session at church, a dear intercessor friend who stands with me, an herbal program that is not just pain-centered, but healing and building, along with rebound exercise that keeps the lymphatic system cleaned out as the Silver Shield kills off the microorganisms related to RA.

It's paying off. Seeking the Lord daily for His direction, because there's never one set program for healing or regaining health. We are created unique and our bodies mend uniquely.

I was rewarded quickly noticing a difference in energy almost right away, but now that it's been months with steady energy and the ability to do things I've not done for many years, I know in my heart that I'm on the path. My diligence is to stay in such a state of worship realizing how much life has returned to my world and mystically wondering how God will use me when I've completed the path back.

For now ... it's still one day at a time, but they seem to be in a chain rather than solitary, and each one is a warm hug from Papa God. Don't give up! Many of you are fighting illnesses of your own. Don't ever give in and believe it's always going to be this way. Don't allow it! May God give you the insight and determination necessary to mount your own battle against disease ... or maybe join in somebody else's battle.

Related Article: Victim Of A Disease

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