I have always been familiar with the five stages of grief. I knew about them at an early age as I watched my mother go through them after the loss of her mother, and then went through them myself after the death of my mom.
I know these stages are a way of processing trauma, or sudden change of reality, so I feel sure that I have been going through at least a few of these very same stages since my diagnosis with Epstein Barr Virus.
1. Denial and isolation
When I first learned I was positive for the Epstein-Barr Virus, or EBV, I was at work. The nurse had just called with the news, which at first I was ecstatic to learn. I have been searching for the source of my unexplained pain and weird symptoms off and on for years. I was even to the point I was questioning my sanity and my own reasons for hurting! Was I really a hypochondriac? Was this all in my head? Was it Psychosomatic due to my history of abuse? I needed answers desperately, so when this call came I was just excited it was news, I wasn’t really grasping the severity of the results. That was until I came home and started researching this new idea.
I quickly realized that this virus, this bug, or whatever it is… is responsible for my mother’s quick and painful demise just 3 years ago. She had been diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma in 2011, but had gone into remission. But in September of 2013 she went quickly from doing fine and actually walking in the “Cancer Survivors: Walk for Life” to sudden and extreme fever, confusion, brain seizures and heart attacks and then death, all within 9 days!
My first thought upon discovering the real reasons mom had died… the first thought after realizing that I could end up the same exact way… was “Holy crap! I need to get my affairs in order!” That’s how quickly the fear can take hold. I isolated, I denied, I decided I don’t want this diagnosis. I was in full stage one of the grief stages.
Then stage two came along.
Anger. I had already moved my little pity party trailer into this spot and taken up residence several years ago. As I mentioned earlier, I am a victim of abuse. I suffer from PTSD and have been in counseling for the effects of this long-term emotional, physical and verbal abuse I have suffered since childhood. I also am working to get past the anger I have towards the individuals that abused me. So my heart has dwelled in this anger pool for some time now, but this anger was different.
This anger was directed towards the doctors and nurses and medical professionals I have been reaching out to since my 20’s. I was angry that it has taken it soooooooo very long to actually get to a real definitive answer. And very angry that I am now this far into the EBV diagnosis that the very next step for me will be a diagnosis of one of the many Lymphomas it is known to cause, or even meningitis or brain stem and nervous system damage. I am angry that I have been medicating my severe depression for almost 20 years with drugs that cause extreme weight gain, amongst the other terrible side effects of anti-depressants.
I am angry that I have been suicidal for years now due to not feeling well every single day of my life and thinking it was ALL IN MY HEAD! Or thinking that I deserved the pain because I was not able to eat the most healthy or because I drank too much, didn’t exercise enough, ran myself ragged trying to do it all?
Yes, I was angry… maybe I still am a little angry. But I will continue to work through this.
Bargaining comes into play the next day, as I read there are vitamins and diets out there that I can start taking and it will “cure” me!
If you really think about this word, bargaining, it can actually become a form of denial. So by researching and sharing information with family, I am getting more and more hopeful that if I change my ways immediately, then I will cure this! I will be free! It will just be another one of those bad things I have been able to overcome because I am SUCH an OVERCOMER. I am able to come through adversity and strife and actually thrived! I am resilient so I will bounce back from this and never look back! Denial…. Bargaining…. Denial….its all such a sneaky little fine line…and suddenly… we are back at our cozy little angry place.
And in that cozy little trailer of anger, is our secret room. Our little pitch black room that has continuous surround sound speakers that exacerbate our sadness and anger with words of self-doubt, fear, anger (there’s that emotion again) and worthlessness.
Depression has been my friend, she has always been there for me, but now I know she is most likely a product of my EBV along with my past… not a real, true, black cloud that will reside inside me forever ( I hope). Depression is a true and real disease. I am not denying that in the least. However, seeing that this virus can “cause” depression and even psychosis, and in putting together the timeline of my particular story of how long I have most likely lived between stages 1 and 2 of this EBV… my depression is most likely the product of the EBV and not just a hereditary disease all on its own.
Acceptance is really where I find myself at this particular moment, this very second I write this sentence. But just as quickly I slip back into the other stages, waffling back and forth and ready to go hide in my anger trailer within its dark safe walls.
I will continue to research. I will continue to poke my head out and try to get to (and stay) in a healthier place within my head. But this is all a process, and I will be visiting these 5 stages off and on for a while.
And hope… there’s always hope…because:
As long as there is life, there is hope. As long as there is hope, there is life.