Does It Feel Like Your Diagnosis Has Become Your Identity?
INSIDE I CRINGED WHEN EVERY CONVERSATION BEGAN WITH “HOW ARE YOU FEELING??”
After I was told (incorrectly) that I had leukemia back in 2004, I remember feeling like all the parts of me, all of the pieces of my identity that had existed before were gone.
The Lyn that was the daughter, the friend, the grad student, the dancer, the healthy and alive woman… all the parts of me, suddenly disappeared.
One minute all those parts of me existed and in that instant of hearing that I had cancer, it was like “poof” those parts of me were gone.
In the months that followed my diagnosis, I felt like the only part of me that was seen by anyone was “the sick person” or “the cancer patient.”
Every conversation with a friend seemed to begin with “How are you feeling?” or “How is your treatment going?”
While it was nice to know that people did care about me, it was also extremely painful to feel like I was reduced to this one identity of sick person.
I longed for all the other parts of me to still be seen, acknowledged, talked to and talked about…
It felt really lonely to be seen in only this way.
Yet I felt like it wasn’t ok to say, “You know, I’d really rather talk about something else…”
WHEN WE ARE GIVEN A LIFE-CHANGING HEALTH DIAGNOSIS, IT CAN FEEL LIKE THIS ONE THING BECOMES OUR ENTIRE IDENTITY… LIKE WE LOSE ALL THE OTHER PIECES OF OURSELVES.
And it’s painful…
Maybe you can feel how much you long to still be seen as wife, as mother, as friend, as daughter, as business woman, AS YOU.
Because this diagnosis is NOT YOU.
Let me say that again…
THIS DIAGNOSIS IS NOT, I REPEAT, NOT WHO YOU ARE.
You are still all of the parts of you that you were BEFORE you heard that diagnosis pronounced.
You might feel a bit worse for the wear, a bit more in pain or symptomatic. Yet those parts of you that seem to have vanished or be ignored are still there.
And it is totally ok (in fact, I encourage it!) for you to voice your needs and desires to talk about other parts of yourself and other parts of your life in conversations.
It is wonderful to say, “I appreciate your concern for me AND I also would love to talk about our relationship and the fun things we can do together today.”
THE LESS YOU ALLOW YOURSELF TO BECOME AND IDENTITY WITH YOUR ILLNESS AND YOUR DIAGNOSIS, THE HAPPIER AND MORE WHOLE YOU WILL FEEL AND THE EASIER IT WILL BE FOR YOUR MIND, MIND AND SPIRIT TO HEAL.
When we don’t let ourselves become identified as this diagnosis, when we still acknowledge all parts of ourselves, we empower ourselves to feel more whole and alive.
And that is a powerful fuel that can be used to heal and transform your health.