Elizabeth Kubler-Ross' five stages of grieving, from her book 'On Death and Dying'. Originally, these five stages were applied to those with terminal illness, or those grieving the loss of a loved one. I think that they can also be applied to those of us with chronic illnesses, whether life-limiting or not.
I am 30 years old, soon to be 31. I have been ill for longer than I can remember. Over the years, I have suffered losses as a result of my illness: my hearing; my ability to run, and then to walk; the career that I always thought was my destiny; friends; independence. I could go on, but I'm sure you get the idea.
These little losses can build up until life seems utterly hopeless. Grieving for these losses can cause losses too. I mourned my joie de vivre as much as the loss of my long-awaited career. Thankfully, my love for life returned, and I found other interests to occupy my time. This, I suppose, is acceptance.
If I were to reshape the stages of grief, I would make them into the shape of a spider web. Not only because there's a large spider on the other side of the room, but because I have so often bounced from one to the other in no apparent order. Having reached the glorious state of acceptance, I sometimes find myself ricocheting into anger, denial, depression, bargaining and back, all within the space of a few days. Sometimes even within the space of a few hours.
Acceptance for me has been about valuing the things that I can still do. When that has seemed next to nothing, I have tried to take up new hobbies. I re-learnt to knit when I was housebound for six months, and this has proved immensely satisfying. Not only does it occupy many lonely hours, but I have something beautiful to show at the end of it. Something that I have made, without walking, without lifting, despite pain. I am reaching a point where I can't knit for long without dislocating my fingers and wrists, but feel peaceful about this. I have been here before, and I will still be me, despite everything that my body throws at me.
Acceptance has also been about defining myself according to who I am, rather than what I do. I am no longer a medic, a scientist or an investment banker; no longer a GB waterskier, a swimmer or a wheelchair-skills tutor. On good days I can still be sociable, bake, read and knit. On bad days I sleep, vomit, nebulise and take medications. Despite all of this, I am still me. I am kind, enthusiastic, deeply interested in the world around me, hopeful, optimistic, grateful, generous, and sarcastic.This 'me' may live in a decrepit and failing body, but it is little different for that. I look after this body as best I can and hope that it will continue to support me for many years to come.
Despite the state of my body, I am glad to be alive.