Saturday, February 20, 2010

stages of change

Tonight was not a good night. I thought I was doing a lot better at accepting that I'm might be in constant pain for the rest of my life. That I might never be able to tell how my health was going to be from one second to the next. But I'm not. I just can't fully conceptualize this as my forever reality, which it might well be.

I thought I had gotten to a point where I was happy with the way I'm living my life. Until I realized how truly angry I am.

The five stages of change are denial, anger, depression, bargaining and acceptance. People go through them in different orders. I think I'm often in several of them at once. Right now, at least, anger's my main one.

Among other things, I'm angry at myself at not being more in the acceptance stage. It's been over 3.5 years since my migraines became constant, and it feels like a while. I feel like I should be "farther along" towards acceptance. (Or mostly-acceptance, as I'm not sure I will ever fully accept my chronic health problems.)

But then i think about how I spent that time. I spent the first year in denial--I just assumed they were going to go away. I spent the next year in a different type of denial---assuming I could just live my life however I wanted and decide to just ignore my symptoms. (That didn't go so well.) That's two years on denial.

But now, I'm much more in the anger stage. I'm angry at my body for this "betrayal," anger at society towards the way it treats people like me, angry at my friends when they say things that hurt, angry at insurance companies, angry at a G-d I don't believe in... The list could go on.

I'm angry at a lot of things, but some of them are targets of misplaced anger. The anger is spilling over into other parts of my life and I didn't even realize until today. I want to work on untangling and dealing with it in healthier ways. And I think I can do this, now that I have noticed how angry I am.

But I also need to work on accepting my stages of change. Because I'm not a bad person for taking however long I need to get towards a happier stage.


  1. I've gone through the five stages at least half a dozen times in the last year and a half since my accident. It sucks. I'm not sure I'll ever be done dealing with it. Every day brings a fresh reminder of something else I can't do anymore.

    I'm not sure I have anything constructive to add, but I wanted to say that yes... I hear you. And a "me too", for what it's worth.

  2. I try to be positive on my blog...but my main state is still anger and it's been 11 years.

    So I wish you luck.


  3. It is not fair Assiya, and that would make anyone angry. I hope you can be less angry with yourself though (not that I am one to talk!!!).
    I make jokes about getting to the stage of acceptance because I accept that I am angry! (wink!)

  4. Assiya, Great post...I am still stuck in denial most of time. I was diagnosed in 2001 and I am waiting for the doctor to call and tell me he made a mistake, and all I need to do is take a different med and I'll go back to "normal"...whatever that is.

  5. Assiya,

    I really enjoyed reading this post. And although I'm sure there are parts of you that may feel very stuck right now, I love how you've shared too those parts of you that have broken free and stretched past denial. I kinda dislike the word denial. I prefer to frame it as "aware" vs "unaware" I wasn't aware of the emotional and physical stress-mess I was creating in my life and body, not in the beginning of my journey with migraines. And it can feel daunting to welcome our emotions, especially the negative ones like anger, resentment, etc because sometimes it's really easy to get lost in the fear of those emotions taking over and destroying us beyond what the migraines alone have already done.

    I know that being angry with myself for what I coulda or shoulda done earlier only made my situation worse. And when I decided to embrace that girl who was lost in denial and love her BECAUSE she was in denial, (not in spite of her being in denail and not because i wanted her to change,) that was when so much resistance fell by the wayside and anger didn't any longer have a grip on me.

    Everything you've written in this post shows tremendous awareness about where you once were, your feelings about having been there, your current emotions and deepended awareness now. I say Bravo to you for some pretty incredible insights that can only support you in your healing journey.

    Thank you for writing this post,

  6. I just wanted to say thank you for writing this.

  7. I think about the stages of grief a lot, and I really don't think it's a linear journey. I feel like I cycle through it a lot, feeling angry at some times, depressed at others, and sometimes (SOMETIMES), at peace. It's absolutely acceptable to be angry in your condition! But I do hope you can find some peace.

    Thanks for getting back to me about the interviewing! I'd love to chat with you. Do you have an email or a Skype name with which I can contact you? Please send it to me at Thanks, Assiya!

  8. 15 years later, I still spend every day in pain. It has lessened as I become weaker, but your journey is one that I took. For me, it culminated in facing deep into how I rated worth, a look deep into my heart to really find out what I am about. It took a number of years, and I want to encourage you that you are not going unnaturally slow.

  9. I go in and out of the stages depending on my pain levels and injury status (I've had rheumatoid arthritis for 40+ years), but in general do try to look for beauty and joy. Not just because it seems like a good idea in general, making life more enjoyable, but also because being angry takes an awful lot of energy. And also tends to make the pain worse, so at the end of the day, processing my anger and letting it go is healthier, both emotionally and physically.

    I'm a big fan of an audio program called Mindfulness for Beginners by Jon Kabat-Zinn - mindfulness is tremendously helpful in terms of the processing and accepting, but also because of he says 12 words that rocked my world and help me whenever I get stuck: there is more right with you than there is wrong with you. It's a good thing to remember.