WHEN you are diagnosed with a type of arthritis it is likely to stir up a lot of emotions for both the person receiving the diagnosis and their partner and immediate family, observes counsellor and psychotherapist Kirsty Taylor, member of the British Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy.
“There may initially be feelings of shock, anxiety and being overwhelmed; not only with the reality of doctors’ appointments, medication, lifestyle changes and issues with pain, but also with the prospect of living with a long-term illness,” she says.
According to Kirsty, people can feel angry that their life is about to change. “They may feel anger at themselves for their body letting them down in some way, and anger at others for not being able to fix them,” she says.
“Anger is a very normal emotion as you adjust to living with a long-term condition.“
“There may be an element of grief and a feeling of sadness over the loss of potential plans you had made, of things you will no longer be able to do, or activities and things you love that might be more difficult to do,” she adds.
COPING WITH SHOCK
It is normal to feel anxious and scared when you receive a diagnosis; the future is suddenly a bit less clear, and your mind may go to the worst-case scenario. You might feel stressed and potentially embarrassed at needing to ask for help, and at the physical difficulties that may arise – which can impact not only your relationships but your self-image, too.
“You might lack confidence in your body, feel let down that it cannot be relied on anymore and you may experience symptoms of depression and low mood as you adjust to the reality of living with a long-term health condition,” explains Kirsty.
“You might feel resilient one day and anxious the next. It is important to remember that these emotions are a normal part of how we react to shock and change. Talking therapies can also be a great way to have a safe space to explore some of the feelings.”
It can be useful to find some support from other people who are going through the same thing.
This might involve taking up a new activity such as walking in a group, joining a support group for others with the same diagnosis, or finding a place where it is safe to share experiences with those who really understand.
Talking therapies can also be a great way to have a safe space to explore some of the feelings you will experience as you accept and adjust to life with your condition.
It can also be useful to keep a journal if you find that helpful.
“Writing things down can help reduce negative thoughts and provide a space to work things through that feel overwhelming,” says Kirsty.
It can be difficult for friends, partners, and family to feel connected when someone is dealing with a diagnosis that means their body will not function in the same way.
Communicate about what’s going on, about how the diagnosis is affecting you all and how you can move forward and support each other.
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