I the July/August Issue of Neurology Now there was an article about Richard Cohen. Cohen was diagnosed in 1973 at the age of 25 with Multiple Sclerosis. At the time he had just landed a great job working with ABC news as an associate producer at the time of the Watergate hearings.
MS was not a mysterious disease for him to come to grips with. His mother and father both had Multiple Sclerosis.
“I don't deny that I have the illness, he says. I did for a while, and I think everybody does. But you come face to face with the symptoms soon enough. You'd be really out of touch with reality if you tried to play that game.”
“Still, what I denied then and what I deny now is the inevitability, the certainty of possible outcomes. I know I deteriorate because it's a progressive disease, but I'm not going to make assumptions about wheelchairs and not being able to go up steps and not being able to work-things like that, Cohen says.”
I read the article. I put it aside. Something intrigued me about it and at the same time I was bothered by it. I encourage you to follow the link and read it if you already haven’t.
It’s obvious that this man has had his share of health problems from having Multiple Sclerosis and has overcome many obstacles. He has also survived two bouts of colon cancer.
He also has a very supportive and successful celebrity wife, Meredith Vierra. Cohen too has enjoyed a successful career despite his health challenges.
So, I’m not proud, but honestly I have to say that if ANYTHING could make life with MS easier it would be an abundance of financial resources.
Yes, he continues to write and work and that is noble and impressive. He works because he has a passion about his work, not because he needs his income for survival. Unlike many of us the celebrity profile MS spokespeople don't have to worry about health care, insurance, paying the mortgage and being able to purchase your medications.
(Ok, pissyness aside now…I’m showing my internal dialogue that needs work: Feeling helpless about financial resources.)
He talks about a “healthy” denial…..Denying the inevitability and the certainty of possible outcomes with a progressive disease. I guess that’s as good as any Live In The Moment Philosophy. Can you really ever put that credo to task? Aren’t the inevitability's always peaking around the corners in the nooks and crannies of our lesioned minds?
The article goes on:" In the end, Cohen proves that a healthy sense of denial, no matter what the prognosis, is one way to face adversity. (Sorry, Sigmund).”
So, aren’t we talking about acceptance here? Once through all the other stages of grief we come to a place of acceptance. THEN WHAT???
Kublar Ross wrote those stages of grief for the dying. We aren’t dying! It’s a chronic progressive disease. We get to stick around and deal with the continued punches. So we accepted IT. Every day we work through a new or recurring problem and again we do the stages and work toward Acceptance. It is what it is.
Well someone answered my question. He too read the article about Mr. Cohen and wrote a response to the editor. It made sense to me.
Patrick Jones wrote that “for people whose losses are not terminal or even immediately terminal, they often reach the Acceptance stage and then enter depression because they are at a loss at how to proceed.”
See there’s the rub that was bothering me…it was the “now what?”
He added two additional stages of grief :
I’ve been giving these two steps a lot of thought lately. Not coincidentally it being my 50th year on the planet.
- DENIAL (This isn't happening to moi!)
- ANGER (Why moi)
- BARGAINING (What If...)
- DEPRESSION (Whatever...)
- ACCEPTANCE (OH well...*blush* speech..."For this award I'd like to thank my producers...)
Patrick Jones adds:
- INTEGRATION (The challenge of meshing your new decreased abilities and capacities with who you are.
- CO-CREATION (Contribute and follow your passions and create a new path for yourself)
Apologies to Mr. Jones. I paraphrased my own interpretations based on my spiritual or lack of spiritual beliefs. Nevertheless I found much to think about. I'm working on INTEGRATION. I know my disability from MS is not who I am. I learned awhile back that I also am not what I did. I enjoyed and profited from my work as an artist/designer and I used to define myself by it.
Obviously we have to try to move past the fact that this and that keeps happening with our MS and decide what we can do, want to do, and do it. (sometime I feel like I need to do things whle I am able)
So, I can still paint, I just have new limitations...but I can still enjoy the process. Which brings me to CO-CREATION. Following my passions regardless of preconceived notions on what the end result should be. I really don't know what else I would do that has value to me.
If I don't post as often it will be because I am conserving my time and attempting to schedule myself into my life as I now know it. If I don't I surely will fall into stagnation and back to depression.