Denial Is Never the Answer When Facing New Symptoms

Michelle Gonzaba avatar

by Michelle Gonzaba |

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While it’s not a positive emotion, we have all experienced denial. I’ve denied so many things in my life, from major events to inconsequential moments. And when I say inconsequential, I mean it: Jennifer Lopez not being nominated for an Oscar for “Hustlers”? I simply refuse to believe it.

Nevertheless, we all choose denial at certain points in our life to help us survive. If we can just ignore a problem, why not? I heavily leaned on denial when I first started to show signs of myasthenia gravis (MG). I honestly thought that if I ignored the signs, they would go away.

While my denial initially saved me some stress and anxiety, it only postponed the inevitable

My first sign of MG was my weak mouth. While brushing my teeth, my mind was occupied with thoughts of an upcoming move to Austin, Texas, for college. I was going through the typical motions of brushing and rinsing my teeth when I noticed something odd.

When I filled my mouth with water and closed my lips to swish it around, drops began to slowly leak from between my lips. Something about my mouth just felt off.

I spit out the water, thinking, “That’s weird,” and then completely forgot about it seconds later. Much later, I realized I hadn’t forgotten it, I simply had forced myself to ignore it. It was the first instance of denial in a long run of symptoms.

My mouth continued to have weakness throughout the first semester, but I blew it off. Unfortunately, it eventually began to affect my speech.

While giving a presentation in front of a small group of students, my voice became more nasal-sounding by the second. I started to panic. Could anyone else hear how odd my voice sounded? Although I can’t remember what class it was or what I was talking about, I’ll never forget one kid looking at me with furrowed eyebrows and then glancing at the teacher. That look was enough confirmation for me to realize something wasn’t right.

So, like any normal person, I went back to my apartment, convinced myself that my allergies were just super bad, and went on with my life. 

When my mouth became increasingly worse over time, I started to sort-of-but-not-really accept that something weird was going on in my body. The weakness was so bad that I would use my right hand to move my jaw up and down to aid my chewing while covering my mouth with my left. Totally normal behavior from someone who is in denial.

By my second semester, I noticed I was starting to have double vision, and my left eye was slightly drooping. Nothing’s wrong with me, I thought, but I should probably start taking stronger allergy medication (because double vision and droopy eyelids are such common symptoms of seasonal allergies).

But my vision was deteriorating so badly that I would cover my left eye while driving so I wouldn’t see double. I don’t recommend this strategy to anyone. Ever. 

Nothing good came out of my denial. When I think back on those early days, I realize it only postponed my diagnosis and treatment.

So, although denial helped me get through my days, it did not save me from MG in the long run. I could deny it every second of every day, but that wouldn’t change anything. I had MG. MG was a part of me. However, it taught me an important lesson: Denial may be tempting, but it’s always better to find acceptance so the healing can begin.

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Myasthenia Gravis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

Comments

Jennifer Sykes avatar

Jennifer Sykes

I have infalmaltory muscle disease what the different in myasthenia gravis do they belong to the same family I am doing treatment of I VI G infusions

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Michelle Gonzaba avatar

Michelle Gonzaba

Hi Jennifer, while I don't know if inflammatory muscle disease is related to myasthenia gravis, I have also done IVIG treatments. I hope they are working for you!

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JOHN D AUTORE avatar

JOHN D AUTORE

You are so on the money about your health problem details... except for one detail.... there was no denying my problems. I started having all the problem symptoms of MYASTHENIA GRAVIS .... but I was MAD and annoyed. That was because in 8 months of searching for a diagnosis of MG, no doctor was able to diagnosis my illness. At six months ... I went to a Banner hospital. They only GUESSED WRONG .... they gave me three varieties of PNEUMONIA, gave me three holes in my body (Chest, back, and Neck TRACH), 4 months of hearing loss (Antibiotics side effects), 4 months of breathing tubes, three months of no food eating until the "Oreo Cookie Test" .... a camera up your nose to check if you could eat/swallow, and after 24 days undiagnosed... sent me to 2nd hospital, where I was undiagnosed for 26 days ....till a floor nurse recognized MYASTHENIA GRAVIS from the same symptoms in other of her patients. Ended up spending 4 months in three hospitals ... because first hospital kept guessing WRONG !!! I WANTED ANSWERS !!! and was not getting anything ... but oh you have a stroke but not showing on MRI, you have food in your lungs and right lung is collapsed ... but its aspiration pneumonia ... not one of the MG symptoms.

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Michelle Gonzaba avatar

Michelle Gonzaba

I am so sorry you have been through all of that. It took my doctor a little while for them to understand what was going on, but I didn't go through anything near what you have. Sending good vibes to you and hope you are doing better.

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Marc Scott avatar

Marc Scott

Guess I was really fortunate. After several visits to an ophthalmologist he ordered testing for MG and that was the beginning of the journey

Marc Scott
Bend, OR

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Michelle Gonzaba avatar

Michelle Gonzaba

Hi Marc! Once I accepted something was "wrong" with my body, I was diagnosed pretty quickly with MG too. Hope you're doing well and thanks for the comment!

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Joyce Siegel avatar

Joyce Siegel

I have MG. Symptoms started with double vision and slurred speech. Diagnosed pretty quickly as sent to a neuroophthalmologist who sent me for a blood test for MG. On mestinon for a few months and just weaned off of prednisone by my neurologist beginning of April after a year on it. Well I very recently have some symptoms of double vision again so must make appt. with neurologist.
My question is this: could you describe the feelings in your legs that you call “weakness”. How MG affects the legs.
Thank you for all of your interesting and helpful articles you have written. I am 82 years old and have been healthy all my long life until MG came along a year ago.
Joyce

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Michelle Gonzaba avatar

Michelle Gonzaba

Hi Joyce! When I had weakness in my legs, it felt like I had been running or working out for a long time, but I hadn't. I had only ever felt that weakness after moving furniture and boxes for hours.

They were so weak, I once fell down when I did a slight jog to catch an elevator. I had to let them rest for 10-15 minutes before I could get up again. No pain or tingling, just weakness. I hope that helps. Thank you for reading and I send you good vibes-MG is tough but it sounds like you are taking good care of yourself.

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