Denial Is Never the Answer When Facing New Symptoms
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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