What I learnt in therapy

As part of my 20 week program at a rehabilitation center, I saw a psychologist and psychiatrist. Despite being a person who was so unequivocally against therapy, I eventually gave in to the process and learnt a lot. One of the things we discussed were Worden’s 4 tasks of mourning. The following tasks are very broad. I think they’re purposely vague because the tasks mean different things to different people. Everyone is going through their own loss and feeling different emotions.

Task 1: To accept the reality of the loss. Now no one has died but you need to mourn the loss of your old life. Accepting how or why you got sick. It seems like accepting reality is easy but it’s not.

Task 2: To work through the pain of grief. Mourn the things you can no longer do. There was so much that I couldn’t do and had to give up, or at least figure out a different way of doing. I was scared, frustrated and unable to take help from anyone. That eventually turned to anger. I was angry at the uncertainty of the future. Would doctors find cancer? Would the treatment to suppress the antibody that’s causing the damage work? Would I have more neurological damage? Would I work again? Would I walk again? Every one could sympathize but no one had answers.

You don’t want to ignore the feeling because avoidance can turn into anxiety. You need to confront the situation and realize why you have that feeling. Working through it is the best. It’s okay not to be okay. As long as it doesn’t take over your whole life.

Task 3: To adjust to an environment in which the deceased is missing. You need to begin to adjust to a life with limitations. It took me a long time to find my new normal. I was able to slowly start adjusting after about 2 years of treatments, specialist appointments and a vigorous rehabilitation program. Things had to slow down physically and mentally and while my neurologist said there’s no more clinical treatments left at the moment, I finally got a clearer picture of what the future could be. Less uncertainty. More physical therapy.

I realize this could mean different things for everyone. It could be adjusting your house or work to be more accessible, it could be that your illness has made you turn to religion, or learning how to do skills with your limitations.

Task 4: To find an enduring connection with the deceased while embarking on a new life. Finally finding a connection with your old life while figuring out what you can do within your limitations.Before I got sick I loved hiking and traveling. Now I can go for rolls though the national parks using my wheelchair and smart drive. I recently flew for the first time. So I can travel as long as I get enough down time. It’s a different style of traveling.

It was explained to me that the tasks are like a circle.

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Obviously you start at 1 and work your way through. But with chronic illness or disease you can backtrack to previous tasks. Negative situations can confirm your thought patterns. In my case negative interactions confirmed my social anxiety

You’re not always going to be positive about being sick. It changes your entire life. I think mental health is something that always needs to be worked on. I have physical therapy to work on my physical health. Why not therapy to work on my mental health?

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