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PCOS and the Grief Process: All About Denial

I recently mentioned that I was embarking on a mini-series of blog posts about the grief process, and how it relates to PCOS. I talked about a handy summary term known as DABDA, which stands for denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Denial is present in our lives in many ways, and it’s actually a very helpful defense – sometimes our minds go into denial, because unconsciously, they know that we’re not quite ready to handle a crisis, trauma, or issue yet. For example, the woman who sees signs of cheating in her marriage, yet overlooks the hints, bypasses opportunities to question her husband, and insists that her neighbor can’t be right – yet she KNOWS in her heart that it’s true. That’s denial.

In death, denial is often quite literally a failure to recognize or believe that a person is dead, that they died a certain way (i.e., suicide), that the death was unavoidable, or that they are not at fault in the death. While one is in the process of dying, the denial may simply be a belief that it is not possible to be dying from THIS – not me, not now.

Specific to PCOS, denial looks:
• “I don’t have PCOS – it’s something else – they just haven’t come up with the right diagnosis for me.”
• “PCOS is no big deal – I mean, I had to have an IVF and all, but whatever – I got my baby, and now I can ignore it.” J
• “PCOS isn’t like a terminal disease or anything, so why do I have to deal with it?”
• “Having a baby will fix it. That’s 10 years away, but in any case, I don’t have to deal with it now.”
• “Those medications don’t really work (so I’m not going to take them).”
• “If I just can find the right combination of supplements, this will all be okay.”
• “If I go gluten-free, I’ll be cured – but that’s so impossible, I won’t even try.”
• “I’m pretty sure that dark chocolate is a health food, so I’m going to have this entire 3.4 ounce bar.”
• “Exercise is overrated – I’ll just gain weight if I gain muscle mass, right?”

Denial’s great when it really is needed and protects you, like the child who is being molested and denies it until she’s an adult, when it’s actually safe for her to tell someone. Or when you just got a cancer diagnosis, and you don’t quite get that your particular cancer has a 75% mortality rate – and maybe if you realized that before you got a chance to explore treatment, you’d consider suicide to be a good option. Sometimes it’s protective.

Yet, as adults, most of the time, denial is working against us. It prevents us from seeing the real picture of what’s happening with our bodies, our lives, and our relationships. It prevents us from grieving. It keeps us from making decisions that will improve or protect our future. It stops us from eating better, or exercising more, or getting enough sleep (another favorite form of denial that I hear all the time is “I don’t know how I do it, but I can totally get along on five hours of sleep” – to which I say, BALONEY!). It stops us from spending money on the help we really need. It allows us to continue engaging in damaging behaviors, poor self-care, and unhealthy relationships.

If reading this gives you a little stinging sensation of recognition, there’s good news. You can start to acknowledge reality. Talking to someone who cares about you, sharing your fears and the thoughts you’ve been hiding, is a good start. If you can’t do that, put it in writing – it’s amazing how seeing it in black and white can help to bring clarity to your random thoughts.

Next week, I’ll address anger, and the insidious impacts that it has on your health.

Gretchen Kubacky, Psy.D. is a Health Psychologist in private practice in West Los Angeles, California. She has completed the inCYST training. She specializes in counseling women and couples who are coping with infertility, PCOS, and related endocrine disorders and chronic illnesses.

If you would like to learn more about Dr. HOUSE or her practice, or obtain referrals in the Los Angeles area, please visit her website at www.drhousemd.com, or e-mail her at AskDrHouseMD@gmail.com. You can also follow her on Twitter @askdrhousemd.

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