Breaking Through Denial

by Carol Meyer, GBPPA Member

All of the PPS literature tells me that I must slow down and learn how to pace myself. Being a workaholic and a perfectionist for most of my life, I find this an extraordinarily difficult task. How do I go about charting this new lifestyle for myself? Part of my problem, I've decided, is breaking through the heavy layers of my denial.

Actually I've been slowing down in stages ever since 1981 when my daughter was born. It was then that I had to leave my teaching career behind because its demands were too stressful for me. My doctors told me then that I needed to eliminate stress from my life and take rests during the day. I felt as if I'd been slapped with a prison sentence! I was depressed and angry. After a long time, I was finally able to accept my life without teaching, but I didn't pay attention to the other suggestions my doctors made. I had too many things that I wanted to do; and ignoring my fatigue and breathlessness, I forced myself to continue. I was still in denial.

New Year's Day of 1989 found me with pneumonia and being intubated in Lowell General Hospital's ICU. While I did recover from the pneumonia, I wasn't able to breathe on my own. I made the decision then to have a tracheotomy, and that really stabilized my health... no more bronchitis or pneumonia. When I was discharged, my doctors told me again to get lots of rest, curtail my activities, and cut out stress. It was then that I started to take a rest in the afternoons, but I didn't pay attention to the other suggestions. As a matter of fact, I took on more projects and activities. I was still in denial.

This spring we moved; and after getting settled into our new home, I decided to do a lot of entertaining. I went for weeks without taking any rests at all, and I told myself smugly that I knew how to do this without stress! Well, by mid-August, I had collapsed! I was exhausted to the point of not being able to breathe. I canceled everything and went to bed! This pause in my life has made one thing clear to me: I don't want to continue to abuse my body the way I have in the past. Maybe now I can be free from my denial!

I have always been a very strong-willed and driven person, and I guess this has helped me to survive many polio-related health crises throughout my life. My denial, too, was a survival and coping device. These characteristics have also worked against me! Now I must take my strong will and determination and direct it toward creating a healthier lifestyle for myself. I can no longer afford to be in denial!

I am trying to take more rests every day now, and I'm limiting the number of outside activities per week. I'm focusing on my nutrition, and I'm finding relaxing ways to use my time at home. I'm communicating with other PPSers daily on the Internet. Not only does this give me support and friendship, but I also receive much good information about PPS through them. This in turn helps me to break out of my denial.

Is this what is meant by slowing down and pacing myself? Well, if it is, I'm actually finding myself enjoying it. In fact, I think that it's going to work out for me. Good-bye, Denial!

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