From Linda M. Rio, MA, MFT – Whenever a person has a medical or mental health challenge their world becomes micro-focused. What I mean by this is that whether it be a physical pain in the body or an emotional hurt, a relationship in trouble, an emotional loss or grief, a fear or worry, mental or cognitive confusion, memory lapses or losses, feelings of a loss of hope and despair, deep sadness and emotional pain, these all represent reasons why people’s perspective suddenly narrows to mostly encompass mostly on this “pain”. It can feel like the world stops and only this or these painful issues are what’s important. It is like as humans our bodies, minds, souls gather all the troops together in order to fight an enemy.
Many, many years ago, my husband and I had a friend whose wife suddenly left him and their two young children for another man. Our friend was devastated. He would come to our house to share what he was going through and we tried to listen. After weeks and weeks, he was still crying and talking about what he felt was the utter devastation and destruction of the family he thought he had as well as the future he planned to have. Life for him came to a halt. He talked of nothing else. I am a bit embarrassed to admit but after a few months, we began to dread seeing his car come up our road knowing what we were going to hear and witness, again. His tears, anger, despair, fears, again. We even started to not answer the door. He could talk of nothing else and quite frankly it wasn’t our issue and we had our own lives to lead but he was still caught up in the very sticky tangled web of grief and loss, loss of what he had, loss of what he thought his future would be.
Pituitary illnesses often involve so much more than mere numbers on a hormone assay report or the size of a tumor shown on an MRI. Pituitary patients have lives before symptoms develop, before the often-long struggle to discover a proper medical diagnosis. Pituitary patients have hopes dreams and plans. The World also had plenty of those hopes and plans …then came a pandemic.
For pituitary patients, at least for a while, their world is their illness. For many, the illness is long and difficult to define its boundaries. Pituitary illnesses often invade not only a small cavern inside the head at the base of the brain but spread far and wide to impact the whole body on some level, the mind, emotions, and then family, friend, work relationships too. Pituitary illnesses are, I think, like a personal pandemic. Like the current COVID-19 pandemic it just keeps going, and going, and going. When will this all end?
I hear from pituitary patients and their families who say that dealing with their own symptoms, finding doctors, nurses, therapists, etc. who not only believe in pituitary disorders but have skills to treat these illnesses is more than difficult, sometimes seemingly impossible. And, on top of dealing with a major physical illness, and all the life stress that accompanies any life then, there is a pandemic. And, then there is the Delta variant, and then the Omicron variant, and then…
Most of us can recall the first many months in the second quarter and beyond of 2020. Was there any TV or social media outlet not completely, nearly 100% focused on COVID? Did any of us talk about much other than COVID back then? Many of us were glued to the 24-hour news shows and became best friends with a doctor named Fauci who was with us daily. Now at the onset of 2022 with yet another level of threat by the invisible virus many people are tired of it all. We’ve started to not answer the door when we see it driving up our street. We want to move on! For those with pituitary disorders, the pandemic has been like the proverbial cherry on top of the cake but in a very negative way. “And now this!”, I often hear. On top of an already stressed body, mind, heart the pandemic has added another (rather huge) layer of stress to an already stressed system.
So, back to our friend. It took a long time for him but he actually did find love again. He eventually remarried a woman with two children of her own and they built another life, not the one either had planned or even wanted or could ever have imagined. Our world is still in the stages of grieving the safety we thought we had in the air we breathe. Our world is not yet ready to envision a very different vision of the future but there are signs of trying. The pandemic isn’t the only or even the top story every night on the news. There is talk about living “with” versus obliterating the virus which means knowing it could mutate again, and again. Many of us have come to terms with washing hands frequently, wearing masks even when we don’t want to, changing how we greet one another instead of hugging, and much more. None of these things did we ever plan for or envisioned as part of our lives yet here we are adapting, adjusting, surviving. This is taking time and each individual person is finding a way to come to terms with this in their own way.
Pituitary illness rocks a world. It turns the body, the mind, soul upside down and inside out. Pituitary illness affects the person but also the person in their world and all around. Even after “successful treatment” the shockwaves continue (this is something many are not prepared for). But, at some point there is adaptation. The life you envisioned, the future you planned, the body you wanted, all need to be rearranged into a new order. In the five stages of the grieving process, the final one is acceptance. The world never wanted or even much planned for another pandemic. We have denied, we have bargained that we could beat this; we’ve been depressed about having to isolate, the loss of lives, things we haven’t been able to do; we’ve been angry about public policies, life’s disruptions, etc. and now it’s time to accept what is, not what we hoped or wanted it to be. So now we adapt. We gather our strength, allow those around us to connect with us in creative ways in order to find safety, and we develop a new vision. We survive.
Our thanks to Linda Rio, Marriage and Family Therapists, for providing this critical information and being a valued contributor to our publication. Read Linda’s past articles on PWN and learn more at her website at www.lindamrio.com.
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