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Posted on 18. April 2013

(Don’t) Put on a Happy Face

by Tammie Allegro

It seems every book and blog these days emphasizes the need for us to look for the positive in tough situations and put a smile on our faces. In theory, it isn't terrible advice; however, there are times when we have to accept defeat or disappointment. In those moments, it is completely appropriate to be sad or angry. Not everyone is happy all the time. We all need to deal with our grief and disappointment when it happens. This doesn't mean it's good to curl up in a ball and cry for the rest of our lives. It does mean we are allowed to feel like we got the short end of the stick in life and even got gypped on occasion.

There is a need in each of us to mourn the losses in life. Even if it if just the loss of what we thought was going to be, it deserves our attention. What if someone made it OK to be mad sometimes? What if it was a proven fact that it is far healthier to get sad and grieve a situation? I can't speak to medical statistics on this topic because I am not a doctor, but I can address the issue of getting angry, expressing our feelings and moving on. It seems to me that working through the emotions is much healthier emotionally that just "letting things go."

I am not suggesting it's a good idea to sulk and avoid making peace with the bad things that happen in life. Quite the opposite. With this in mind, though, it's probably good to set some boundaries. Below is my list of some ways I've found to grieve appropriately and move on:

  • Acknowledge the disappointments in life. Stop pretending like everything is great when you are sad.
  • Share with a friend. The weight of anything is much easier when it is shared.
  • Make fun of it; if you can find the humor in a situation, the pain will pass easier.
  • Write about it. Journaling about how you are feeling can give you strength and courage the next time you face a setback.
  • Be a crybaby. Just shedding a tear can set sadness free.
  • Don't let the sadness linger too long. The longer you stay sad, the more power the negative energy has over your life. At some point, it will be time to move on.

How do you cope with sadness and disappointments? Do you feel the need to wear a "happy mask," or are you learning to be more honest during tough times?


Comments (10) -

9:27 PM on Thursday, April 18, 2013

I think learning you have a chronic illness often means you are not going to be able to do all the things you used to do all the time.  Often these things are activities you used to define you like your job or hobby.  So you lose a part of yourself.  It is a real loss and I believe you need to go through the stages of grief as with any loss.  The problem is society does not recognize it as a loss and we are often not allowed to go through these emotions.  I just lost my mom and everyone expects me to be angry and sad and emotional.  They understand when I want to be alone and just cry.  Oh they worry a bit but do not worry that I am clinically depressed and need more anti depressants, they see my feelings as natural.

I believe that learning how to live your new life and accept it as one with a chronic illness includes going through the stages of grief and mourning the old you.  I do believe in talk therapy and anti depressants when needed but what is really needed is a stronger circle of support and understanding.  

8:06 AM on Friday, April 19, 2013

Thank you so much for writing this! Everyday I get out of bed and put on my positive outlook, and if I even once express the slightest bit of frustration, physical pain, sadness, my family is right there telling me to not say things like that or 'keep your chin up' Grrr!
Your post has given me permission to have a bad night, to be upset even though I know there are others worse off, and to get back up in the morning feeling better for having acknowledged normal emotions anyone with a chronic disease would feel.
It is nice to be validated Smile

Sherry Surrency
8:33 AM on Friday, April 19, 2013

For once it is nice to have someone else say it is okay to be sad, to cry.  I am made to feel guilty for being sick, for being sad, or being in pain.  When my infusions make me ill, I am made to feel guilty.  If I am sad at the loss of my nursing career, then I am being selfish.  Why is it a crime for me to mourn the future that I once thought was mine.  I worked hard to get it.  I was good at my job and treated people with dignity.  

I want the chance to grieve, to be accepted for who I am now, to know my limitations, and be allowed to move forward with a new goal and a new horizon in sight.  I need my new tomorrow, but today, just let me cry.  

9:46 AM on Friday, April 19, 2013

I am so relieved to read your post!  I am really struggling with this right now and just not sure when or how to let go of grief?

11:14 AM on Friday, April 19, 2013

Sometimes it is just nice if we can complain about being sick.  It is like complaining about the weather; when the weather is bad, we hate it but there is nothing to do about it but carry on best we can.  Well we may be in pain and frustrated by being chronically ill but there is nothing to do but complain for a minute and then get to work.  By being involved in life and living you can sometimes ignore the pain and difficulties ... if even for a minute.

gramma g
8:30 PM on Friday, April 19, 2013

Boy, did you nail it! Thank you for validating that it's okay to share NORMAL emotions and to have good and bad days. I just left a job I was good at and it's very sad. But... life is a continuing journey and so far I am blessed.

I hope this saying will brighten someone's day:

Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming "Wow, what a ride!"

I'm riding this ride and scary as it is, I'm holding on.

Deborah Norris
8:46 PM on Friday, April 19, 2013

I'm with you, Tammie! In 1992, at age 41, I was diagnosed with a neurological disease that causes constant pain at the site of an injury or trauma--it's referred to as RSD or CRPS (Complex Regional Pain Syndrome). I'd been coping with that for 20 years, when I was then diagnosed with my immune problem, CVID, which means I have to do subq gamma globulin for the rest of my life. "Geez! Enough is enough!" I thought. And I did journal about it, just as I journaled for 20 years about my pain. I think this has been easier for me to accept, because I have accepted my pain disease, but it's still not pleasant (at all!). I get more infections than most people, and am tired, yet need to take pain medication on a daily basis, and occasionally have procedures where my nerves are either deadened, or "killed". That in itself causes more pain. I hate to say it, but some things you just get used to. I curse in my journal and write whatever I feel. Then I tend to feel better. And actually, I'm a pretty happy person! I have a great husband, two wonderful (adult) children and a charming almost 3-year-old granddaughter that I'm going to see tomorrow. There are some definite difficulties in life, but we have to take the bad with the good, and appreciate the good. I do that. I'm really thankful that I'm 62 and have a wonderful family and a great, loving service dog. I'm lucky I don't look sick, although many people think I must be making it up, and say "Gee, but you look so good!" It's like they're calling me a liar, or denying I have any kind of disease. But that's what it is...a "dis-ease". I'm not totally sick, just not comfortable, or "at ease", like most of the people I know. Who is, though? Who is really at ease with who they are, or what they do, or their family, or their health? I know what I'm up against. I know why I don't feel good. I can cope, and it's not fatal. I think sometimes, that in a way, maybe I'm one of the lucky ones. Who knows?

7:00 PM on Sunday, April 21, 2013

Is there an award for top comment of the year (or decade)? It should be yours, hands down. You've given me permission to stop feeling guilty for hating and grieving losing bigger and bigger bits of myself. All my stuff is so unpredictable; I'm admittedly overly analytical; and it makes me nuts not to be figure out cause and effect of how a given day will be. I.e., I can be angelic for days, and still be a wreck on the day of whatever I was planning.Most of all, I regret not being able to be a reliable grandmother. I also hate feeling fragile and vulnerable!! Lest you think I'm a grinch, I must tell you my cup runneth over w/ blessings despite it all and I give thanks every day for each and every one.B/t/w, there's a booklet named "But You Look So Good." It's so spot on I gave a copy to my pain dr. and all my nearest and dearest to help them understand. It made me understand better, too! Good luck to all!

5:05 PM on Friday, April 26, 2013

Hi everyone,
It feels good to be validated with what we are going through.  Let me put me cards on the table.  I was physically abused when I was a child for about 6 years until my brother left home at age 17.  For some reason my folks chose to ignore what was going on.
I developed asthma at age 10 or 11 and have COPD and been on medication for it most of my life.  
By the way, I am 70.  My folks were ashamed of my brother who was hospitalized for his threatening mental illness but nothing helped.  I  developed many mental illnesses, no doctor or pills helped.  We were not supposed to talk about mental illness. It was shameful to have it associated with our family name.  My folks tried to ignore it, and never admitted it was in our family.  I developed an agitated depression.  Which means, I was always fearful about what might happen to me as well as being depressed.  No pills or talk therapy made any difference.
In 1995 I added a new illness, chronic fatigue.  Most doctors thought that it was fake, and turned me away from any consultation.  I couldn't work, but was fortunate to have a wife that supported me.  My body resisted building up antibodies from flu shots as well as hepatitis.  
In 1995 I developed peripheral neuropathy in both legs.
In 1995 my spinal cord was being crushed in my neck with c-3, c-4,c-5 areas being affected.  The  left side of my body went numb.  I had a posterior laminectomy that relived the pressure on the cord.  However, once the spinal cord is injured, it never returns to it's original state.  
In 2010, I went to an orthopedic doctor to relieve pressure on other parts of the spinal cord.  It seems the opening in the vertebrae is too small for the spinal cord and is pinching it in so many places that they can't fix them all.  There just isn't enough bone that metal can be attached to, in order to the fix the problem.
In 2009 I developed CVID and go for infusions of Gama globulin every three weeks.  I still get sick.    
I am going for ECT, electro convulsion therapy, for my depression.  I have been unsuccessful with 3 tries of suicide.  
It is difficult to keep my sunny side up.  One thing I am grateful for is that, even with all my crap, I have somehow made it to age 70.  Not to shabby for a guy who has had more than his share of diseases.  
I get the IG magazine and marvel how some people can somehow overlook  the difficulties in their life.

(By the way, I was a successful commission salesmen for 25 year, won awards for winning first place for my tennis ability from my club, am lucky to have a women who married me 30 years ago and still loves me despite a life that has been more than challenging since she knows me).
Friends tell me to hang in there.  I'm sure they haven't a clue as to what I've been living with.  
I am not envious or feel jealous about what I don't have.  I am thankful that I am still above ground and live life the best I can with what I have to work with.  I know I am fortunate to still be alive as 5 men in my men's group are no longer with us.  I've set a goal to still be around at age 80.  As long as life is worth living, I'm still interested in seeing what comes next.
Good Luck to all of you who have this disease, and maybe even something worse to go with it.
Best Regards,

1:48 PM on Monday, April 29, 2013

I am so glad this blog touched each of you to the point where you wanted to share your story with our readers. Thanks for your candor. I admire your strength and willingness to share.  This really is what our IG Living blog is all about.

Tammie Allegro

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