Denying the Anger of Bargaining with Depression and Acceptance?

griefI don’t know about you, but the so-called ‘5 stages of grief’ annoy me.

It’s too neat, too … sanitised and packaged.

MS is anything but.

So, you get your diagnosis (of this life-altering, incurable illness) and then you seamlessly glide from the Neurology Consultant’s office onto this Grief (for your old, pre-MS life) Conveyor Belt, at the end of which you happily reach Acceptance and proceed to remain a valuable member of society? And you have the leaflets to prove it.

Yeah, ok.

This concept was devised by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in 1969, primarily in dealing with terminally ill people, but has since permeated everything from illness to divorce to coping with not having your smartphone to hand for 24 hours while it’s being repaired.

  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance

In the right hands, it can be a useful tool, especially if you make clear that we can go through the stages in any direction, not necessarily in this order and we can boomerang between all of them for years. In the wrong hands, it can be yet another pressure to conform to what is deemed ‘normal’. You’ve got MS? Go through this and you’ll accept it. You’ve not accepted it? What’s wrong with you?

In my own case, I never once denied I could have MS. In fact, with a family history of it, it was my first thought when my body failed spectacularly, despite the initial diagnosis of a stroke. Anger? Self-pity, yes. In buckets. I’d like to add this to the ‘stages’.

Bargaining? Never entered my mind. I’m confused to what it actually means. If I do this, I get that result?

Depression is almost a given for any life-changing illness, so I think that goes without saying.

Acceptance? It comes and goes, probably in tandem for each relapse. Just as I think I’ve adjusted to MS, it throws a curveball.

There is no magical formula to coming to terms with MS. I wish there was. Just as MS is unique to us all, so are the ways we cope with it. So, resist that conveyor belt and be true to yourself. If you want to scream and shout, shut yourself away for days eating nothing but ice cream or you fancy painting the town red, do it.

Should you ever reach Acceptance? Have I ever climbed Everest?

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10 thoughts on “Denying the Anger of Bargaining with Depression and Acceptance?

  1. Helen says:

    This resonates with me especially acceptance. I might accept how I am then have ms changes me and what I had accepted doesn’t exist anymore.

    • stumbling in flats says:

      Exactly! And, at the end of the day, why should we have to accept it? We can live with it, yes, but accept, well that’s a whole other issue.

  2. I think you are being a bit critical. This idea/theory was meant as a tool to understand the stages a person might go through. Pidgeon holing a person’s mental problems is never easy at the best of times.

    This is a tool to help people to understand the mental anguish a person can go through when something traumatic happens to them.

    I never wanted to bargain, I can talk openly about MS and even bore them to death and I can still get depressed. MS is very different for every one The Elisabeth Kubler-Ross concept is a useful tool that can help people to verbalise the problems

    • stumbling in flats says:

      I appreciate your comment, but I have to disagree – to reduce the tumultuous emotions surrounding an MS diagnosis to five basic points is facile at best.

      Yes, it is a tool – my worry is simply that this ‘tool’ has been taken out of context and liberally applied to any and every ‘grief’ situation, thereby diluting its effectiveness. Many of my friends joke about the 5 stages of grief and drop it into casual conversations, completely unrelated to the seriousness most of us would think about.

      • John says:

        I wish there were 5 boxes you could tick off and tick acceptance last and be on your merry way. Acceptance can go hand in hand with depression for example.
        Probably your most thought provoking blog I have come across Barbara. Love it.

        • stumbling in flats says:

          Thank you so much!
          Yes, I wish too that I could tick that ‘final’ box, but it fluctuates. Just when I think I’m there, MS changes the goalposts. Again.

  3. Annie says:

    I’m with Helen , yes you go through stages but every time I have a flare up it starts all over again, the anger, fear etc etc … acceptance is tough when the goal posts keep moving !! xo

    • stumbling in flats says:

      You’ve read my mind! Those pesky MS goal posts keep changing.
      I’ve written posts about MS acceptance, and how important that is. And then things change. Like today. I was off yesterday. In work today. Work was a nightmare. Out of nowhere, my balance decided to play up, my legs were wooden, I tripped over everything and was generally useless, fed up and upset.

  4. Annie says:

    Aw poor you. Of all things that MS throws at me the balance thing is the one I hate the most! Knocks my confidence every time until I accept it all over AGAIN lol … feel better xo

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