Denying Denial

July 29, 2007 at 7:37 AM (Caregivers, Eldercare) (, )

I expect some differing opinion on this… but here’s to admitting my position that seems from the outside to be a bit less than compassionate.

If someone is not born with a particular impairment and yet, one comes along later in life….or the one you have gets suddenly worse, or sprouts new subcategories or something…or someone is responsible for an aging parent and that parent hits a rather sudden, steep decline, into further physical or cognitive impairment.

I think everyone should have at least sixty days of complete denial….[or a significantly longer period if the impairment requires admission to a rehab hospital] so the brain has time to adjust behind the scenes to the new impact….

But I’ve seen people in denial for *years* about impairments that they, or someone they are legally responsible for come up against…

Come on!

The earlier one accepts such a thing, and says “Ok, now, what *can* I do at this new level, etc. etc. etc.

The better off, no? Positives are found sooner etc etc.

Quality of life moves up from the “bottom” it hit at the day of discovery, and it moves up earlier.

I’ve seen parents with children with impairment admit that for most of the first ten years after diagnosis:

“I just went to sleep every night and prayed that when I woke up in the morning, they would be ‘normal.'”

That puts expectations on the kid that are next to impossible, not to mention effort by the parent that should have included acceptance of the kid as is, and searching for support systems so both the kid and themselves don’t go bonkers…

Or an elderly person convinced their spouse of many years will be able to “get over” a serious chemical imbalance induced depression, deciding not to pursue a particular line of treatment…”They don’t need that stuff,” with the subtext being “I don’t *want* them to need that stuff.”

What the person with impairment or the caregiver *wants* to be so, is not the issue. What *is* is the issue.

Denial is a natural part of adjustment to anything, but having the process of acceptance stuck in *that* kind of neutral….it is a disservice to oneself or one’s kin.

I’ve been called harsh and I suppose I am because people that do this, able and otherwise just irritate me. (I try hard not to tell them so, and generally vent to a disinterested third party.)

I do have this thing going on in my head that says, particularly to the formerly very able, very fit, and (from my perspective,) well off financially…

“Jesus! Stop standing there with your fingers in your ears saying ‘Lalalalala I don’t *hear* this!’ (metaphorically speaking) Do the research, and call the condition or impairment by it’s right name! Admit that something has happened.”
Admit it exists, and go forward from there *with* knowledge.

Then you’ll be ready to really fight fight fight, for that elusive help and support system that is so hard to come by more often than not….It’s going to be a struggle and a bitch to get what you need, because our society is presently structured to tell you *no*

Don’t ride the denial train too long.


  1. Paco Steinway said,

    Of course human beings confronted by some manner of trauma are entitled to an initial period of anger, denial, et al. Then it’s time to reinforce your backbone and deal with unpleasant circumstances beyond anyone’s control, or eat dust. And as you point out, the families of impaired individuals–especially children–do their loved ones (?) a tremendous disservice by wallowing in denial for way too long.

  2. The Goldfish said,

    This was an excellent post. I linked to it on the Ouch! blog today. 🙂

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