On November 1, 2020, Christina Applegate announced that she had been diagnosed with MS. In a recent interview with The New York Times, the actress said that she regrets not catching her symptoms sooner and wished that she had paid attention.
“If only I’d noticed sooner” is what nearly everyone with psoriatic arthritis, multiple sclerosis, or other autoimmune patients thinks about at some point in their chronic lives. It’s natural to feel this way – but ultimately, it’s unproductive and creates regret where none is needed. Here’s why.
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Autoimmune Patient Regret
Hindsight is 20/20 – but that saying can feel more like a curse than a blessing for autoimmune patients. When you’re in the midst of managing a chronic illness, it can be all too easy to look back and wish you’d been more proactive about your health. “If only I’d gone to the doctor sooner,” “if only I’d done more research,” “if only I hadn’t ignored my symptoms for so long.”
The reality is autoimmune diseases are notoriously difficult to diagnose. They often masquerade as other conditions, and many patients go years – even decades – before receiving an accurate diagnosis. In fact, the average delay between symptom onset and diagnosis is 5 years for psoriatic arthritis and 7 years for multiple sclerosis. That’s 5-7 years of living with uncertainty, wondering what’s wrong, and feeling like nobody believes you. So it’s no wonder patients often regret not catching their disease sooner – because, in all likelihood, they couldn’t have.
Doing Your Best
Regret is a natural – but ultimately unproductive – emotion for autoimmune patients to experience. Hindsight may be 20/20, but when it comes to chronic illness, there’s often much more to the story than meets the eye. If you’re currently living with an autoimmune disease, try to cut yourself some slack. You’re doing the best you can with the information you have – and that’s all anyone can ask of you.
Chronic Illness Life Journal Prompt
Are you holding onto feelings of regret or shame over not recognizing the symptoms of your chronic illness earlier? It is time to let those feelings go. This week’s deep dive journal prompt is to acknowledge any self-blame, shame, sadness, regret, and anger you may be holding onto. Ask yourself why you feel that way. Then lovingly tell yourself that it was impossible to predict the onset of your disease.
And if, by chance, there was something you may have been able to recognize because of family history, acknowledge that it is time to move on. Forgive yourself and let it go. Should haves, could haves, and would haves can’t help you now. It is time to turn your thoughts to what you can do, research, and hope for the future.
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