Getting a diagnosis can fill you with conflicting emotions. On the one hand, it might be a relief to finally put a name to your “issues,” especially if you have been unwell for a while without knowing what to call it. Maybe you feel like now you know the name of the beast you are going to slay.


But at the same time, getting a diagnosis can be terrifying. I know that for me, when I finally received a diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis after over three years of chronic pain, I could hear a metal jail cell door slamming shut in my mind. I really did hear it. It reverberated. I felt like I had been handed a life sentence – one of lifelong pain and increasing disability and early death. (And I’m usually a positive person!) All because of a number on a piece of paper from a lab. That was the only thing that had changed.


Lucky for you, this experience just gave me another reason to dig deeper and grow as a person and a coach. In this 4-part series, I would like to share what I have learned with those of you who are staring down your own diagnosis, or who may be a support person for someone with a chronic illness.


(Please keep in mind that these recommendations are based on my personal experience. They may or may not work for you or apply to your situation. You may even disagree with some of them, but hopefully you will give them a try before discounting them.)


Dealing with the initial shock and deluge of emotion:


Allow yourself to feel your feelings! All of them, even especially the ugly ones. That sh!t is toxic if you keep it bottled up. (Stuffing down your emotions may even have contributed to your getting sick in the first place, but that is the subject for another post.)


Do whatever you have to do to get your emotions out. Scream, cry, beat up a pillow. Do whatever the hell you feel like doing. This may mean you need to find a place alone, where you won’t traumatize your kids or end up with the neighbors calling the police.


What if you just feel kind of empty, or aren’t sure what you feel? My go-to solution is to find the saddest movie you can and have a good cry. It’s cathartic. If you need some ideas, there are some guaranteed tearjerkers on this list.


My only additional advice is to NOT pick a movie that is too close to your own reality.


Or you could do a really long yoga practice with a lot of detoxifying twists and hip openers. The hips are storehouses for all the emotions and experiences we don’t know what to do with: they are the junk drawer of the body! Doing nice, juicy hip openers helps to clear that junk out! That’s why it isn’t uncommon for some students to have an emotional release in yoga class. Crying on your mat does happen, and it’s good.


In fact, I implore you to commit to a regular yoga practice. It will transform you – body, mind, and spirit. Plus there is a lot of evidence that supports yoga’s positive effects on many chronic conditions. Yoga is also amazing for managing your stress, and stress, as we all know, can wreck our health. I would recommend finding a teacher who has experience working with students with your condition and can help you modify poses, if necessary.


There are many, many types of yoga out there. Sometimes you will have to visit several different types of classes with various teachers to find the right one for you. Don’t hesitate to talk to studio owners and teachers about your needs and goals for yoga. Good ones will be honest about whether their classes are a good fit for you, or they will refer you to someone who may be a better fit.


Moving forward, you will want to continue this work of clearing negative emotions. There are other techniques out there to help you. Journaling is an easy, yet effective, way of processing your feelings. Other techniques to look into are “The Work” of Byron Katie. Love her! Check out and prepare to have your mind – and your heart – blown wide open. Emotional Freedom Technique is also helpful for a lot of people. There is probably and EFT practitioner in your area.


This initial stage, where you clear out the negative emotions (like grief and anger) that you feel about your diagnosis, is foundational.  But keep in mind that this step may take time,and it almost certainly will be a process that you have to come back to time and time again.  Embrace the process.


How have you dealt with your own negative emotions about a diagnosis, health challenge, or any challenge?  Tell me on my facebook page.


Here are the other parts of this series:  Part 2Part 3, and Part 4.