Reading about Erik Erikson's eight psychosocial stages of human development helped me think about Healthy Survivorship in a new way. I'll paraphrase and oversimplify (and not get into the virtue aspect of Erikson's theory) to talk about the first of two ideas that prompted this post: The Epigenetic Principle.
Erickson proposed that people develop through an unfolding of our personality in predetermined stages -- like a rose bud unfurling its petals. Our progress through each stage is affected by our experiences and our success in the preceding stages.
Looking back, and with the epigenetic principle in mind, being diagnosed at 36 years old was as if my rosebud opened prematurely. I was forced to confront my mortality, a challenge usually faced in old age. Not surprisingly, without the benefit of having gone through the usual life stages that prepare fully matured people for the challenges of end-of-life, I suffered disorienting and distressing anxiety and sadness.
Healthy Survivorship, with its focus on learning how to live as fully as possible under the circumstances, encouraged me to embrace all emotions -- including painful ones -- to help me...
- understand what was happening
- grieve losses
- ask for and accept guidance and support
- find acceptance
- develop coping skills
Whatever your age or prognosis, Healthy Survivorship encourages you to learn about and respond to all the illness-associated changes, losses, pain and uncertainty in ways that foster healthy growth in your current stage of life and positive impact on the next stage of life.