Have you ever played hide ‘n seek with a preschooler? Without fail, there’s always one little one that will simply cover her eyes when it’s her turn to hide. After all, if she can’t see you, you must not be able to see her – right?
In some ways, we hold onto that concept of not wanting to see what’s right before our eyes, closing them as tightly as possible to avoid the reality of a challenge before us. Denial: “It ain’t just a river in Egypt,” quipped Mark Twain. It’s a complex creature that can, on one hand, serve as a kind coping mechanism that affords us a much-needed grace period before fully facing something traumatic. And as long as it’s a short-term fix, it can actually be healthy. The Mayo Clinic shares that, “Being in denial gives your mind the opportunity to unconsciously absorb shocking or distressing information at a pace that won’t send you into a psychological tailspin.”
Of course, eventually, reality must be faced, and when it comes to aging, long-term denial is not our friend. It’s a topic I can speak of with authority, considering my own infirmities and my penchant for turning a blind eye to them. UNTIL it is really time to do something, unequivocally. And, I am then on board. Hopefully not too late! And, hopefully, I really can live and enjoy life without sipping tequila and eating M&Ms. Time will tell.
The benefits, however, to facing issues of aging head on are tremendous. Arming ourselves with education, determining a course of action, and putting a long-term plan in place can empower us to maintain a sense of control and to be better equipped for whatever lies ahead. And of course, in many cases, early detection of health issues makes all the difference in successful treatment and future prognosis. You really do have to listen to your body, and face whatever you need to face. After all, independence is one of the benefits of good health, and we all want to maintain that independence for as long as possible.
So visit with denial, if you must; but don’t linger there. Build a trusted system of support, take time for mind-clearing activities such as journaling, walking in the woods, or participating in the arts, learn as much as you can about the challenge you’re facing, and meet it head on, fully prepared. It really will lead to better outcomes.