We’re excited to share that our Founder and Clinical Director Matt Lundquist appears in health and science journalist Tessa Miller’s recently published book What Doesn’t Kill You: A Life with Chronic Illness–Lessons from a Body in Revolt. Half memoir and half examination of how to get help when struggling with chronic illness, What Doesn’t Kill You details Miller’s own experience with Crohn’s Disease. She uses her personal narrative as a jumping-off point for a multifaceted analysis of chronic illness in our culture with input from experts including Matt.
Before the book’s publication, Matt previously spoke with Miller for an article, “Five Things I Wish I’d Known Before My Chronic Illness,” in The New York Times. In What Doesn’t Kill You, Miller explores with Matt many of the topics covered in the article in more detail, including how dealing with the trauma and accepting the “new normal” of chronic illness may look a lot like grief. Matt also reiterates the article’s discussion about how the mental health struggles of those with chronic illnesses can often be misunderstood and the limits of diagnosis (For instance, since chronic illness may very likely present symptoms consistent with Major Depressive Disorder, how do we figure out the help that is needed with symptoms that are understandable and a direct response to a life circumstance?).
In particular, Miller devotes a chapter to grief with the knowledge that grief is a useful way to understand the idea of illness, especially chronic illness. Matt explains in the book that the concept of the “stages of grief” a la Elisabeth Kübler-Ross suggests that grief happens in a certain order and is neater than it is in reality. In contrast to the actual complexity of grief, this can make people feel like they’re “doing it wrong” or that something is happening other than grief.
With chronic illness, what needs to be grieved is the idea of a future that is different than the one we hoped for. Matt suggests framing this grief in the context of meaning-making. Grieving chronic illness or the loss of the future you expected can look like finding ways to “rethink how you go about constructing hope and making meaning.”
Miller also asks Matt about how to choose a therapist for grief around chronic illness. Matt asserts that grief isn’t a specialty of therapy–it’s just therapy. Accepting loss, accepting limits, and coming to terms with pain and burden are all central to good therapy.