Why does denial get such a bum rap?

Quote: Poeple don't want to hear the truth because they don't want their illusions destroyed, Friedrich Nietzche

I’ve been knee deep in denial lately, and I’m not apologizing for it. We all need denial to get through the day. I can’t speak for you, but I know that I’d be an emotional wreck without it.  I’d be thinking about death all of the time instead of just most of the time. Denial may be considered a primitive defence mechanism used by the psychologically unsophisticated, but I wear mine like a badge of honour. I hereby encourage you to hop on the denial bandwagon with me.

I was thinking about my favourite primitive defense last week at the pharmacy, when I was picking up my iron supplements. I have been taking iron for a few years now to compensate for my chemotherapy’s suppressing my red blood cell count. Without these supplements, I’d likely be chronically anemic. I buy one or two month’s pills at a time because they are costly.

I eternally hold out hope the doctor will tell me I can stop taking the iron. Yes, I deny I need the pills. Cost aside, why do I want to get off them? Let’s say they affect my score on the Bristol Poop Scale. I’ll spare you the details here, since those of you who’ve been on iron supplements will know exactly what I mean. Anyone who doesn’t know but is curious can look this information up easily on the internet.

Every time I see Dr. Blood, I ask her whether I can ditch these nasty pills. She has come to expect my question and her answer is, predictably, no. Last visit, she went so far as to double my dose, which was definitely a move in the wrong direction.

As much as I’ve convinced myself to despise these supplements, I’m wondering whether my increased energy might be attributable, at least in part, to them. If so, I’d have to embrace them fully, wouldn’t I? What if I reduced my iron dose, only to resume my sloth-like existence? Would I then have to admit the pills I hate are doing me some good?

My iron supplements are but one example of my penchant for denial. Denial has allowed me to preserve my basement office as a shrine to my working days, despite my currently seeing only the occasional client. Denial has conspired with me not to volunteer in case old (or even new) clients resurface. Maybe denial allows me to adapt to the changes and losses cancer brings at a snail’s pace. No wonder I rely on it so much.

Sometimes my denial is so firmly entrenched there’s no messing with it. Recently we consulted a financial planner to determine when J. might retire from her full-time job. He told us that, assuming we both live until 90–did he not hear me say I have leukemia?–we will have enough with our savings, J.’s smaller marriage-commissioner income, and my paltry disability pension. Did he say “live until we’re 90”? What a buffoon. So I asked him: “I can’t speak for J., but at this rate, I’m planning on living at least until 100. Can we still afford it?” He’s going to have to get back to us.


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