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Understanding emotions

Discovering that you have a long-term condition is likely to challenge how you feel about a lot of things in life and, as a result, provoke all types of emotions. This is normal.

Sometimes we feel that our emotional response is not the right one, especially when dealing with a challenging issue like hepatitis C. You may feel you should be putting emotions aside and trying to deal with the situation from a logical point of view.

It's important to realise that both your logical and emotional responses are equally important and each has a place. It makes sense to make decisions about treatment from a logical perspective, but accepting that you have a serious illness has to be done on an emotional level too.

In order to come to terms with emotions and deal with them in a constructive way, it is very important to recognise them. This is not always as easy as it sounds, particularly if you are subjected to a barrage of several at the same time. Equally, one emotion may get lost in another - for example, anger very often disguises fear. More than this the disease itself causes mood swings.

Some of the most frequently experienced emotions include the following:

Numbness

Feelings of numbness are a common response to a hepatitis C diagnosis. This may be a beneficial response, allowing time for you to adjust and consider your responses. Feelings of numbness may return at different times, often in response to news that is difficult to deal with.

Sadness

This is often a recurrent emotion and should not be confused with simply feeling unhappy. Deep sadness or grief are frequently accompanied with feelings of loss, e.g. loss of good health; loss of a planned or particular future; loss of ability to participate in activities that were important to you. In addition you may experience deep sadness about the past, maybe sadness about past actions, lost opportunities or relationships.

Anger

Feeling angry is a natural response. You may be angry at a specific person, about a specific time in your life or about a past action. You may have feelings of anger towards your doctor or nurse, that they may not be able to cure you of your condition or are sending you for frequent and/or unpleasant tests. You may feel angry towards others who do not appear to be taking your illness seriously, or who may be impatient towards you. Angry that you feel ill or that your life feels restricted.

Blame

You may blame someone else for your infection, possibly someone you feel knowingly exposed you to the virus or should have protected you. You may blame yourself, feeling that you could have prevented the infection or that, in some way, you deserved it.

Guilt

You may feel guilty at not being able to fulfil your usual role and the additional demands this may place on others. Guilty that you need help from others and the time they are spending on caring for you.

Self-pity

This term is often used in a derogatory fashion to describe wallowing behaviour. It is wise to acknowledge and understand that naturally there will be times when you feel sorry for yourself, but it's important not to get locked into a negative attitude that hinders or stops any positive action.

Anxiety

This is often associated with feelings of loss of control or uncertainty about the physical and psychological changes you may be experiencing. You may feel anxious about life in general, about the future, and how relationships may be affected.

Fear

You may have fear about the future, about how your condition will progress, symptoms you may experience, whether treatment succeeds, whether you will be able to cope, whether your family and friends will stand by you and, ultimately, fear of death.