Sharing my feelings is not something I excel at. In fact, if you knew me or spoke to anyone who does know me, I’m pretty terrible at it.
Where exactly should I begin…
I suppose starting with the whole point I set this blog up would be a good start.
I set this blog up as a means of letting people know they are not alone. There are others of us in the same situation as you. What situation you may ask? Well, if you have had cancer, “beaten it” (I put that in quote marks because – let’s be honest – are we ever 100% sure we’ve beaten it?) and are now experiencing some sort of psychological side effects some time after your experience, then join the club!
Because I am too.
In fact, I’d go so far as saying that the effects of cancer on my psyche dominate my day-to-day life.
I was recently diagnosed with low mood (depression) and anxiety – both psychological side effects that are very common with having experienced a life-threatening disease, most notably, cancer.
My diagnosis came only 2 or so months ago after breaking down in front of my doctor. I was feeling pretty down for a month or so before I visited my doctor but wasn’t ever truly aware of it. I know that sounds odd but, at the time, the business I was working for had laid off around half of its employees – most of which I was friends with. As you can imagine, it wasn’t the nicest experience. However, being a manly man and believing that men should keep a “stiff upper lip”, I passed my low mood off as a result of my situation at work.
If I’m honest, I ignored it. I didn’t want to face up to it. Perhaps it was the acceptance of failing to make myself happy that kept me from visiting my doctor. Perhaps it was the idea of opening my soul to a man a barely know. Maybe it was the thought of having time off work and knowing that there would be plenty of gossiping about my absence. I like to think it was a mixture of all of this, and plenty more.
It was only when I started filling up with tears for no apparent reason that I decided I should bite the bullet.
So I went to see my doctor. He politely asks “So how can I help you today?”. I open my mouth to reply and, before a word escapes my lips, I break down into tears. Full-on, floodgates opening kind of tears. The kind of crying I hadn’t experience since I sat in my doctor’s office in Canterbury (a different doctor to the one I was wailing in front of) and he gave me my cancer diagnosis.
It was completely expected. I knew that I would cry. I knew that, as soon as I opened my mouth, I wouldn’t be able to speak for the absolute barrage of salty tears flooding down my face.
What I didn’t know was just how good it would feel. I had been holding back the tears for about six months whilst the company I worked for – a promising cancer care start-up I felt a true connection to because of my past – collapsed around me.
It was incredible. A sense of liberation and relief passed over me as I finally let the tears go. With this sense of revelation came the sudden sense of realisation. I started to reel off how I had been feeling. Not only was I feeling “down”, I was feeling tired pretty much every day, like I hadn’t slept properly, and finding it hard to actually go to sleep in the first place. I was irritable and snapping at my friends and loved ones for no reason. I was having days where everything felt awful, from my weight and appearance to where I was in my life. I couldn’t find any enjoyment in the things that I loved. I was cancelling on my friends or giving excuses as to not see them – even when I was completely free.
Out of nowhere, I started reeling off this list of subconscious symptoms that I had been pretending weren’t there.
And it was then that I was given my diagnosis of depression and anxiety.
It has been around 8 weeks since my diagnosis – the first 2 of which I began to feel “normal” again. I had nothing to stress about with work anymore and I finally had some time to myself to think things through.
After 3 weeks, I figured that was it. That was my rather short battle with depression finished.
Everything was looking rosy until one day I woke up feeling like shit. Sure everyone has a bad day every now and then, which, trust me, I’ve experienced. But this was different. I couldn’t snap out of it. I didn’t want to move, didn’t want to eat, didn’t want to drink, and there was no feasible reason for it.
I haven’t had a day like that for a couple of weeks now but I can’t help but feel that it will happen again.
Every day feels like a struggle to keep enough composure just to go out the door. As a man in their late-20s, I feel like things like this shouldn’t be happening to me. I can’t help but feel that sentence was laced with a sense of superiority, which I do not intend one bit.
But perhaps that’s it. I didn’t face up to the reality of the situation because I believed a man of my age, just beginning to make his way in the world, shouldn’t be feeling depressed.
It’s very similar in a way as to many people’s first reaction to a cancer diagnosis: “why me?”. Well, why shouldn’t it be you?
Depression isn’t selective. It can affect anyone, at any time.
I suppose that’s the major message I’m trying to portray in with this blog: you’re not alone.
And that’s where I think I’ll leave this first post.
This has been an experience for me – sharing my feelings I mean. I’m not 100% sure whether it is a complete sense of “niceness”, but it feels almost therapeutic, like it’s helping me cope.
Hopefully this post has helped someone in the same way it has helped me.