If you have a cancer diagnosis, you also have a mental health challenge.
After diagnosis, I found my anxiety was so high that my own reality was constantly invaded with scary, unrelated scenarios. I’m not sure if my mind was trying to relate this experience to something but as there was nothing similar I had experienced before, my mind was in a constant state of processing new negative scenarios. It’s as if our minds need stories to tell ourselves to guide us through troubled times. Whilst in a state of extreme anxiety I could only tell myself horror stories. Whatever moderates this was broken by the stress and I couldn’t think my way out of these horrid thoughts. The type of feelings which I experienced at various times throughout treatment were:
- A feeling of having to jump to a place of safety and trust others
- A feeling that an emergency had been announced and I was ready to follow orders
- Feelings of isolation and withdrawal from others around me
- Feeling that I wanted to run away (fight or flight)
- Feelings of being overwhelmed with the heavy burden of what I had to get through
- Feelings of guilt that my illness was going to cause sadness to others
Managing bad thoughts
Thoughts are very fluid and they may come and go in bursts but I found the thoughts were very exhausting and after several sleepless nights I would eventually sleep from sheer exhaustion. Trying to do anything to improve this was difficult because I was dealing with a life threatening situation. I felt the best help for me was speaking to others who had been through the same. By doing this I was eventually able to recognize my intrusive thoughts were normal and I was able find some comfort and humor again. This was through the Breast Cancer Care Forum where everyone greeted me with sympathy, experience and a feeling of belonging. I really don’t know how I would have coped without everyone on the Breast Cancer Care Forum because I didn’t know anyone with a cancer diagnosis. I had professional counselling after treatment and I am learning to manage my thoughts better. I now know when to give myself time out and put my wellbeing first.
My advice to others is:
- Recognise that your thoughts are a natural response to a stressful situation.
- Talk to others and you will discover they have experienced similar thoughts.
- Self-Care be your own best friend and give yourself time out and indulge in whatever brings you joy.
- Seek professional help if you are struggling. Coping with cancer is overwhelming and more than we can cope with at times. It is not a weakness to admit that life has thrown you a big curveball which you are struggling with.
Nikki Bednall, blogger at www.lifeafterlola.com