I went to a new therapist today. I think the appointment went well and I’m doing my best to have hope that she can help me. I try so hard to be strong and “better” but the truth is inside I am broken. I’ve come to accept just how bad it is and that I cannot help myself out of this one. That is hard for me because I feel like the general population, and myself included, have a poor opinion of mental health issues. It shows weakness, it is unattractive and it’s all about failure. Prior to cancer, I had not experienced mental health issues. Of course I thought I had hard times, I thought I had struggled and knew myself well. But the past year and a half have shown me an entire new universe. This one has tested me in ways that I never knew. It is common for cancer patients to have some of their worst times after treatment is finished and I’m finding this to be the case for me.
There are really too many things to even describe, but a large part of it is my certainty that the cancer is coming back. There is not a fiber of my being that doesn’t believe it’s coming back and it is really hard to move onto anything with that in my head. I had such an amazing week on the First Descents trip to Jackson and I vividly remember coming home and trying to capture the goodness I felt. Feeling it start to slip away almost as soon as I returned home. It’s only been 4 months since that trip and I can’t even recall the feeling now. I remember that it felt like “me” and now I feel that I am gone again. I remember feeling so good and I am now keenly aware that it’s gone. I have what I refer to as “episodes” where I basically become a hermit for weeks at a time. I will stack up dozens of voice mails, not respond to emails, and not be in contact with people in any way other than required activities (taking the kids to school, etc.). During these times, I do not feel depressed in the way that I am familiar – I don’t feel sad or cry or anything, I just want to be alone. I feel numb. Aware of the world outside my window, but with absolutely no desire to be a part of it. Unfortunately I feel that these episodes are becoming more common. I’ve been making an effort to get out and hang out with friends whenever I can. I feel good when I do that so I try to force myself to take part. I’ve also been taking a pool kayak class once a week. This is really the only time when I don’t think about cancer. I love being in the water, and the pool classes are teaching me to be a lot more comfortable under the water which is important. I’m also learning to roll the kayak which is something I was terrified of so that is awesome. Last week we started doing an initial roll (called a C to C roll) and I had a lot of pain from my chest incisions. The instructor said that happens with anyone who has had chest surgery but I want to find a way to make it work. I don’t want to be held back by my physical restrictions.
I think the hardest thing for me to deal with right now is that I am so aware of the struggle but at the same time I am unable to stop it. Even when I’m having an episode, I can feel it coming, I can feel myself settling in, and I don’t want to be in it, but I can’t stop it. I feel like I’m in an ocean treading water and all I can do is keep my head high enough to breathe. I am exhausted. My arms are tired. I want to stop. I want to be better again.
I can only afford to go to the therapist every couple weeks for now, but I figure that will be better than nothing. We are still in a crazy amount of debt from my treatments. My therapist would like to see me a few times before making an official diagnosis but it sounds like I most likely have PTSD. She said there is a ton of trauma and gave me information on EMDR therapy which she thinks I will be a good candidate for. I’ve talked to a few people about it this evening and it sounds like it would be a good thing for me. PTSD is really common after cancer and I am not alone. So, for now I will continue to tread water.