So I spend a whopping load of time online chatting and poking and liking and sharing, etc., and today it was brought to my attention that October 10th is indeed World Mental Health Day, and the theme for this year is Depression. This topic makes me shake my head; depression is so prevalent, and so often left without discussion. . . and after having cancer touch your life, there’s pretty much a giant whopping chance depression is going to touch it as well, at some point.
I can remember feeling entirely depressed. It was bizarre.
Okay, so I’ve known people who wrangle with ranging depression, so I’ve seen how a low day can change their behaviour and reactions. (No names, of course, because that their personal journey and they handle it accordingly.) And going through life I’ve tried to have compassion towards people whenever I realized that they were in fact coping with their own depression – but I didn’t exactly get it. You know? I couldn’t emphasize because I’d never been so incredibly down. My character tilts the other way, toward the consistently optimistic . . . I can’t help it, I just tend to paint things in a brighter picture. Luckily for me, I’ve had the lifeline of always deep-down feeling like everything would work out. (And yes, it’s been a lifeline, particularly these past three years.)
So when cancer happened, chemo happened, medication happened, mortality happened – oh s*t, you could have knocked me over and called the fight. It was shocking to suddenly feel so sad all the time.
And you know what is incredible? If I hadn’t had people like my mother working with me & giving me coaching – I would have thought this sadness and desperation was just that: utter sadness and total desperation for the worst to be over.
Chemo was really something. I tell everyone this story, but I’ll share it once more as an example of the chemo & medication inspired mood swings:
So Zsolt and I are in our flat in Southampton, he’s in the living room and I’m in the bedroom feeling crappy since chemo had been that Friday. And I’m lying there when all of a sudden a feeling overcomes me. Maybe it was hunger, or exhaustion . . . I can’t quite tell you . . . but my mind began to think: ‘How come he hasn’t checked on me in a while? If I were him, I would check on me. I’d be taking better care of me. He hasn’t even asked if I want a cup of tea. I’m so freaking hungry and he hasn’t even asked if I want tea!’
You can see where that was leading. . . suddenly I was fully frustrated with my unsuspecting husband, and basically dragged myself out of bed to launch upon him about why he should be making me tea, and why I shouldn’t have to even ask.
And there were plenty of other times too . .
- I felt abandoned when Zsolt was at work.
- I burst into tears while in Canada and was overcome with hunger (while my Dad rushed to the kitchen to bake me some sweet potato fries – poor guy)
- I stopped taking showers and got so grossly dirty that my skin was stained with sweat and ick.
- My diary was full of the pain I couldn’t even blog about, basically begging for everything to just stop being hard.
- I began physically getting sick at even the thought of treatment.
- Months after treatment I was still feeling scared and full of fear.
- I’d look in the mirror and feel absolute disconnection with the person looking back.
And the thing is, if I hadn’t been warned – and if I hadn’t watched out and kept track . . . I might have thought these feelings were the real me.
So why am I sharing with you about my poor hygiene and crying fits? Because today is World Mental Health Day, and far too often I hear from women who are struggling in big ways with these sinking emotions . . . and wondering if it will ever end.
For me it is ending. There are times when I get low, but they don’t stay and they aren’t extreme like before. And mixed into these hard times were good ones too – hope floats, like they say, and when I wasn’t deep-deep into that depression, I was clinging to the hope that everything was going to work out. The harder I clung to that belief, the higher up it lifted me from the crazy crap my body was taking on.
If you feel depressed, or sad, or like everything is suddenly impossible – let people know and ask for help. You can get help whether it be meeting with a counsellor, going to yoga, seeing a nutritionist, or even taking medication if you and your doctor think it’s needed. (I was offered some anti-anxiety drugs to stop my physical reaction whenever I entered the hospital, but instead ended up sucking back orange slices – since it was really the smell and the treatments that were triggering me.)
There are options, and most important to remember is that depression is kinda normal in our situations. I’m not saying it’s good, but it happens to many and is no reason to feel shame.
I’m really glad to hear that depression is being focused upon this year for World Mental Health Day – because it’s a sneaky little feeling that takes people over before they even realize what’s happening. But it’s not you. It’s the hormones, the drugs, the experience – which means steps can be taken to help make things better.
And that’s all I’m going to say about that. Geez! Someone get me a pink popsicle or something, I need to go do something HAPPY!