Even Warriors Get the Blues #BellLetsTalk

Today is #BellLetsTalk Day, a day where, here in Canada we have a chance to talk openly about mental health. That’s not to say we shouldn’t be talking about it every other day, but on this specific day Bell Canada will donate 5¢ for every mention of (#BellLetsTalk) in social media. So please share this, a text, or a tweet for mental health.screen-shot-2017-01-25-at-3-49-45-am

Even before being diagnosed with cancer, I battled with depression and anxiety. As early as my late teens in high school, when it felt like I had an elephant on my chest, or when my heart would beat so fast it would take my breath away. I didn’t know it back then.

It came around again after a time I had gone through a number of changes and losses (the diagnosis and death of my father from cancer, the break up of a long term relationship, changing universities and losing a year, graduating, finding and losing a job, finding another albeit crappier job) and hadn’t realized I was depressed until much later. It literally took not being physically able to get out of bed for three days for it to click that there was something very wrong. When I did get up, I promptly sought the help of my GP who referred me to a psychiatrist and put me on medication. I chose to go to therapy in addition to medication, which helped me reclaim my life.

So when I received the earth shattering news that I had cancer, I anticipated that depression might creep back into my life, so I wanted to be proactive, because frankly, life is too damn short to be depressed with or without cancer.screen-shot-2017-01-25-at-3-51-34-am

Initially, I was so focused on treatment and getting better, I didn’t think about how I felt. I knew logically that I should allow myself to feel whatever feelings I had, but what happened was the opposite. I felt so blessed that I was supported, loved, “healthy” and tolerating treatment so well that anytime I did start to feel “negative” emotions or feel sorry for myself, I’d quickly beat myself up for it. I mean how dare I feel bad when I was so lucky!! Once I completed treatment, I found myself with a lot more time, and consequently, a lot more time to think. This was when I began to feel the emotional fallout of my diagnosis.

As open as I was about my story, I always held back what I really felt. I went around with a smile on my face all the while hiding my fear and anger behind a mask. The only time the mask came off was when I was in the presence of other Young Adult survivors.

All the emotions that were suppressed around everyone else bubbled up and escaped when I would talk to other survivors. I was able to express my fears to them and not be afraid that they would fall apart, or become fearful for me, I knew I wasn’t burdening them like I would with my family. They got it, because many of them wore the same mask, they could see past the BS of “I’m fine” and they called my bluff.

To try to circumvent depression I was proactive, by seeing a physiologist. I went religiously hoping that I’d avoid the “blues” but it didn’t feel right, so sought help through my hospital. What I really wanted and needed was someone who had experience with cancer patients. The second time was the charm, but still I found myself to be extremely volatile. I imagine living with me at that time would have been akin to living in a minefield, you never knew when I’d explode.

I thought that depression would come to me in paralyzing sadness like it had before, that way I could recognize it, but it didn’t, it came to me in red hot anger. I don’t know where all the anger came from, but it burst out of me, for the trivial minute things, and was usually directed towards the people I loved most.

Again I was oblivious that I was experiencing depression until I wanted to physically hurt someone out of anger. It was that moment that I realized I needed more help. Talking wasn’t cutting it and as much as I didn’t want to take pills, I knew I had to. I am not advocating anti-depressants, they are not for everyone. In my case, they really help me function and regulate my mood so it’s not as extreme. In addition to medication, I seek counseling regularly, attend a Young Adult support group as often as I can, and meditate regularly.

There is no road map out there to navigate cancer*, no right or wrong way, you just do what you have to do to get to the other side, the truth is, what has happened is a trauma, a loss, a life altering event. Despite being grateful for being alive, we still have to mourn what we lost, whether its opportunities, time, or the ability to have a child, denying those feelings will only come back to haunt us. So please, allow yourself to grieve and feel. Seek help, talk to your peers, talk to your doctor, find a support group, reach out. Life is too short to be depressed but even cancer warriors get the blues.

*This statement is true for so many situations, from post-partum depression to the death of a family member to the end of a marriage. There is no right or wrong way to feel, but if you are not your normal self, talk to some one. If you are in crisis please call 911 or go to your local hospital.

AM

Resources:

Bell Let’s Talk  Dedicated to moving mental health forward in Canada, Bell Let’s Talk promotes awareness and action with a strategy built on 4 key pillars: Fighting the stigma, improving access to care, supporting world-class research, and leading by example in workplace mental health.

Canadian Mental Health Association  As a nation-wide, voluntary organization, the Canadian Mental Health Association promotes the mental health of all and supports the resilience and recovery of people experiencing mental illness. The CMHA accomplishes this mission through advocacy, education, research and service.

KidsHelpPhone  Kids Help Phone is a Canadian and world leader known for our expertise and continuous innovation as Canada’s only 24/7 counselling and information service for young people. Since 1989, our trained, professional counsellors have been listening to kids, often when no one else can or will. We are always there – supporting young people wherever and whenever they need us most.

50 thoughts on “Even Warriors Get the Blues #BellLetsTalk

  1. Thank you for the blog post. Such true words. Not a cancer sufferer but just the cancer scare was enough to nearly spiral me back into deep depression whilst fighting my eating dirsoder.
    Agree that we just need to speak up and allow talk of mental health and be honest to break social stigma. Not just in Canada or England but everywhere.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. This is so well said. There is no right or wrong way to feel in life, but there is a normal for each of us and when we stray from that for too long, it is time to ask for support so you can find your way back to yourself. Thank you for sharing your story, as well as all these resources.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. I can relate to almost everything in this post I say almost because I have never suffered personally with cancer but I have felt the pain of loosing loved ones to the illness.
    Most recently (a week before Christmas) I lost my cousin to cancer.
    I also suffer with depression and desperately need help and I have asked but been refused medication from a stand in Dr, I know my regular gp is back in work next week so I will make an appointment to get back on different medication because the last lot I was on made my anxiety worse!!
    I also get bouts of uncontrollable anger and I am really ashamed to admit that I have physically hit my boyfriend, he understands that that really isn’t who I am and has been so amazing, but between us trying to get me the help that I need has been near impossible at the moment, but I won’t give up I will get the help that I need.
    So I really really want to thank you for being openly honest about mental health, I just wish that we had something like that here in the UK.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Sarah,
      Thank you for being so open! It can be so hard to admit that we need help. You are amazing to recognize that in yourself. It took me three tries, and I still struggle. I am so happy that you are trying to get help from your doctors. Its troubling that the stand in won’t help, but Kudos to staying true to yourself and advocating for what YOU need! I always say there is power in our stories. By being open and honest and talking about mental health or other topics that are often stigmatized, we can over come them. It takes time, energy, a little courage, patients, effort and voices. I can see that you already have a voice. Just keep talking. Wishing you all the best.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you, I scare myself when I go on a tangent so goodness knows how my boyfriend feels, I’m luck I haven’t lost control in front of my daughter (yet) I’m just hoping like hell that I can get the help I need before it gets that far.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. This one time I was talking with other people and I said that sometimes I have depression the same way anyone would say “I had a Taco”. Offhand.

    They were shocked to hear it like that and I had to explain it to them: the only way everyone is going to talk about mental health is by making sure that it is a norm. By not exaggerating (it is a big deal though, not saying it is not).

    Canada has this great thing! More countries should do that, which date is it again? I will contribute the next time

    Like

    1. I completely agree. We need to be able to speak openly, there shouldn’t be a stigma. No one criticizes someone who breaks their leg, why should depression or anxiety or bipolar syndrome be any different?! Good for you 🙂
      I hope other countries can look to us and do something similar. In just that one day they raised over 6.5 million dollars for mental health initiatives. It’s amazing. They tend to have the “Let’s Talk Day around this time of year, I’d suggest following them on Twitter. All you have to do to make a difference is literally text and tweet your heart out using #BellLetsTalk that’s it that’s all. Easy no? Thanks for reading and commenting.
      Be well
      AM

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Wow! So true. I’m two years post surgery/chemo for stage 3b colon cancer, and just now really coming to terms with my depression. I think I’d always had it and managed it ok, but the chemo flipped a huge switch, or broke something in my brain, so now it’s like trying to learn how to live again.
    I’m also pretty young (especially for colon cancer, which they don’t even start checking for till you’re in your 50’s).
    Just found your blog, will have to go back and read your old stuff.
    Thanks for putting into words some of the stuff I feel and don’t even realize yet.
    Cheers.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow right back at you! Cancer is a a bitch and man does it totally turn everything upside-down. I’m seven + years in and I still have my days. One of the biggest things I struggled with was the isolation. Don’t get me wrong, I had wonderful support and so much love around me, but I just felt so alone! I had to find my tribe. I found it online and in a young adult group here in Canada YACC. I highly suggest connecting with a YA group where you are. In the US there are a few like First Descents or Stupid Cancer, and in the U.K. I believe they have the Young Adults Cancer Trust. Alternately I can be in your tribe too 😉. Be Well
      AM

      Like

      1. Thank you for the very kind offer!
        How do you deal with survivors guilt? I feel like an ass because I’ve got it so much better than so many others, I know I should be grateful. I’ve no colectomy bag, there’s no cancer they can find, yet I gave up and wanted to die but didn’t. Makes me feel like an ungrateful jerk because I know people who fought so hard yet didn’t make it.
        My first dream after being diagnosed was all my family and friends gathering around me and telling me it was my fault for getting cancer, and if I’d eaten better and exercised more, and not smoked those cigarettes when I was in college I wouldn’t have this.
        I guess it feels like I’m not supposed to enjoy my life because I got off easy while others suffered far more and tried harder yet didn’t make it.
        Is that something you deal with? Maybe not because yours if more serious and deadly than mine?
        That and things like a few weeks ago I was having really bad hip pain, so I naturally assumed it had spread to my hip and stressed about that till my next check up.

        Like

      2. I certainly have had survivors guilt, it wasn’t until I was way into being metastatic/incurable, and those I knew with lung cancer started dying. I wondered “why me?” Why did I survive and. It them? It didn’t chalk it up to attitude or will, just simple (or complex) biology. It ate at me. I still struggle with allowing myself to be sad and feel bad, because I have no right, I’m one of the lucky ones for now. What you feel is normal. If you are really struggling with that or anything, I would talk to one of your health care professionals, they are there to help with those exact things. I too have had aches and pains and have developed arthritis inpatient of my major joins, but again get it checked out so you can rest easy. Never ever blame yourself for cancer or think you deserved it. No matter what you do or did, it simply isn’t true, no one deserves cancer. Be well,
        AM

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  6. Awwww I’m actually sad that I missed this day!
    Thanks for the brutal honesty. It’s what we need
    I’m a recovering addict myself and have experienced a ray of mental illnesses, which eventually led to the disease of addiction
    Cancer, HIV and numerous other illnesses are being de stigmatized more and more
    Now the more we talk about it being okay for someone to feel alone, anxious or scared regardless of age, race, sexual identity or creed the closer we can get to making progress with these issues.
    The sad reality is, the more these problems are the suppressed, the worse they become
    Thanks for the share

    Liked by 1 person

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  8. Thank you for writing a great post. I could relate to your situation when I couldn’t just do behavioral therapy over medication. One usually goes with another, and even then I still have to fight the feeling of hopelessness when bad situations occur. I hope you get through okay. Thank you

    Liked by 1 person

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  10. I love this – imagine if there was a company sponsoring every day of the year and we could donate and talk about mental health year round? This has given me some inspiration for our own project – thank you 😀

    Like

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