Week one: My quest for happiness
It has been a week since I let the ugly truth out about my depression. I have learned through out this process that depression is a roller coaster. Sometimes, it makes me feel bi-polar and I say that in the most light hearted way possible. I am not bi-polar, however, the good moments come and go and the bad moments make their appearances as well. I never know when its going to happen it just does - and I am just along for the ride. With that being said...I have decided I am going to write more frequent, shorter posts going forward. I want you to come along this journey with me both for myself and for you. I want to share with you what works for me and show you that its possible. That life will and can go on after this. My goal is to prove that to you, and to myself.
So what has the last week been like for me? First of all, it was so beneficial for me to put my feelings out there. Whether it was seen by 2 or 500 people, it was good for me to let everyone know where I truly stand. It was the beginning of my "quest for happiness". So this last week I set some goals for myself and I made sure that I stuck to those goals. They were not out of line and they weren't running out and saving the world. They were simple.
Wake up at 8AM
Drink Coffee and EAT BREAKFAST!!!
10AM GYM - NO EXCUSES
12PM - EAT LUNCH
Rest of the day - whatever the hell I damn well please which usually consisted of my daily errands and some work here and there
Right now, my focus is not on my work. It is on me, myself and I. Having those simple goals every morning, set a mood every day. There were 2 days specifically that I wanted to stay in bed and not do anything. I wanted to stay in my warm cozy bed and watch TV all day with my door shut. I was cold, in pain, and tired. I knew I would have those days and I questioned if my depression would stand in front of me. I made the decision ahead of time that I wasn't going to allow that to happen. I have also been texting a good friend of mine, who I met in my support group, every day. Danae, Thank you. Thank you for being who you are to me on this journey. It is people like you who inspire, motivate, and encourage others. It was such a simple thing to do, and I have thought of our texts every day. I didn't want to send Danae a text saying...bad day...didn't work out. I wanted to send Danae a text that said...Felt like shit today but worked out anyways, I feel better now. And so I did. I made sure every day she checked in, or that I checked in, that I was sticking to MY goals. Danae read my blog last week and told me we would check in every day together to push each other. We have done just that and I recommend you do the same. I can tell you it has been that extra little push I needed each day.
Aside from the gym, I started Acupuncture again. I also started doing some pressure point massage through my acupuncturist. I started taking a supplement called Intramax which is an amazing liquid supplement. Instead of going on antidepressants, I chose to take the more holistic route, though I am taking 5htp which is a natural mood enhancing supplement. As I learn more about these different options, I will share them with you. None of these are overnight fixes - its a process - one that I believe in and will continue to pursue.
One thing that I am working on is this. I am trying to go back to some of my old habits pre-cancer. I made this decision so that I could get a little piece of Jen back. That meant joining the gym I was at before cancer and start taking the classes I took pre-cancer. I am focusing on remembering what made me happy before I was diagnosed and I am going to do everything I can to bring those things back in to my life. I think it is so easy to lose yourself in the fog of cancer and to allow it to define you in some way. I decided I needed to rediscover those little "things" that I used to do that brought me joy - like when I did the "bird pose" for the first time in my gym class. Those simple "things". They made me happy. They made me feel good about myself and so I will strive to find those little things again.
I feel slightly better. Doing things for myself, sticking to a simple schedule, and reaching out to those who understand what I am experiencing has been very beneficial for me this last week. Meditation and breathing as gotten me through those moments of anxiety. Sure, I have still had my breakdowns, but I don't feel so lost right now. As much as I would never wish any of this on anyone...I was happy to see the outpouring of support from my readers. Your comments, emails, and posts on facebook truly mean the world to me. I received emails from people, totally unrelated to cancer, but in relation to depression, offering their advice. It really does mean everything to me. I felt so alone last week...alienated. It was YOU, my readers, who made me realize I am not alone, who inspired me to try different things to cope with this, and who have reminded me that there is an end to this. I believe that now.
I am not going to apologize for the lack of posts here lately. For some reason, unbeknownst to me, emotionally, thinks suddenly became very difficult. I have dreaded writing in my blog lately because I didn’t want to pretend everything was okay, but at the same time, I wasn’t ready to face this. There is a side to cancer no one talks about and I have my own reasoning for why this might be. Beating cancer is one thing…living with the effects of cancer is an entirely different story. So here is mine…
There isn’t one specific moment that I can pinpoint triggered any of this. It just happened. I suddenly became depressed…not sad…but uncontrollably depressed. Over the last few weeks, I have tried so hard to figure out why. I was doing so well…why is this happening? Why can’t I move on? Why am I living and obsessing over something so awful that happened? Really, I am not “living” at all. I was happy spending my days in my bedroom. I was happy not talking to anyone. I was happy living in my own little world while the rest of the world had no clue what was going on inside of my head. Even though sleep is all I wanted to do, not much if it was happening because of my racing mind. I love food, but eating wasn’t a priority to me. I have all the clear signs of depression, and at first, it was hard for me accept this. It just isn’t me – It’s not who I am. I like to laugh, I like to be goofy, and I like to be around people. What I don’t like, is crying every day, yet that seems to have become a regular occurrence these days. So instead of hiding it, which only makes it worse, I figured I would write about it. After all, half the reason I write in this blog is because it’s therapeutic. So here goes…
I feel like I am standing still while the entire world is spinning around me. While everyone else is living their lives I am stuck in the last year of mine. My family and friends all took care of me, whether from near or far. Friends from the past popped out of the word work because I was sick. I received cards, and gifts, and phone calls and texts from everyone who was surprised yet concerned about me. Then cancer left my body…and most of those people disappeared. While I don’t demand or need the attention, I sometimes wonder why they even made that appearance. Let me make something very clear to those that don’t understand anything about cancer, because I can promise you, this feeling is mutual amongst most survivors. Just because I am cancer free, does not mean I am okay. In fact…fighting cancer was easier than dealing with the fears and depression I live with daily now. I was confident one day that my cancer would be gone. I never imagined in a million years it would haunt me every single day thereafter. It is difficult not knowing when this is going to go away. I fear this is my life now. As much as I try to not let it be, the fact of the matter is, cancer happened to me. I am scared I will live in fear for the rest of my life and that I am going to miss out on living life the way life is meant to be lived. For someone who doesn’t understand this...it is not as simple as just waking up and deciding to not live this way anymore. Or maybe it is…but right now…I am not processing that option.
I feel resentful and angry at people for continuing to live their lives around me, while I am stuck. That might sound crazy to you…but maybe it’s more of a jealousy feeling than anything else. I WISH I could go about my life and be “Jen before cancer”. It is frustrating to me that as much as I would love that…it’s not possible. I don’t doubt that I can be a better Jen once I get past this…but getting over this mountain is pretty challenging. When will that time come? When will this get better? I WANT it to all just go away, everything about it. The most frustrating part, is feeling alone. No one around me understands what I am going through. All of the tears and words in the world couldn’t give it justice. It’s a circling of emotions, of fears, of challenges, of wanting to do something and being so determined to do it, but not having the desire. It’s frustrating losing my train of thought mid-sentence and feeling like I sound like a complete idiot. It’s not remembering what I did less than 24 hours ago or being told the same thing 55 times. It’s the physical toll that chemo took on my body physically and mentally. I am 34 and I feel like I am trapped in a 65 year old body with aches and pains and forgetfulness. I have ZERO control over much of anything anymore and maybe cancer happened to me, to teach me that I didn’t need to be in control all of the time. Maybe that was the lesson I was supposed to learn. I don’t know…but I do know this…
You can tell me I am strong all you want but those words don’t register to me. I fought because I had too and you would do the same if you were told the same news. You don’t just give up and let a disease take over your body. You fight back. I am not strong because I did this, I am human. I am still fighting and a battle that I thought at one point I won…now feels like I am losing. Cancer is winning right now…because it still makes its daily appearance in my head. I am so f’ing angry at cancer right now. I have no answers, no timeline for when these feelings will go away – so my only choice is to fight them…just as I did my cancer. I want to make something very clear to those closest to me…
Pardon me for my lack of emails, texts, or phone calls. I am busy taking care of myself right now. If you’re wondering how I am doing ask me. My life isn’t cancer – don’t assume that it is. In fact, I feel the most normal when I am on the phone talking about my life outside of cancer. I am still a supportive wife, the best stepmom you’ll ever meet, a daughter, a sister, and an amazing friend. Those things about me have not and will never change but I am rediscovering what it is about this life that brings me joy. At one point, before cancer, those questions didn’t exist. Sure I was always making changes and working on becoming a better person but this is different. I feel as though I am rebuilding myself. The foundation will always be there but I am building a new home for Jen. Accepting that is difficult but I want to believe it’s going to result in a beautiful ending. On the positive side of that, is that fact that I get to choose who that person will be. I get to rediscover what I am passionate about, what brings me joy, what makes me cry, and what makes me laugh. My hope is that my closest friends and family will join me in this portion of journey. If you haven’t heard from me, reach out to me, it’s probably when I need it most. Please.
I never asked for this. This wasn’t where I wanted to be at 34. My life wasn’t supposed to go this way and I will slowly learn to accept that and move on. Patience. Patience from you, patience with myself, just pure patience. This will not change overnight and I anticipate more tears will fall as I climb this mountain. One day at a time. This has to get better. It just has too. God did not keep me here to live this way. He kept me here so that I could enjoy life to its fullest. Each and every day I will continue to pray for the strength to do just that. Thank you to a very loving cousin for those words of encouragement. Time will pave my road to happiness and I truly believe that statement. With the continued love, support, and prayers…I will win. I will smile a genuine smile again and feel joy in life because everyone deserves that. Including you.