Over the last two years, I’ve come to realise the psychological effects the cancer diagnosis had on me in March 2014. Physiologically changes took place immediately from surgery and the repercussions of surgery. Menopause sucked, it was distressing with no HRT, yet I learned a lot about what nourished me, versus depleted me during that time. (Nearly said period ! Ha!)
I was caught in a whirlwind of big decisions and scary things happening in a matter of weeks; which I could never prepare myself for. My mind was storing it away for another day, though!
Since then, I’ve always strived to acknowledge my feelings, face into the pain and discomfort with the help of experts, especially after a huge & painful lesson learnt after 10 years, following my mum passing in 2004 – You can’t ignore pain, run away from negative emotions, bereavement; it stores up and eats away at you.
Despite being honest with myself on how I was feeling – good and bad, and I’ve truly experienced more moments of deeper joy since having cancer ( it kinda makes you extremely grateful for ALOT in life). I’ve also had this annoying crushing feeling of panic and anxiety that has continued to build up to points, more recently that are so debilitating and damn right scary.
I’ve had some, what I call, ‘real‘ threats to my health, a colonoscopy to check for lynch syndrome, remission check-ups, a CT scan in 2015 and more recently bloody Dengue Fever BUT, it has also been brought on by less threatening places; like work, a mountaintop in New Zealand, driving to an appointment, walking along the tow path with a buggy, being around people (!), aeroplanes, a thunderstorm & so on… In my mind, I logically know there is nothing ‘life threatening’ about it, butthe ‘feeling‘ takes over and consumes me.
This is one of the most frustrating things about having an anxiety disorder; knowing as you’re freaking out that there’s no reason to be freaked out, but lacking the ability to shut the emotion down.(source:healthyplace.com)
Over the last 6 months, I’ve seen my anxiety disorder completely go off the scale due to a build up of stress, mainly generated by work and the pressure I was putting on myself. I’ve experienced the theory and it’s been true for me :
… over 70 % of your bodily systems are utilised during an anxiety disorder
Finally I now understand why I’ve felt tired, drained and experienced pain and lethargy in my body. The cancer wasn’t back. It was anxiety. Anxiety is also known to ride shotgun with depression and those two have been a driving force in my life, whilst I’ve felt very much like the back seat driver, not listened to.
Thank goodness for a brilliantly CBT Therapist and a very supportive husband and family. I’ve slowly been able to piece back together the parts of me that have been vacant for many months now. I’m changing my paradigm when it comes to ‘stress’. I’m seeing it as a helpful positive tool to pay attention to, so it works in my favour more often than just at times of exercise.
Stress, like fat, sugar, gets a lot of attention and bad press. I too have been guilty of ‘dissing’ stress and how bad it can be. I almost became too fearful that stress = getting cancer again! Yep – welcome to the world of an anxiety disorder!
This interesting and stimulating talk on stress by Kelly McGonigal-How to make stress your friend, looks at why our thoughts about stress are so important to how we feel and deal with it.
_I’ve come to realise that I’ve actually suffered from degrees of high anxiety a lot throughout my life – always ‘on guard’ worrying the absolute worst was going to happen to me, or loved ones! It’s exhausting.
My first memory of this was when I was 6, or 7 years old and I was on a boat swing with my younger brother. I vividly remember saying to my brother “please don’t ever die and leave me!” Heavy stuff for a 6/7 yr old to have on her shoulders worrying about that !!
I’m learning that anxiety, through awareness can also transform into excitement…. Just like stress, anxiety can be beneficial, which has been another huge paradigm shift for me, knowing that I can use it to my advantage.
A great book by Dr Dave Alred MBE ‘The Pressure Principle’ summarises this beautifully with his ‘pressure principle model’.
So whilst I continue to hack through the ‘ugly zone’, the place where change and learning takes place and start to change learned habits and behaviours I’ve had all my life and foster the environment I’m in, which at times is unstable, I will now look at how both stress and anxiety can help me and just like my 7 year old self – call out my fears to others and as Dr Alred writes, conquer my fear of failure and obsession with outcomes.
What I’ve learnt (so far):
1. Don’t suffer alone, reach out for help and get help. Others can help with their awareness
2. Awareness of your feelings and behaviours are the first steps to change
3. Change your perception by answering this question ‘how is this helping me now?’
4. Now – Be in the present! Mindfulness, meditation, affirmations are hugely powerful
5. Regain your power and know that so many people suffer from anxiety disorder too – athletes call it ‘performance anxiety’
OUR DEEPEST FEAR
“…Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is
that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that
most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous,
talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God.
Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened
about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are
all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory
of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And
as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people
permission to do the same. As we’re liberated from our own fear, our
presence automatically liberates others.”
~ From A RETURN TO LOVE by Marianne Williamson