When Mom was first diagnosed with cancer (well after the initial shock/breakdown), I was like a robot. I did everything for everyone, took on all the household responsibilities, and faked happy in public and even when I was around my family. To the world I looked like I had everything under control. I had mixed emotions when people were impressed with how I was dealing with it. I’ll admit, I loved the praise for being such a good daughter, but it always pissed me off because no one really knew how hard it all was.
There’s one Sunday afternoon I’ll never forget. I left the hospital to go home and make supper, and the dog had peed on the carpet (not a strange occurrence as he got overly emotional because mom wasn’t around and did this on a daily basis). No one was home because it was summer and my brother was off swimming, my sister was out with her friends and my dad was at the hospital. I never felt so alone in my life. So I snapped–like really snapped. I was screeching and crying on my hands and knees next to a freaking puddle of pee when my aunt showed up! I find the reaction funny now, but at the time I thought I should be placed in a rubber room.
So, someone finally caught me, my emotions were out in the open, which actually was a total relief. That is when I think I really started to deal. My mothers work had a program where they refer you to psychologists that they work with and I went to see one.
To be honest, I hated it at first. I mean I am a half-way intelligent person and I know that I bottle my emotions so that others won’t see how upset I am because it makes them upset, then I feel worse for making them sad. It was a “vicious cycle” but I knew that I did it and had no intentions of changing. So he just kept telling me to let out my emotions, which I honestly was not going to do. He gave me silly breathing exercises to do too, but I didn’t feel like that’s what I needed. I guess I gave him little credit at the time. I went a couple of times just because it was the “healthy” thing to do, but really never got a lot from it. So I assumed that’s what all psychologists did.
Then when I was away with my mother for her transplant I saw a couple of councilors that were AMAZING! Now I don’t know if they were really that great, or if I was at a place where anyone would do, but I found it so excellent to talk to someone that wasn’t going to cry when I got upset, someone that knew what I was going through and knew how to deal with it. They were fully aware of Mom’s situation. They knew how sick she was, unlike my friends and other councilors outside of the hospital. I had never dealt with a situation like the one I was in, but they have. I had never developed a way of coping with illness on my own so any way they could show me was better that what I had, if that makes any sense.
One of the councilors was a minister. Now I am not against religion, but I don’t always respond well to the “turn to god” way of dealing with a physical problem. So, I was not totally receptive to him when he introduced himself as a minister. After talking to him for only 10 minutes, I felt so much better. He just let me go, and talk about anything to the point where I was saying things I would have NEVER said to anyone.
For example, the hardest things for me to deal with at the time were the visions I was having of her funeral, and this was when she was doing well. So here I am supposed to be all hopeful and supportive but I can’t stop imagining what I will wear to her funeral, and wondering who would come! I thought it was totally sick for thinking like this and it still sounds weird. Apparently it was just my subconscious dealing with all of the options because my conscious mind was refusing to look at the situation critically. It makes total sense. I wasn’t letting myself not be positive, so my mind was doing it on its own. What a psychology lesson! If I didn’t actually open up I would have just continued on thinking I was nuts and feeling extremely guilty for it. Thankfully I didn’t.
There were also a bunch of people (nurses, social workers, the mother of another transplant patient, and so on) that were awesome to talk to. It was a little harder with them as it was all too close to home and they would get sad when I was sad. I felt like they were dealing with her own problems didn’t need mine. So the psychologists were the best for me.
When I got home I found another councilor that was awesome too. By this time I had been through so much that I think I just needed to talk about life, even if it was school or my family or whatever. I found that talking about life after cancer helped to move past all the pain.
If you’re dealing with a cancer challenge, I would definitely recommend seeing someone just to see how you react to it. It may not help, but it pays to have an open mind. I would also recommend canceling the appointment if you’re having a good day. Just my opinion.
There were a couple of times when I was having a totally great day, went to a session and ended up totally depressed from talking about it. Then I’d go buy a leather jacket to cheer myself up and end up feeling guilty about wasting money! I inherited an extremely guilty conscience from my mother.
I know that technically when I would avoid the therapist I was just bottling my emotions and that I needed to let them out, but when I needed to talk, I talked and when I didn’t, I didn’t! And that’s precisely my advice. Talk when you want to and don’t when you don’t.
Psychologists have this stigma sometimes that they just sit there and take notes about how crazy you are, but that’s totally not true. Even if you’re like me and think there’s nothing they can tell you about yourself that you don’t already know, keep an open mind. You never know, sometimes it takes another person to point out those things that we overlook ourselves.