During the last quarter of 2018 I found myself stuck in circumstances beyond my control. A routine mammogram saved my life and I had surgery in November. Needless to say, the waiting for results, referrals and appointments was psychologically draining. The unknown was tormenting for me. My mind took me to the dark side where I started to think about my mortality and yes, my bucket list. Once I got my results, I was able to move on. I am fortunate to have stage 1 breast cancer with a good prognosis. I begin my radiation next week for 3 weeks. What I found interesting about having cancer is that it is easier for me to talk about it than mental illness. I was comfortable reaching out for supports to family and friends and posting updates on social media. I received a great deal of support and made some wonderful connections.
Even though I am an advocate for mental health education and breaking down barriers , I still feel influenced by the stigma of having a mental illness and have often kept my struggles with generalized anxiety disorder and depression to myself. It’s time to be transparent. Just as having cancer is not within my control, neither is having a mental health problem. This winter has been challenging for my mental health due to concerns over my physical health, a major reduction in sunlight and taking a break from work. My mind has too much time to wonder. These are some of the management tools I am using to cope:
- A Happy Light (SADS light). These lights which simulate natural sunlight can be purchased online or at your local pharmacy. Everyone morning I sit by the light with a coffee and read. These lights are more effective for those with Seasonal Affective Disorder, but I find it is having some benefit for me, even though I do not have this diagnosis.
- Nutrition. After the holidays of overeating and indulging in too much sugar, I am trying to return to healthier eating. This is not easy for me as I love food and turn to it for comfort. One day at a time.
- Exercise. I have been walking for up to 1 hour 5 times a week. It really gets the blood moving, gives me more energy and helps to clear my head.
- Spirituality. I heard on the news this week that people with spirituality do better with their cancer treatment than those without spirituality. For me, this has been a great help for both cancer and depression. It brings me peace, hope and comfort.
None of us know what lies ahead in life. What I have learned from these experiences is to reach out for help and support. We do not have to suffer alone. Looking forward to the next chapter in the Book of Pat. Taking 2019 one day at a time.