Wednesday, May 30, 2012

User 's guide to post Cancer fallout

Welcome to my guide to dealing with post cancer emotional fall-out! Fasten your seat belts folks, and get ready for a fun-filled ride full of shits and giggles...Yahooo!!

That, by the way, is complete bitter sarcasm. There won't be very much fun involved in this post I'm afraid. So...if ya can't take the heat I'd suggest getting outta the

Alrighty then. So it's been over a month since my last treatment. The first 2 weeks or so post treatment were complete euphoria. I was so utterly relieved at being done treatment, and the joy of that was all encompassing. But, as all things must, it ended. I was under the mistaken impression that this euphoric experience would be a permanent state and that somehow, through dealing with the disease I had reached some sort of Nirvana. Now I realize that the opposite is actually true. Which is to say that all of the internal and external garbage has only intensified to an insane degree. I will now attempt to outline some of what this entails for me. I do this not to elicit sympathy or fixing advice (as if this can be fixed!!) but to remind folks who have gone through, or are going through traumatic illness, injury, or other types of  random suffering that you are not alone in feeling like a total whacko - and I think this is only temporary (?). At least I reeeeaaalllly hope so! Okay (deep breath) here goes!

Big J's post treatment fall out symptoms include:
  • Super intensified emotions...about almost everything.
  • Extreme sudden intolerance for certain kinds of behaviour in people (this can include chronic dysfunction that has gone on for years, certain banal or superficial conversation, stupid complaining, stupid cliches, and many other things)
  • Extreme anxiety about the future
  • Anger (red, hot!!) at having lost almost a year of my life to cancer, at my body for failing me, at the universe for throwing this pile of shit into my life.
  • Simultaneous desire for change and fear of change.
  • delayed shock
  • Difficulty focusing or concentrating (Chemo brain?)
  • Fear of cancer re-occurring (which boils down to - fear of more chemo!)
  • Barrage of existential questions around what constitutes true happiness/the nature of suffering/grief/death and dying/the ultimate meaning of life. (yes - I am totally mentally exhausted in case you were wondering).
  • Difficulty making decisions (this is not a new one)
  • Envy and dislike of people whom I perceive to be happy, well adjusted and problem -free (you know those shiny happy people).
  • A sudden very uncharacteristic desire for security (suburb envy!?!?)
  • A sudden very characteristic desire for independence and adventure. Yes - both of these are happening at the same time. I feel like I have multiple personality disorder!
  • Self imposed pressure to 'make something of my life'...and FAST before it's too late.
Sadly, there are many more bullets I could add to my current list of neurosis. I bet I know what your thinking: "This girl needs to book an appointment with a shrink - STAT!". Have no fear - done and done! Although not technically a shrink,  she might be the worlds best psycho therapist around. With any luck, soon I'll be one of those shiny happy well adjusted people who I currently want to punch in the face! (Just kidding - I don't really believe in well adjusted people - just well-disguised people).

So a quick word or two of advice of you are experiencing any of the above "Big J"  symptoms:
  1. Go see your shrink, counsellor, therapist guru or what-EV and start to unload and get an objective perspective. If your shrink is an asshole who you are not completely comfortable with get a new one. If you think you have it all together and don't need one - enter the real world and get over your perfect ignorant self... You'll do yourself and those you live, work, engage with on a regular basis a huge favour. By the way - no one is well adjusted - or wait....didn't I already go over this?
  2. Get outside. It's deceptively simple, but one hour a day can help shift my perspective pretty drastically. Especially at this time of year.
  3. Okay - I know I said 2 - but this one is paramount and counter intuitive when in a semi-crisis mode: Take it really super duper easy on yourself. Try to think and exist in slow motion. One small movement, thought, gesture, word at a time. I'm admittedly not so good at this one. But really - is anyone in our hyper ADD  productivity and efficiency obsessed culture?? Gawd - its no wonder I'm an f-ing basketcase!!!!
Last thing. The following is like nourishment for my impoverished psyche right now.
"Your pain is the breaking of the shell enclosing your understanding.
      Even as the stone of fruit must break, that it's heart may stand in the sun, so must you know pain.
      And could you keep your heart in wonder at the daily miracles of your life, your pain would not seem less wondrous than your joy;
      And you would accept the seasons of your heart, even as you have always accepted the seasons that pass over your fields.
     And you would watch with serenity through the seasons of your grief."
-Kahlil Gibran - from "The Prophet"

Three cheers for serenity.....Good luck compadres,

Thursday, May 24, 2012

piano desk

In trying to write this blog post I have reached a conculsion:  I have so much to say that I have nothing to say. Tonight the mind is wildly out of control like a snotty little toddler and running me ragged! It's exhausting. In moments like these I turn to the ridiculous. Desperate times call for desperate measures. I know its done the internet rounds, but even still this little beauty always does the trick for me. This nugget of pure genius is always worth another go. I will now watch it 5 times in a row and hopefully dream in  burgundy velour to a discordant sound track. Sheer class.

That's all. Night night.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Tea cupping the process

I never would have imagined that at this point in my life I would become teacup obsessed...but it seems to have happened...about 30 years too early. For the past couple of months I've been having daydreams about sitting sipping my tea from a delicate flowered tea cup instead of a big, awkward, heavy coffee mug with some lame picture of a reindeer on it. I'm not sure how or when this notion of drinking from teacups began to infiltrate my thinking, but regardless, I couldn't stand it any longer and I finally ambled on down to "Disarray" (a fine Guelph second hand gem of a store) and found myself 2 very pretty teacups (with saucers) and brought them home with me. I'm sipping from one as I write this.

After giving it some thought, I think this teacup thing I have going is a bit of a metaphor for the way in which I am now entering the murky territory of "processing the experience" of the past 6-7 months of diagnosis and treatment. It's something I am approaching very delicately, slowly and with a wee bit of reverence. It's also a bit like easing into a really hot bath. You have to start with your tippy toes and then your ankles and then your lower leg etc. You have to slowly acclimatize yourself. You can't just get right in there or it's gonna hurt like hell!( On a side note - it's true what they say: tea really does taste better from a tea cup! If you don't believe me give it a whirl! It's also a lot of fun if you do it in a rocking chair. Just a thought.)

It's been about 10 days or so since the last treatment day and it is fascinating the things that have surfaced since then. I realize now that I was in extreme auto pilot lets-just-get-this-shit-done mode for the duration of my diagnosis and treatment. In reading through my journals of the early days of diagnosis I feel as if I have only now experienced some shock that I wasn't allowing myself to feel at the time...I was pretty much  "all business" from the get-go. In finishing treatment all these repressed emotions are coming out and they are in a serious mood to par-tay! They're like "He-ey....we exist! maybe it's time you acknowledged us bi-atch!".

You would think re-experiencing some of this in a deeper way would be a large bummer but ironically it hasn't been a negative or exhausting thing at all (although somewhat alarming at times).  I feel  an immense sense of relief  to finally psychologically begin unburdening myself and unclenching my mind...just allowing myself to feel. It seems healthy to let the reality of what I went through sink in - instead of expending all that energy constantly holding it at bay.  It's also really nice to not have to be "strong" all the time, or brace myself mentally for the next treatment etc.

Being released from this kind of "holding pattern" is a really freeing experience - and a big reason to celebrate (by drinking tea from pretty tea-cups, for example.)

Tucked into my journal I found written on some tattered folded pages a bunch of poems and quotes from various authors. I carried them around with me constantly when i was first diagnosed,  and I would take them out and read to myself when I felt completely freaked out and needing some grounding. It was amazing to read some of them from the "after" perspective - and it gives me hope that things do indeed pass to make way for the new things. Here are 2 of them:

Does a pendulum stop at the end of it's swing?
So war and peace;
love and hate;
togetherness and aloneness
cycle and recycle...

Life is full of little resurrections.
Why then should we doubt the bigger ones?

-Jim Taylor

But then comes change
winter changes to spring
we meet a friend
we rest
forces awaken in our bodies
life seems to surge once more...

as the morning sun -
never faltering

-Jean Vanier

That's all for now - Peace Out! And don't forget to observe...