Escaping Nagging Paranoia with Mindfulness
Last updated: February 2022
I want to be transparent here. I want anyone reading these articles to see my truth and be able to relate as they can or need to. This is therapeutic for me, but I hope it is also affirming and therapeutic to the reader as well.
In my last two articles, I talked about my most recent cancer scare. My dentist did not like the look of a spot on my nose and sent me on a month-long ramble through doctors and waiting and a dermatologist. In the end, all is well and the spot is a “sunspot.”
That should have been the end of the ordeal. I was all prepared to tie the whole situation off in a neat ball with a pretty bow and throw it out and move on. “Not so fast,” says my mind. “Let's mull this over for a bit longer.”
As with any of my multiple cancer scares and my one full-out diagnosis, the mental aspect has lasted long after the physical symptoms are over. For me, cancer has manifested itself as a mental exercise. An exhausting, sometimes debilitating, mental exercise.
The what-if's haunting
Regardless of any assurances I receive from a medical professional, my mind stays engaged on the possibilities. What if? On one hand, I know what a bad idea it is to dwell on the negative possibilities. If I were counseling someone I would explain how much better off they are to put that energy into positive thoughts. I try to stay positive and thankful for my outcomes, usually, I succeed.
But now and then I fall headlong into the pit of, “What if?” My paranoia takes a firm hold and drags me into the darkest of places. As I type this I am in that darkness. Many of you will know where I am speaking from. That place where all of the negative possibilities live and breathe and make their home.
Mindfulness toolkit for bladder cancer (or any cancer)
These are the times when I open up the mindfulness toolkit I have amassed and work everything until something fits and helps bring light. Meditation helps slow my mind’s aimless wandering. Journaling allows the negativity somewhere to go. Talking to my therapist helps with understanding the dark thoughts. Prayer acknowledges my connection to my God.
The mind can only focus on one thing at a time. Using the tools above, allowing or causing the mind to shift focus away from the negative onto something (anything) else will break the cycle. This takes work and practice but I assure you it can be done and it is effective.
Simply make up your own mantra, as a meditation, and repeating it in a rhythmic cadence can derail negative thoughts. Like a metronome. A simple repeating series of words or numbers, spoken at a slower pace will cause your brain to stop everything else and rest on your mantra.
Journaling allows us to put the thoughts of the day somewhere other than in our crowded minds. Like loading a bushel basket with our day and then unpacking it so everything doesn’t just spill over and make a mess.
It's a practice, not a perfect
Any of these tools are helpful at different times. Knowing I have them is always comforting. Practicing them regularly is like breathing or eating or exercising. Make them a part of your daily life and when the darkness comes it will be easier to find your way back into the glorious light of a new day.
How long did it take for you to receive a bladder cancer diagnosis?