Prioritizing My Mental Health
Fighting cancer is usually seen as a physical fight. Your body is being attacked and through medicine, surgery, and sometimes brute strength, you fight back against the disease. Medical teams work to mitigate the physical symptoms, but the inner mental struggle can easily be forgotten in an effort to just “stay alive.” The mental strength required of a cancer patient to survive is not limitless. Support is absolutely necessary. It is so important to make a patient’s mental health as much of a priority as their physical health.
Realizing I needed help and reaching out to a therapist
It took a random Tuesday night at home when I was recovering from surgery for me to realize I needed help. I was struggling to hold myself together. I cried, uncontrollably, all the time. My mind was very dark, and it just felt like there was no way out. This is when I took the first step towards making my mental health as much of a priority as my physical health. I admitted I wanted and needed help. I reached out to a therapist who specialized in working with oncology patients. I worked with my therapist and was prescribed medication to help me get through what was arguably the most difficult period in my cancer journey.
Protecting my mental health
As I continued to heal and go back to more and more normal activities, I found that it takes more than just therapy to care for my mental health. I needed to make a point to communicate to the people around how I needed to be supported. My husband knows that sometimes I just need to cry it out and pitch a fit without needing a solution. At work, I’ve let my coworkers know that I prefer not to talk about my condition unless it is pertinent to the situation. Even with family, I try to limit the “cancer” talk as much as possible. Creating a bubble where I exist beyond my disease has really allowed me to protect my mental health when I just want to be Brittney and not my bladder cancer.
Making time for quiet
One of the hardest steps I’ve taken in making my mental health a priority has been learning to say "no" to things. I’ve worked very hard to listen to myself and recognize when I am reaching physical and mental fatigue. At times, this may mean turning down social activities, and sometimes, it is as simple as just closing my office door at work. I’ve found that having a quiet night where I turn off the phone and enjoy a book or warm bath does wonders for how I feel. In a society that values productivity, it can seem impossible to set boundaries and make time for quiet. However, carving out this time can be so beneficial to your mental health.
Strong mind and body
I’ve found when my mind is clear and calm, my body tends to follow suit. Stress, fear and worry very easily brings on migraines, stomach troubles, and I swear I manifest bag leaks when I’m freaking out about something. By making my mental health a priority along with the health of my body, it really feels like I’ve been able to take this long cancer journey in stride. I would love to hear how you care for your mental health while also fighting cancer.
Have you felt misunderstood as a person living with bladder cancer?