Male POC Talking with therapist

My Advice for Anyone with Bladder Cancer: Get a Therapist!

If you do not have a therapist, my advice is to get one. You may be newly diagnosed. You may be 14 years or more into your cancer path. If you have not secured a therapist, I cannot recommend it strongly enough.

Empowering language

Before I go forward, allow me to say that “path” is my word to describe what cancer has taken me on. You need to find wording that empowers you. Survivor, warrior, fighter, and many more have negative impacts on various people. I encourage you to find your own language, the words that empower or comfort you. For me and now, “path” works.

Suffering from trouble concentrating and panic attacks

That aside, allow me to return to my assertion that a therapist is as worthwhile as the best doctor or treatment plan and team. I am 56 years old this year. I was raised to be stoic and keep a stiff upper lip and all that. Somewhere along the way, I came undone. It was a couple or three years back, and I found myself in unchartered and terrifying waters. The coping mechanisms I had always trusted failed me. I was having trouble concentrating. I suffered several panic attacks. More than once, I had to stop what I was doing and just sit and focus on breathing to calm myself.

Diagnosed with anxiety and depression

A trip to my family doctor confirmed anxiety and depression. I was given a couple scripts and sent on my way. The medicine made my jittery and unpredictable. I was getting worse and desperate, a bad combination for someone with both anxiety and depression. I needed someone to talk to.

Supportive friends and family cannot replace a therapist

Talking to family and friends may help, but I contend, any conversation with someone you have a relationship with will be guided and often muted in keeping with what that relationship dictates. I have to be mindful as I speak to my wife. She is an amazing caregiver, but she has needs that have to be considered, so full disclosure of the emotional toll of cancer is out. Friends have their own trials. I never want to be a burden to them. The kids, although grown, still have expectations of “Dad.”

A therapist is equipped to listen and help

This leaves me with nowhere to let my masks fall away. Enter the therapist. This is a person who is trained and equipped to listen, process, be non-judgmental, and help you with perspective and finding balance. As a bonus, they are under oath to keep your secrets. No worries of idle chatter about your issues, mental to physical.

Finding the right therapist involves trial and error

If you have tried therapy in the past or have heard horror stories of failed therapy and therapists, let me be completely honest. My current therapist is wonderful, gifted, empathetic, and genuine. He is also my 6th therapist. One assured me if I just prayed harder, I would be fine. One wanted to one-up every life event I shared. The psychiatrist sat with me for an hour, asked a few questions, and then, after making my next appointment said, "If you want to cancel, I completely understand.” After an online assessment, number 5 told me she didn’t see us as a fit.

6 therapists later, I found a good fit

If at first you don’t succeed try, try again. If you decide to try a therapist, be prepared that the first one may not be the last one. Give an honest effort, and if it is not a good fit, try someone else. I can assure you that once you find the right fit and a person you can totally open up to, therapy can alter the path of your life and make the burdens cancer brings far more manageable.

Making progress with my mental health

3 years, 6 therapists/doctors, several medication attempts, and a fair amount of tears and bourbon later, I am happy to share that I am making progress with my mental health. Cancer is a “Big T” trauma, and having a person who is not connected to your immediate realm to talk through the trauma with is wonderful, freeing, and healing.

Take very good care of yourselves.

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