Monday, 8 May 2017
Normal. What is that anyway?
Desperate to be normal. But what is that? I have been different for the last 10 years because of living with a chronic cancer. I want to highlight that I am living with it. It is not me. I am not it. I am not defined by it. But yes of course it does impact on me, shapes me, is partly responsible for who I am today. Diagnosed at 22 - such formative years. Would I be who I am today anyway? I don't know.
So it's mental health week. People who 'aren't normal'. Walk around with a hidden thing at all times. Smiles mask so many internal thoughts and feelings.
I would also like to flag at this point that I do not have depression, anxiety, OCD or anything else in the myriad that is 'mental health'. What I do have is huge self-awareness and the need to write, so I write about how I feel and put it on the internet.
So yes. Maybe I am a bit mental....
And my internal chat isn't always kind. Fat. Ugly. This is why you are single. Cancer and not drinking scares men off. The fact I want babies and talk about it. Fucking hell. DONT DO THAT. Nothing more off putting than someone who is honest…
And then the flip side. Seen as too self-confident. Too self-assured. Because I am happy with me. Basically. Most of the time. I like me. I love me. Cancer has taught me that. Therapy has shown me that. I don't hate cancer because that would mean hating myself. And frankly. That is something I am not prepared to do or even consider.
So why am I writing this on the first day of mental health week? Maybe to show that it's not just the obvious things that affect your mental health. Just because I don't take antidepressants or anti-anxiety meds doesn't mean I don't sometimes battle with my mind. I do.
I am on a chemo break and at the weekend after nearly 2 weeks off treatment I have begun to feel lighter. Less fatigued. More like me. Happy? I think so. It's such a fragile thing happiness. Yesterday I felt happy. Content. I cooked, cleaned, read a crime novel, stayed off screens. And then I saw something and immediately my mind flipped. I was upset. I was sad. I questioned why I am. What is my life? Why did I get this? Why do I live with this invisible thing that's with me and impacts on everything? It wasn't so much of a problem when I was younger, but the impact is becoming more and more. The longer I spend on treatment- daily pill chemotherapy- the more of an impact it makes. The fatigue gets worse. More debilitating. I don't live a normal life. I can't do everything that my friends do. It's shit. And the impact of that on my mental health is fucking massive.
And people don't get it. I don't look like a 'normal' cancer patient. I get on with it. I refuse to be an ill person. I push myself. I get out of bed every single fucking day. Even when the thought of it makes me want to cry.
And I say with a smile 'it's ok, it could be worse. It's just a pill. I still have my life'.
But do I?
Why can't I do a day's work AND go out and see friends in the evening? Why do I need between 10-12 hours sleep EVERY night just to sort of function the next day? Why do I have to worry about the impact of what I do today on how I will feel tomorrow? Why do I have to say no to going to things that involve standing for more than about half an hour because I have to sit down? Why aren't I married with a baby? Why aren't I loved? What is wrong with me? Is life really meant to be like this at 32?
Maybe it's all in my mind. Maybe I am living a self-fulfilling prophecy thinking these thoughts. Maybe I put people, men, off.
I don't know.
So I know this isn't a 'normal' mental health blog post. Normal. What is that anyway?! And I should know that at 32 and happy wearing gold shoes, a neon print cat jumper and a faux leopard print fur jacket that I am anything but normal.
And you know what? I'm pretty fucking happy about that.
I live constantly contradicting myself in my mind. Always arguing the other side.
But today. I am 2 weeks chemo free as I have been given a break and I’m feeling like me again. I woke up naturally after 9 hours sleep. I managed to go for a little run. I've had my breakfast, showered, got to my workspace and I don't feel completely fucked and out of energy. So this makes me happy. I vaguely remember life being like this.
So today, in mental health awareness week I am doing what I can to educate about chronic cancer and the impact it has on mental health.
With love and hope,