Taking control of your feelings!
So, last time I talked about how to manage the people around you. Now, it gets a bit trickier and we need to talk about how to manage your feelings about the cancer and the space that you are in!
In all of the past blogs, I have mentioned the skills and strategies that you need to manage dealing with cancer, and keeping yourself sane during this time. Today, I am thinking that we look at this from a slightly different angle…..
One of the things that people often struggle quite a lot with in relation to their cancer is the idea of “why me?”.
Now, don’t get me wrong, it is incredibly unfair that cancer is in your world, and it’s absolutely normal to feel ripped off, cheated, angry and generally sad that you have to deal with this.
The bottom line however, is that there is no answer to this question. You can spend days, weeks, months and sometimes even years seeking the answer, only to end up no further ahead. The thing that people often need to learn is how to stop thinking about it. Now, it would be awesome if I could do this for you, but ultimately, everyone will find a space where they just accept that there is no answer; it’s just bad luck.
Often, when you can get to that space, then it is much easier to make cancer a thing that you have in your life, rather than the thing that controls your life (although regardless of how you look at it, at times cancer will still cause you lots of pain, suffering and distress).
In the meantime however, there are some things that you can do to look at the feelings that cancer is causing you, because if you can actually identify your feelings, then they will be much easier to manage.
For instance, some of my patients tell me that having cancer in their world makes them feel angry. Sometimes it’s really easy to stop there and just accept the anger, but sometimes it’s helpful to think about the anger a little bit more.
So you can ask: what is it about the cancer that makes you angry? Some of the things that come to mind might surprise you, but don’t worry, because all of the things you think of are valid answers!
For example, if you decide that you feel angry because instead of being able to go out with your friends, you have to stay at home with your younger brothers (which, by the way, is a very reasonable response!), your anger will be much easier to work with. You will then be able to say:
“I am angry that I have to stay home when all of my friends can go out, but I know I will feel better if I am able to ** insert a coping strategy for you here!**" (Such as listening to music, punching a pillow, going for a run around the block).
Just by doing this, you will have made it much easier for your brain to deal with, and you will then be in control of the feeling, rather than letting the feeling get bigger and bigger and turn into something that you feel is in control of you at that time.
This works for almost all of the feelings which you might be able to come up with! Although some of them won’t have a nice easy answer like the example I just gave. And some of them, like the “why me?” thoughts, are much bigger questions that there simply aren’t any answers to.
Another thing that people often talk to me about is the fear of relapse, and the feelings that they have about that. Relapse is the thing which often causes more worry and distress then the initial diagnosis, because when the cancer comes back, it can mean a whole bunch of different things, and usually everyone is still trying to come to terms with the first cancer and already feel quite overwhelmed.
The thing that I have found is that although almost everyone says to me “there is no way I would cope if the cancer came back,” everyone DOES cope, because like with the first cancer, you don’t have a choice. If it comes back then it’ll be in your world and you’ll need to do something with it.
However, the fear of it coming back is often a really hard thing to get your head around. No one is able to say with 100% certainty it definitely won’t come back. And your brain will hold on to that uncertainty. So then the question is, what can you do with it?
Well some of my patients have found it really helpful to treat this thought in a similar way as is described above, and look at it as a potential problem that they can break down into smaller pieces to try and solve.
For example, “If the cancer comes back, my doctor has said that there is XYZ treatment that they would use”. It’s a scary idea to start thinking about this stuff, but by putting some structure around your thoughts and feelings, and treating them like a problem, you will create important distance between you and these thoughts, and this can make them feel a little bit easier to deal with.
Wow, ok so that’s some pretty heavy stuff for this blog!
As always, sometimes it’s easier to talk with someone face to face about these things, so if you are having lots of thoughts and feelings whirring around in your head that seem too big to manage, I recommend seeking professional help from a counsellor.
Until next time!