I feel a little guilty writing this post. Many of the other entries I’ve read tonight have been about recovery. About new beginnings, rediscovering the joys of friends and work, and just getting back to normal after the long battle with breast cancer. I feel like I’m supposed to capitalize somehow on the life-changing experience that I’ve had. But lately I’m just stuck.
Physically, I’m on track. I eat pretty well. I exercise several times per week. I take all the right supplements. But emotionally, I’m doing the exact same things that made me unhappy, and angry, and resentful. I’m an intelligent person. I just can’t seem to figure out how to change things that should have been changed long ago. And I know that all of those bottled up emotions played a role in my illness.
I think a big part of my hesitation in acting is that I no longer trust myself to have a valid feeling. Thanks to the hormonal upheaval of chemo, my mood bounces around like a ping-pong ball from one day to the next. I swear I wake up each morning not knowing who will show up, the easygoing,funny, optimistic girl I used to be or the down-in-the-dumps menopausal hag who would rather live in a cave with tissues and sad songs.
While I am exaggerating my mood swings, you can see how difficult and frightening it would be to make any life-changing decisions in this turmoil. “Did I decide that because I was hormonally imbalanced that week, or did I really feel it was the best thing?”.
I actually picked up a prescription for an anti-depressant today. The last time I took an SSRI for post-partum “blues”, it took me six years to extricate myself from the grip it had on me. Not to mention I gained 25 pounds that wouldn’t budge no matter what. I didn’t lose that weight until I quit taking the magic pill. So trust me when I say that this is not an exciting prospect, and I’m not sure I’ll actually do it. The optimist in me still has hope that another solution will appear.
The kicker of the whole situation is that I know exactly what the problem is. And it isn’t depression. It’s lack of estrogen. Estrogen stimulates serotonin receptors in the brain and has actually been used successfully as an anti-depressant by itself. The one thing that would really help me is forbidden. What a cruel dilemma.
Intuitively, however, I do realize that there are certain problems which existed long before I was hormonally challenged. Relationships that are either one-sided or emotionally stunted, a job that drains my energy, a strong penchant for people-pleasing…not exactly a recipe for health. I don’t know why it’s so difficult to change the things we know are wrong. Why is it so terrifying to take a leap of faith? Sometimes it seems that we’d rather live for decades in familiar unhappiness than to risk the pain of the unknown.
So, while I may be doing “all the right things” to prevent a cancer recurrence, in many ways I feel that I’m almost inviting it by default. I need to find the courage, somewhere, to stand up for myself and be fully alive, even if it means facing those demons that I’ve been avoiding for so long. But who knows, next week I might change my mind.