Since 2013 A.D. (after diagnosis), I have become a much more ‘open’ individual in general. In the past, I may not shout to the world that I am in a therapy group. The mention of psychiatry, even just ‘therapy’ seems to lead others to believe there is something psychologically wrong with you. Although I can’t understand why because I firmly believe that staying mentally “fit” is as important as staying physically fit. Especially since throughout my entire cancer process, every nurse and doctor said the same thing… “your positive attitude is what will see you through this.”
When you have a broken arm, the doctor can see the break and fix it. When your mind is a screwed up mess, no doctor is able to see the chemicals that may have become imbalanced or any type of fracture to fix… it is much more difficult to find and fix a problem that exists when you can’t see it. Therefore, finding a way to exercise your emotions and keep them in-check is something I find to be very important. Especially in the case of cancer!
I have discussed it in past posts, how I feel that PTSD is a very real disorder for cancer patients. Being at war with your own body can certainly bring some serious distress to your mind. After my active cancer treatments were over, I was left lost. I felt like there was a reason why I didn’t die but I couldn’t find my purpose… and I still today live with survivors guilt.
Dr. Aliya Hafeez is a psychiatrist at the Upstate Cancer Center and I started seeing her at the recommendation of my oncologist. Being a breast cancer survivor herself, she most certainly has the experience to be able to understand me and all my cancer craziness. Some days I would walk in her door and basically vomit from the mouth with all my manic nonsense and other days we would quietly meditate. No matter what the day brought, I always left feeling better than when I walked in.
Maybe even better than individual therapy, are these groups that she hosts. I am absolutely thrilled to sit around a table with other survivors and relate to one another, all while mending the mind and learning how to live a purpose driven life with meaning - after cancer. During our group, one woman was speaking and she quietly and reluctantly said something about PTSD. It gave me goosebumps when almost everyone else in the group popped up and said “me too!” In that moment, I felt that she was instantly comforted – and so was I. Cancer leaves you feeling so alone and this group somehow makes me feel a sense of togetherness – even with strangers.
Not only does therapy help me to understand what I am going through, but it also helps me to gain a better understanding of the people in my life and how I can better each relationship that I cherish. Today, nothing is more important to me than maintaining healthy relationships with my family and friends. The best thing I can do for them, is take care of me.
On an airplane, every single time, they will tell you to put the oxygen mask on yourself before helping the person in the seat next to you……….