Whether any of us want to deal with or not, depression is part of this experience. I don’t mean chronic debilitating depression that can occur with or without a life-changing event because it results from a chemical imbalance. No, what I’m describing is that certain sadness that lingers and can overcome you because you’re mentally, emotionally and physically exhausted.
This type of depression begins as soon as either you or a loved one receives a cancer diagnosis, and it rises and rushes in like a tide or subsides and then flows back until it comes back to smack you full force just when you think things have settled down.
At least that’s been my experience.
I’ve been running on fumes for months and amazing pretty much everyone in my life as well as myself. If it wasn’t for adrenaline I would have collapsed into a heap of nothingness ages ago. But now that mom has gone through the horrors of chemotherapy and radiation treatments and we are finally able to just be at home and relax, we’re both kind of down. I’m sure exhaustion is part of it. How could it not be? We’ve been physically and emotionally taxed for months with little letup, so sooner or later we had to hit a wall. And now it’s here.
Thankfully I have some experience with depression. Odd statement I know, but one of the things I’ve learned to help me get through it is to remember to do something outside of my normal activities. When you’re depressed it’s like being caught in a rut. If you do the same thing every single day and if you feel depressed while doing it, there is no way to be anything but depressed.
I hope that makes sense.
There are other reasons to feel down or let down during this whole experience. For instance, there are those friends who are going to let you down, and I don’t mean those times when they can’t be available to be there for you, because that’s expected, we all lead busy lives. I mean those friends who either desert you or refuse to show you one bit of compassion. It’s really easy to just plain lose it emotionally and if the people in your life aren’t going to be understanding of that and refuse to see that you just aren’t being yourself right now, then that’s a problem. I have a couple like that in my life right now. I won’t go into details because I don’t want to keep giving these situations power, but there have been levels of selfishness, pettiness and downright controlling behavior that has made me see the need to consider who my friends are and who is best for me to spend my energies on right now.
Let’s face it, my energies are being stretched to the limit right now, so to have someone in my life who makes me feel like I must walk on eggs to please them, or who is coldhearted and lacking of understanding of any life crises except their own, then I am probably better off without them.
Just the same, these types of people can play major roles in fueling depression in an already exhausted mind. Of course some will instantly chime in with, “but only if you let them,” and this is true, but statements like that lack the understanding of how it is when someone is emotionally and physically spent. Those protective walls that we all build around ourselves throughout the course of our lives have been pummeled and they have been weakened. So it’s easy to be vulnerable right now. In fact I can say with assuredness that you will be vulnerable right now. You wouldn’t be human if you weren’t, because facing this level illness along with your own mortality or the mortality of a loved one will hit you in a way that nothing else ever has or will again.
In other words, cancer will KO you to the very core of your being.
Then there’s that other thing about depression being the other side of anger. I think there is definitely something to that because you, me, all of us have the right to be angry right now. For some reason a cell in your or your loved one’s body became abnormal and other cells followed suit and before long whatever form of cancer occurred and here you are, suddenly forced to deal with all this with little more than your own inner reserves to get you through. Then you get to endure or watch someone you love endure surgeries and cancer treatments with all the pain, side effects and everything else. So yeah, we all have many reasons to be angry. And of course there are various forms of anger. Some might be more verbal while others quietly seethe, but either way on the other side of it is depression quietly waiting to take over.
So, if you can’t already tell I’m struggling a bit right now. I’m trying to take my own advice and break out of the rut I’ve been in lately. I’m writing this blog post, which always helps and I’m trying to get back into the swing of things on my job. Being productive has always helped me. Of course nothing is better than a friend who calls you up out of the blue and invites you to go get ice cream. That happened to me during the course of writing this tonight.
Oh and we had wine ice cream. Chocolate cabernet to be exact and it was heavenly.
That definitely made me feel better, but it didn’t completely remove my depression. Time is the only thing to take care of that. There is the time needed to heal from all the things I’ve been through lately, and time to celebrate all the large and small milestones my mother continues to make as she recovers, as well the time needed to learn how to relax again and stop being as afraid as I’ve been since this whole thing began.
Yes, time will help, as will learning how to manage my emotions and deciding which of my friends are really my friends, but chocolate cabernet ice cream will definitely suffice for now. Yum.