Making Sense of the Mental Mess

I just had a slight breakdown in the MRI machine today.

Part of my work in therapy is to allow myself to feel emotions.  So when I felt panicked, sad, and angry in the MRI machine today I just went with it.

So there I was, splayed out in superman position – boobs expertly positioned to drop into two little cups, arms totally straight so I wouldn’t kink the injection line, trying not to put too much pressure on my chemo port (which is hard to do when you’re laying flat on your chest) – And then the jackhammers start.  Oh boy.  They give you headphones with really loud music to help drown out the noise.  But it’s really hard to overpower the sound of jackhammers.  Then half way through they pump the injection line with some awful chemical that turns my mouth to rust.  And I’m doing my best not to move at all because if I do I will have to start the whole process over again.  And I REALLY don’t want that.

So I just started to cry.  It was either that or a full on panic attack.  I tried to do my counting meditation…  Counting up to 10 and back again…  Imagining myself on a beautiful beach, drink in hand…  And just let the tears fall and the emotions come.

These are the days it sucks to have breast cancer.

But I’m really trying to allow myself to just be with suckiness.  Because a big part of my problem is my inability or unwillingness to feel or express my feelings.  Especially the not-so-nice ones.  And as I’m discovering, this defense pattern of repressing and denying my feelings is not good for my health.

Last night I was up for hours reading the “Cancer Report” by John Voell & Cynthia Chatfield which summarizes a ton of info from varying experts about the mind-body connection in cancer patients.  It was one ‘aha’ moment after another for me reading those pages.  These doctors and researchers show how our minds are directly connected to our health outcomes…  How stress weakens the immune system…  How catastrophic life events precipitate cancer diagnoses…  How cancer patients almost always have the same personality traits which develop in childhood and continue into adulthood (being highly conscientious, compassionate, having a need to make others happy, a tendency to carry other people’s burdens and be caretakers, reluctant to accept help from others, having long-suppressed toxic emotions of anger, resentment, and/or hostility, being unaware of the presence of deep-seated emotional problems & conflicts from childhood, and often suffering in silence).  The personality traits describe me to a “T”.

The researchers go on to discuss how working through these issues in psychotherapy, eliminating stressors, and making life changes that are in the best interests of the patient (instead of everyone else) can often make the cancer retreat or go into remission.

Of course this is easier said that done.  Even for someone like me, who is a trained clinical social worker and aware of the mind-body connection.  But time and time again, it is the people who get out of the bad marriages, leave the stressful jobs, distance themselves from the negative haters in their life, change their defense patterns, and go after what truly makes them happy that go on to live long healthy lives.

Through my readings, and my weekly therapy sessions, and my new level of consciousness I am making strides in the right direction.  I am more likely to speak my mind now.  I am becoming more aware of the repressed feelings.  I am allowing myself to feel my feelings.  I am asking for help.  I try not to worry so much about what other people think.  And thanks to this blog, I am no longer suffering in silence.

So thank you everyone for encouraging and supporting me in this journey.  For giving me the space to unload and work through my feelings along this breast cancer journey.  It is often hard for me to pour out my own fears, thoughts, and emotional upsets in person.  But through my writing, I feel like I’m taking steps in the right direction.

Love to all.  – T


21 Responses

  1. Let it all hang out, darlin’. You’re entitled to: you’re a cancer patient! If you can’t complain and blow off steam, who can? Share it with us: we can take it. Gladly.

  2. oh man, you are a CONSTANT inspiration for me ladycakes- thank you! i’m literally off to the library now for a serious self-help book to deprogram my whole brain- the description you gave for the personality traits of most cancer patients is me too- thanks for the wake up reminder that suppressing emotions isn’t healthy and martyring myself isn’t healthy- i hope tomorrow treats you better because you so deserve it, you and your beautiful Princessita!
    sending love and more love!!

    • Thanks Kathy. I miss you & the entire TO crew so much. I’m hoping to get back up there again for a visit after I recover from surgery. Good for you for taking steps to be a healthier woman. You deserve it too. Sending love right back at ya. xoxo -T

  3. Your journey is a true inspiration to so many people. Keep on fighting the fight sista..I hope tomorrow brings you a better day. xoxox

  4. That was me, too, but I’ve been better at expressing my emotions for some years. It’s so easy to fall back into those patterns! We don’t want to ‘bother’ others, after all.

    Here’s where your blog will really help you: it is much easier to pour your heart out on paper, and I think it feels safer. And it’s good practice. See? Nothing awful happens, and we certainly don’t judge you. On the contrary, it’s understandable, and there is very real comfort for us in being able to help someone, in however small a way. Thank you for letting us help! <3

  5. PS. Lol, I have super-acute hearing and MRIs are torture. I also target shoot handguns. Here’s the best I’ve found: Forget their dinky earplugs and additional music input. Flents Quiet! Please foam Noise Reducing Earplugs protect to 29 decibels beautifully. Sometimes you have to be firm about using your own and asking them to turn off the music, but it is worth it!

  6. Beautifully put. Thank you for explaining the mind-body connection. Have you looked into visualization? When I’m in a bad place, I imagine sitting with the hurt or anger or whatever and hugging it – to acknowledge it and comfort it. For me, that helps.

    • Hi Rachel. Thanks for the reminder about visualization. I actually just downloaded a few guided imagery recordings from Belleruth Naparstek today – one to help me get through surgery & the other to work on my grief issues related to the loss of my mom to cancer in 2010. I’ll try your suggestion as well. I LOVE hugging! :-) – T

  7. You mention that it can be easier said than done, “Even for someone like me, who is a trained clinical social worker and aware of the mind-body connection”. But I’ve noticed that sometimes, knowing these things can seem like an excuse not to address them.

    “Yeah, yeah, I know humans have emotional responses and aren’t always stoic heroes. Except, you know, *for me*. Because I know that. So, I’m not supposed to have breakdowns, or make the occasional irrational demand, or want to throw a tantrum. Because I know better!” But there is no “get out of being human, free” card.

    One thing you mention that I think is very wise is the idea of doing your visualizations, and relaxation, and then letting the emotions and the tears come. That is *huge*. So often, people think “I’ll do this so I don’t hurt.” And then, when it hurts, they feel they’re failing. The point is to get through the hurt, to hold on and keep going.

    • Once again, you provide some very wise words to consider. And no it didn’t come across as accusatory at all. I often say exactly those same things to myself… I’m not supposed to do this or that because I “know better”. But you’re right – we’re all just human. No way outta that. Thanks as always for the on-point comments. Peace & love. -T

  8. Um. Re-reading my last reply, I really hope it didn’t come across as accusatory. That second paragraph is the kind of thing that *I* say to *myself* all too often, and I need to remember that I can’t get out of being human, even if it’s uncomfortable or embarrassing or painful.

  9. This is a REALLY POSITIVE STATEMENT that is marvelous!
    “Even for someone like me, who is a trained clinical social worker and aware of the mind-body connection. But time and time again, it is the people who get out of the bad marriages, leave the stressful jobs, distance themselves from the negative haters in their life, change their defense patterns, and go after what truly makes them happy that go on to live long healthy lives.”
    And it applies to your long and healthy future as well as the future of many others.
    You go girl!

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