"She hurts and she cries but you can't see the depression in her eyes, because she just smiles..."

"Each time I look at a picture of myself, I can remember the happiness that I once had, but can't feel the person that I once was at the time."

Well, I started the blog and promised I would be honest to a fault. Not only honest to all that may read this but honest to myself. After finishing chemo I was doing pretty well emotionally, but after my bilateral mastectomy and second surgery I allowed myself to go to a darker place. Seclusion became a place of content. More time was spent in bed than out. Showering was a chore, cleaning was optional, I sometimes acted like I was sleeping when my parents stopped by, and I literally gave no thought to work (I'm on FMLA). When asked how I was feeling I would respond "tired" or "in pain". While I am usually tired and was in a good deal of pain, the reality was that I was fighting depression and these answers were easier to say. I'm not a stranger to depression as I have faced it before in my life. The hard part is that I truly thought that those times were far behind me.

Everyone knows that I am off treatment and I have the major surgery behind me. Most think that I should quickly bounce back to my old self. I should be jumping for joy that I am cancer free (as far as we can tell). Unfortunately, I don't know where to find my "old self". The strain of trying to stay optimistic and strong has taken its toll. How many of us take the time to realize what we have been through and just how much it has affected us? We are all fighting a battle of sorts but we don't often give the battle scars the time that they need to heal. Statistically it is not a surprise that depression jumped on the bus for this journey. It is estimated that 25%+ of women find that they are depressed during their first year of battling breast cancer. I find that particularly enlightening and oddly reassuring. Diagnosis is overwhelming; fear of death, surgery, chemo and radiation are all things that took their toll on my psyche. But it is the struggle to regain control of my life that has thrown me into an emotional tailspin. I did my best to find the strength to put on a happy face and pretend that everything was ok, but under it all I was feeling emotionally raw and distressed.

While I knew that depression was taking up residence in my head I allowed it to move in and I even provide furniture and a perfect view. Hours spent in bed WAY outweighed time out of it. I left for doctor appointments and a few other select things but I would crave the solitude of my home and bed when I was not there. I think all of my close friends and family saw it coming and they tried to address that situation but I kept telling them that I was ok, but "tired". I just don't even remember the last time that I was able to say "I feel great!" or "I'm doing well..."...ohhhh how I miss those days.

Depression is one of those areas that is not discussed enough during battles with cancer or it is discussed in a "there's something wrong with you tone." Perhaps it is because society fully expects one to pop the champagne and celebrate when progress in cancer treatment is made or even a clean bill of health is given. The ultimate expectation is that one will step right back into daily routines with vigor and appreciation for each day. For many, their minds and bodies are saying "NOT SO FAST!" I'd love to say that my cancer story will end when I am finished with treatment but in so many ways the journey will just begin. There is a post-treatment phase that will impact my daily life. That phase will last a lifetime.

My depression wasn't filled with crying or anything like that. Instead it was filled with the shades shut, comfy pillows, Netflix, Hulu, etc. I had set up my room to be a comfy retreat before I had my bilateral. Maybe I made it too comfortable. Maybe I already knew that I would be spending too much time in bed. Six weeks off of work was a lot for me. I rarely even take a full week off and now I find that work in the furthest thing from my mind. This workaholic had too much time on my hands. While I was in bed a ton I had very little sleep. My insomnia was at its highest. This could be because I was engrossed in watching so many shows on TV. I was addicted to finishing full series and often finished complete seasons in one day/night.

Sometimes my view of shows was interrupted by Henry!  

Off to change the channel!



1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the honesty of this post. I believe getting back to living is quite possibly the hardest part. The height of my depression did not come until after treatment as well. You and I have mutual friends, who lead me to your blog and I am a fellow young breast cancer survivor. Prayers for you.