In an earlier post I talked about seeing the positive in every day, something I 100% believe in. But I think it’s also important to accept that it’s not possible to feel positive all of the time, after all, we’re only human! I had a tough week this week, and needed a couple of days to feel a bit down. And you know what? That’s okay. Whatever we are dealing with in life, we are all going to have times when things don’t seem so rosy. When these times come along, I think the important thing is to recognise the negative emotions, then try to recognise WHY you are feeling them. Once you’ve done that, you are much better placed to work out how to get control of them and not let them take over and push you into a negative spiral.
For me on this journey so far, the biggest negative emotion hasn’t been sadness or fear or anger (although all have been present from time to time), but frustration. If you know me, or even just from reading past posts, you’ll probably realise that I am super independent and like to be in control, and if cancer has done one thing, it’s taken away so much control over my life! While I have used my drive and independence as a strength in many ways, enabling me to achieve a lot and have a successful career, when I feel out of control, I struggle. Last Thursday was a classic example. I went to the hospital to have an IV line inserted ready for chemotherapy (my chemo drugs have to be pumped into my veins over three days each fortnight, so I need a permanent ‘access point’ to them called a PICC line which is inserted into a vein in my arm). This is something I’d rather been dreading. It just sounded a miserable procedure, I wasn’t looking forward to having this thing in my arm for the foreseeable future, and it made chemotherapy, which I’m REALLY not looking forward to, a reality. But I’d psyched myself up and was ready for the procedure. So off I went to hospital with my mum (in unbelievably poor timing, Brian started a new job after ten years this week so was rather busy with that!)
We went up to the chemotherapy unit at St Barts, the first time I’d been there. Oh my, it was depressing. A waiting room full of sad, ill looking people, the youngest of whom was probably close to twice my age. It was a reality check moment… this was my future. I’d be spending a day a fortnight here until at least May, perhaps much longer.
Trying to push these thoughts to the back of my mind, I followed the nurse through to the room where she was going to insert my line. But when we discussed which arm she was going to use, and I pointed out I had a blood clot in the left side of my neck, it turned out there was a problem, as no one seemed to have taken this into account. After a few phone calls I was told I’d need a portacath, which is put under the skin on my chest, instead of a PICC in my arm. This is a bigger procedure so wouldn’t be possible to do until the following week. I was so frustrated!! Why had no one thought about this before? What a wasted journey into hospital (I’m still in pain and tired as I recover from the double whammy of surgery and radiotherapy, so even getting to hospital is quite an undertaking for me). I went home feeling so fed up and I’m ashamed to admit that I lost it that evening. The reality of the foreseeable future, combined with things not going to plan so making me feel out of control and so frustrated, was all just too much.
Whilst I could most definitely have dealt with it better this week, actually having a good cry and a bit of a shout and scream was what I needed! Sometimes it’s helpful to give yourself a release, and allow the negative emotions some space rather than always bottling them up. And once I’d let the feelings out, I was able to calmly look at the positives of the situation instead and regain a feeling of control. Actually a portacath instead of a PICC is probably a better option; whilst more serious to insert and remove, once in it is less noticeable then a PICC and easier to look after. And delaying chemotherapy a week isn’t all bad either. Of course we want to start whacking the cancer ASAP, but chemotherapy takes a big toll on the body, so having another week to recover from surgery/ radiotherapy and build up my strength is a good thing. Maybe I can even plan a couple of fun things before chemo starts!
So, a little lesson to share from my week I think; it’s okay to have a down day, but regardless of whether you’re dealing with something like a serious illness, or simply the stresses and strains of everyday life, next time negative emotions get on top of you, try the following:
- Recognise the emotion and let it out. Maybe you want to cry or shout, or maybe you can even channel that negativity into exercise like hitting a punch bag!
- Try to understand why you felt that emotion, especially what triggered it
- When you’ve given yourself a chance to release the emotion, try to find a positive in the situation or a way to turn around whatever the trigger was. Sometimes this won’t be easy, but often just the process of stopping and thinking about the situation can help prevent a downward spiral of negative emotion.