I’ve mentioned it in pieces of posts before, but I want to discuss more about Cancer’s invisible side effect: mental trauma.
I recently learned a very important lesson in the benefits of an anti-depressant. I’ve been trying to process the situation and find the right words to talk about it without seeming like I’m using the internet as my therapist ;). But then I reminded myself that I’ve been so vulnerable and transparent this entire time and not sharing what happened sort of feels like I’m not being true to who I am.
A few weeks back, I decided on my own to stop taking my anti-depressant. I know what you’re thinking – “that’s a terrible idea!” and you are one million percent correct. In hindsight, I should have consulted with my doctor, but I like to learn things the hard way. I was on such a small dosage and I wanted to see what would happen when I stopped. I guess you could say I got what I wished for – and oh, so much more. When I started on Prozac, my doctor told me I’d likely be on it for 3-6 months, and then we’d see about stopping. I was successfully on it for just over 3 months and thought I was in a really good place. I was working so much on finding myself in this new post-cancer phase of my life and I felt relatively good. But, as you can probably guess, stopping my medication was a terrible, terrible idea.
I had what I’m going to call a severe “episode” about a week and a half ago. To put it simply, Dan and I had a miscommunication. We both made some assumptions and were on completely different pages about our plans for the evening. Without disclosing all the details of my relationship, I’m going to leave it at that. Because our miscommunication isn’t the important piece of the story. I want to talk about how I reacted. To sum it up, I spiraled out of control. I was a crying, yelling, irrational mess of a human being. I had absolutely zero control of my emotions. I felt like a tornado of feelings were swirling around me and I was struggling to decipher them and articulate why I was so upset. But it didn’t end there. After 2-3 hours of being a total mess, it was time to go to sleep. Somehow, I had a sliver of rational thinking that told me start taking my anti-depressant again and to have an anti-anxiety so I could calm down and go to bed.
I went to the cabinet in my kitchen to get my pills. The bottle of anti-anxiety pills was empty, but I knew I had some in my “f*ck cancer” pouch of goods that I carry in my purse. My purse was still in the car, so I headed to the garage to get a pill out of the pouch. I then proceeded to have what I can only describe as some sort of anxiety attack. It was 2:00am and I collapsed to a puddle on my garage floor. I was sobbing so hard that I was struggling to catch my breath. In that moment, I felt so, so confused and defeated. Somehow, I picked myself up off the floor, swallowed my pills, and sobbed my way into the bedroom. I remember Dan saying, “I don’t understand – of the hundreds of things you’ve been through this year, how does this even compare?!” Which promptly triggered another sob fest.
Somehow, eventually, I cried myself to sleep. I woke up feeling foggy and like I had an out of body experience just a few hours prior. Who was that person? And why was she so crazy?
Society labels us “crazy” if we don’t feel or act like the norm. But who gets to decide what normal is?? I went from being a totally “normal” 29-year old to essentially given a death sentence only then somehow completely beat those odds in just a year’s time. People often tell me things like, “I’m so glad you’re better,” but I don’t always feel that way. I’m still battling the after math from Cancer. I’m trying to immerse myself back into non-Cancer things, but I keep stumbling through a minefield of triggers that quickly cause feelings I didn’t even know I had to resurface.
After probably too much self-reflection (and a week back on Prozac) I think I can rationalize my episode. Needing to take Prozac made me feel like I was dependent on something else to control my emotions or reactions. In that moment, it felt oddly similar to when I was first diagnosed. I felt like things were out of my own control and I was relying on something else to “make me better.” To layer on that, I’ve sort of been able to control my thoughts and feelings most of my life. When I find myself in a funk, I’ve been able to rationally snap myself out of it. Cancer has sort of taken that away from me. I’m not used to being out of control on so many levels, which in itself is a trigger.
So, this is me being super vulnerable to continue the conversation around mental health and Cancer. I continue to be so damn frustrated that no one talks about this. If I’m being totally honest, I thought long and hard about even posting this because I’m kind of afraid of how it might come across.
So, this is what I’ve been telling myself this past week: “You’re not crazy, your feelings are real, and sometimes you just need a little help – and THAT’S OKAY.” Say it with me this time, “YOU ARE NOT CRAZY. YOUR FEELINGS ARE REAL. AND SOMETIMES YOU JUST NEED A LITTLE HELP!”
I'll leave you with this hilarious meme from one of my favorite Cancer Instagram pages.