Getting diagnosed with cancer can mean a couple of things for you: 1) you might need to start taking a lot of pills or undergo chemotherapy; and 2) you may need a therapist to help you process everything you are going through. The latter is the fact that many people are not aware of, frankly speaking. They try to deal with pain on their own, as well as the possibility of losing their confidence due to the physical changes they might experience. In truth, however, these folks should have a counselor to turn to when the situation becomes mentally unbearable. Continue reading
Some of you might probably have the same issue as I have right now. I have health anxiety where I generally have two distinctive fears. It is the idea of having cancer and dying with it. The struggle is real and overthinking about that particular situation leads me to multiple other mental health issues. These include having panic attacks, sleep disorders, eating disorders, as well as anxiety itself.
How It All Begin
“Anxiety is a broad categories of symptoms, while panic attacks are a specific way in which anxiety can express or manifest itself.” – Dr. Chantal Gagnon PhD LMHC
I know my health anxiety starts with my subconscious that somehow accompany and manifest panic attacks. For me, when I experience a sudden mood shift from being excited to completely scared over things I’m not sure about, I know there’s a presence of anxiety. From there, I investigate and work myself up over because I thought of dying with cancer. The idea of not always finding solutions to everything scares the hell out of me. Every time I feel pain or something that is usually not normal in my body, I always assume that I might be having cancer. I often go to Google and search probable symptoms of this and that. And the worse things about having too much health concerns is it makes me feel paranoid about what I physically and mentally experience. I understand what Robert Allison, MA, LPC used to say that “Anxiety is often thought of as an emotion, but it’s really more than that, especially when it gets to be problematic.”And I genuinely can’t help it.
Unfortunately, searching for answers and looking at the symptoms online leads me to have panic attacks and eventually develops an unrealistic list of phobias. There is the idea of having brain cancer every time I get headaches. There is colon cancer because I always feel the pain in my lower stomach for more than a month. There is skin cancer because I quickly get this red and itchy lump on my skin whenever I exposed myself on too much sunlight. I even thought about those small lumps as tumors growing inside my skin. I also convinced myself that I am having lung cancer because most of the times I can’t breathe properly. All of these anxieties of having cancer are taking my actions up to the next level. I get to do weird stuff only to feel better. I even try and change my lifestyle for the sake of not experiencing any cancer symptoms. I somehow become obsessed with avoiding things that can cause cancer-related diseases.
I thought of having all types of cancer that’s why I always go and see a doctor every time I see, feel, and experience new things on my physical attributes. I check bumps and lumps on every corner of my body. What’s even funnier is that having pimples also scares the hell out of me. There’s a buildup on anxiety on these kinds of scenarios. I am thinking of having internal inflammation because those red dots won’t come off and seem to last for a couple of days. There’s mental torture going on every time that happens.
Turn Of Events
Karin Draper, LMFT once said, “In the lives of those experiencing anxiety, anxiety has almost always served a purpose as a survival function at some point. ” But everything about this health anxiety is a freaking nightmare. I now have depression which I know can create quite a mess in my life. The fear I have gives me emotional and mental torture, and that is the reason why I often try asking for professional health advice. Guess what, it turns out that I don’t have any health issues that can escalate to having cancer or anything related to that. I am happy about it, but that’s because I start to believe that I survive cancer.
Though I pretty much convince myself about not having any types of cancer, I am now suffering from mental illness concerns due to health anxiety. I am currently isolating myself from people because I believe that my condition is unacceptable and irrational. I feel embarrassed because I told people that I am entirely having this and that, that I am going to die any time soon, but turns out I don’t and I will not. Due to this instance, I shut down people because I am not happy about not having cancer. I mean, I feel it would be a validation to have one since I already believed in it.
It’s funny how the way I thought about my condition becomes my source of strength and weakness at the same time. Luckily I’m still alive and kicking and now working with my mental health issues without the fear of having cancer.
In our society, having a terminal illness can lead to a lot of adverse effects which can affect one’s personal life, family relationships, career, and many more. Being diagnosed with a disease that can mean life or death is a tough struggle which a lot of people in the world bear, but they continue to fight so that they can achieve what they believe is a “normal” life.
However, in this day and age, more and more people have been more accepting of people with disabilities, patients with terminal illnesses, and people who have medical concerns in general. Because of this, a lot of inspirational people have risen to advocate such beliefs just like Jacob Walker who was a brain cancer survivor.
What Is Cancer?
Many of us know that cancer is indeed a terminal illness. It can start with tumors, benign or malignant, and it usually goes through different stages and different levels of pain. For others, getting diagnosed at an earlier stage would make them “lucky.” But unfortunately for some, they would immediately reach a more advanced stage without even noticing any signs or symptoms. With this, it’s essential to be knowledgeable and aware so that we can keep ourselves healthy and be able to help those who lack the knowledge.
Cancer, in its technical definition, is a collection of related diseases which is usually caused by cells dividing rapidly and continuously, until these cells become abnormal and turn into tumors. There are many types of cancers based on the affected body part of the growing tumors. These tumors can spread and attack other tissues which in the end can become life-threatening to the person diagnosed with it.
Given the life-or-death implication of acquiring cancer, many people go through an emotional struggle once they find out about their disease. However, it’s important to understand and realize, as an external audience, that these struggles of cancer-diagnosed patients are normal because most people are terrified of death and temporary disability, leading to some cases of anxiety and depression.
But just like in any situation, there are two sides to it—either see the good in it or acknowledge the bad. One of the most commonly felt emotions by cancer patients is discouragement and lack of will to live. As it is completely normal, there are ways for us to help empower, encourage, and support those who are feeling that way.
By knowing what to say, what to do, and how to act around cancer-diagnosed patients, we can all be agents to helping them live a happier life with a more positive outlook, and we can do this by turning their “I can’t” to “I can.”
Can’ts To Can’s
We know that some types of cancer can be terminal, while others are still curable. With this, cancer patients have two options once they find out about their diagnosis: it’s either they try to live life to the fullest and fight the sickness or sulk in fear of death and lose many opportunities to fulfill their other dreams in life. John M. Grohol, Psy.D. used to tell everyone that “These mental health measures included one’s emotional state, mindfulness, resilience, life satisfaction, overall mental well-being, among other characteristics examined.” Therefore, there is no point in not trying.
The first and foremost way we can help cancer patients is to empower and motivate them. We all know that it’s not easy to be in their shoes, but we can at least try to be their “support group” as their friends, family members, and the people closest to them.
By empowering cancer patients about their potentials, capabilities, and capacities, they are reminded of their value as a person before they found out about their illness. The thing about cancer and other terminal diseases is that once you are aware of it, it ultimately affects how you view life and how you act in your daily life. As we know that it’s not easy, letting these patients know that people believe in them and people support them can make a huge difference in their mindset and attitude.
Secondly, in empowering cancer patients, it’s important to know which hobbies are fun but still safe to do for them to engage in and be part of. It’s essential to be very creative in thinking of ways for them to enjoy without leaving out the fun part. As Jennifer L. Taitz, PsyD, LA-based clinical psychologist suggests, “Activity scheduling entails creating a plan, say, Sunday night, for the week where you plot out times to be with people, take exercise classes, work on projects, etc. Often, people wait until a mood or motivation moves them. Rather than waiting for those tenuous experiences, I urge people to be proactive and follow their values. Don’t wait to feel better, but start to live better now.” Here are a few suggestions!
- Art making: Through art therapy, cancer patients can get ahold of their creative juices and make it come to life!
- Journaling: Scribbling down one’s thoughts can be helpful especially if the patient is going through chemo.
- Gardening: Green environments can boost one’s psychological mindset. By engaging in cultivation, the patient can have a sense of responsibility and accountability!
- Yoga Exercise: By participating in physical activities that aren’t too strenuous, cancer patients can get a breath of fresh air in this kind of hobby.
- Vlogging: For tech-savvy people, this can be a great avenue to let their daily thoughts out and share their adventures to the world, in the hopes of inspiring other people as well.
By empowering and supporting cancer patients, we can help them turn their can’ts into can’s! As what Alicia H. Clark, Psy.D., a licensed clinical psychologist used to say, “The worst thing we can do is say to ourselves, ‘I can’t handle it,’ while the best thing we can say is, ‘I may not like it, but I can handle it.” Those are the words we need to tell cancer patients.
There are several things that you need to consider when it comes to seeing a therapist or seeking professional help. Remember that there is a reason why you have decided to book an appointment with the best mental health expert in town. In this article, we are going to give you a quick guide on the type of questions that you can ask the therapist. Do not worry because the questions listed below are not offensive but rather helpful on your part.
Here are the top 4 questions to ask the therapist:
How Can You Help Me?
The necessary information that you need to obtain from your chosen therapist is the manner on how he can extend his services for your recovery. Elana Schechtman-Gil LMFT once said, “The foundation of therapy is based on the relationship you build with your therapist. When seeking someone out it’s important you feel comfortable with them.” Do not have second thoughts in asking him about the ways on how he can continue his help or assistance in your case. It is essential so that you can already start checking your expectations about the therapy sessions.
Can I Do It?
“Connecting with a therapist can help you get through the “groundhog day” of never-ending cycles where you feel continually defeated.” Chris Oneth LMFT said. Do not feel bad if you are hesitant at first to deal with the therapist. It is entirely normal to feel that way, especially if you do not trust the other person. Because of this, it is vital for you to get some assurance from him. You need to hear it to boost your trust and confidence in your chosen therapist. However, never make the mistake of intimidating or heating your therapist because it can only make the situation worse.
What Is The Cost?
Remember that deciding to book an appointment with the therapist is not free unless you have found an organization that can sponsor you for the treatment. As much as possible, do not decide to engage the services of the said professional without coming into an agreement about the terms and conditions. At the same time, do not forget to discuss the amount of money that you need to pay as professional fees.
How Long Will It Take?
Make sure to ask about the duration of the professional engagement. This is essential information that you must know even before you have started the therapy sessions. Do not be ashamed to ask for a timeline concerning your case because you need to know how long you are going to get in touch with the therapist. However, it is significant to emphasize at this point that the duration or length of the engagement will vary from one case to another. The reason for the difference is that some cases may be severe while others may be light only. Also, always remember that “While many therapists are qualified to treat common challenges such as anxiety or depression, if you are interested in working with a specialist to address a specific challenge, you should consider looking out-of-network.” Stacy Donn Cristo, LMHC said.
Be polite in asking these questions to your potential therapist. The answers to these questions can help you decide whether or not it is time to continue with the therapy sessions. Make an informed decision based on what the therapist will tell you after inquiring about the matters mentioned above. If you are unsure on how to find the best therapist in town, the best option to choose is to ask for referrals or recommendations from the people around.
Bipolar disorder or also known as manic depression is common in people who have cancer. It becomes the focus of the public eye even though there are a lot of things about it that seems misunderstood. The mental disorder is most known to affect people’s mood that somehow impacts daily life. But is that all there is?
According to studies, researchers don’t know what causes bipolar disorder. However, the concluded risk factors include environmental factors and genetics. According to Simon Rego, PsyD, “some patients with bipolar disorder may have trouble complying with medication and/or dealing with the consequences of the disorder.” Also, some cases show that substance abuse, stress, and lack of sleep contribute to it. However, most people don’t seem to know that bipolar disorder is more than just a single diagnosis. Meaning, tons of different categories make it distinguishable from the others. It is almost a scale of bipolar conditions where symptoms vary from each person.
Types Of Bipolar Disorder
Some people’s manic depression leaves them energetic and feeling exuberant. Their condition makes them creative and imaginative. Their brain functions double than the usual that’s why they become more hyper and impulsive. This form of bipolar condition is classified as “type 1” or also called as “hypomania.” In some fortunate events, it helps people work and go out without sleep for days. Some symptoms also include extreme manic episodes that can make someone act more unpredictably than the usual. There is an exaggerated sense of importance, grandiose ideas, skill enhancement, and higher sex drive. While hypomania’s high induced qualities are adequately high, its lows are just as extreme. It is essential to udnergo medication and treatment for this case. As John Preston, PsyD insists, “Bipolar disorder is probably the main psychiatric disorder where medication is absolutely essential.”
As mentioned also in KidsHealth.com, Bipolar type 2 is the same as type 1. However, the low moods are more dominating than the high ones. It is called the “rapid cycling” because it can make a person go through four or more periods of manic-depressive episodes within a year. Since bipolar disorder is already a series of uncontrolled emotional turmoil, its type 2 condition makes it 10x more extreme than the usual. It is like feeling everything, and nothing stays the same for a short period. It gets people out of sync with from mental and emotional state.
“Cyclothymic” or also known as “type 3” bipolar disorder is somehow the mildest form of mental illness. Due to its several less extreme manic episodes and much lesser intense feelings of depression, it leaves people in a state where it gets easily administered. That is why “Experiencing irritability, hostility, anger, and being sensitive to rejection are all common symptoms when depressed,” says Shannon Kolakowski, PsyD. Though it does not meet the full criteria of a complete mania disorder, it at least stays for two years for adults and one year for children and teenagers. It somehow falls in the middle of severity but still goes through the uncomfortable realm of high and low moods.
Bipolar disorder gives cancer patients a series of moods that sometimes last for weeks, months, and even for a year. Other times it only acts on a short period of time such as a couple of days. The flight of emotions takes people to creativity and productivity. However, there are still downsides to it too. The grand ideas of bipolar disorder are prone to delusions and sometimes very disruptive to someone’s life (read further here: sheknows.com) That’s because their brain stimulations differ from others.
Hearing from the doctor that you got cancer makes your world turn upside down. For a moment, you can’t breathe, you feel dizzy, your vision gets blurred, and you can’t hear anything. Everything stops. Slowly, you’re coming back, but you think it’s not you anymore. It’s no longer the life you had. All the hope is gone. It’s the end.
Treating cancer is a grueling process. If one therapy does not work, there are more options to consider that are just as physically, emotionally and mentally draining as the other. The only thing that kept me going back then apart from my desire to live was the hope that my doctor would come to say, “Congratulations, your cancer is in remission.”
Life after cancer is not as easy and as simple as just going back to your usual ordinary life. Many things will change because many things have changed. Changes will be seen in the people you want to be with and the people who want to be with you. Additionally, your outlook on life and the things you want to do will also change. Face it, so much will definitely change from the moment you were rushed to the hospital emergency room and now that you’re walking out of those doors.
Psychological and Emotional Challenges
Who wouldn’t be happy surviving cancer? But there’s a dilemma attached to it. You get worried when it’s time to visit your doctor. The bad news that might one day come to you saying you got a recurrence is like a nightmare that makes you anxious.
The guilty feeling that you survived while others didn’t is like a dark shadow that always follows you and keeps you awake in deep thoughts at night.
A positive attitude and outlook will help you cope with the stress. Let go of your guilt feeling because it’s not your fault. Move on and take the chance to reinvent yourself. You deserve it!
Where Do I Go From Here? Is There a Future Waiting For Me?
Surviving cancer means you’ve been through a lot of pains and aches. Continuing your life outside of the hospital facility will never be easy, but surely you will thrive. There may be some discrimination in your workplace, school environment, and even in your very home. Be prepared and just be patient. Marc Romano, PsyD says, “Focus on yourself and your own happiness and do not compare yourself to others.”
Talk Therapy Survivor Support Group
To lessen psychological and emotional stress, it is of importance that you join support groups. Talking to people who experienced the things you’re experiencing now is very important. They can efficiently guide you through and give you advice because they used to have the same dilemma as you, and they thrived and survived. Having someone to talk to makes a big difference. It lightens the burden. “You know the ones—these are the people you know you can always call, text, or email when you need to feel a connection.” David Klow, a licensed therapist said.
Be Productive, Stay Healthy
The boredom of staying in the hospital for months or years gives you the chance to re-think about your life. It might have made you shift your point of view. You may have written a list of things you wanted to do once you get healed and discharged from the hospital.
Here it is!
Now is the time to check that list. It may include quitting your old job, learning new things, meeting people, going on vacation, becoming more adventurous, eating authentic foods, eating foods that you missed, bonding with family, going swimming, and more. There are so many things you can do to be productive and feel accomplished. Doing the things you love and enjoy while avoiding the ones that will fuel your worries can help you stay healthy.
Be In Touch
You may be feeling okay, but still, it is essential that you keep in touch with your doctor by going to your regular checkups and having your follow-up tests. “Whether you suffer from seasonal affective disorder or not, the evidence is strong that getting outside just for a little bit can be very helpful,” says Andrea Bonior, PhD, clinical psychologist. Seeing your oncologist and primary physician regularly will keep both you and your doctor updated on your progress. You may have questions that only they can answer. Always remember that maintaining your health is not done by you alone. You and your doctors should work as a team so that you may enjoy the quality life.
Don’t Stay Stagnant
Surviving cancer is a blessing – a hope you can give to others who were in the same situation as you were in. Many challenges await you but don’t let those negativities make you stagnant. You endured a lot of trials. It’s time to be positive about things. Your life now is no longer about cancer. It’s a chance to reinvent yourself. Not everyone has that second chance.
At a glance, it may look like simply exercising to lose weight and be fit, but not after you finish reading this.
There are groups of people who exercise to keep their body fit or to attain their desired body figure. There are also those who exercise for long-term benefits. The former can easily give up exercising especially when they get frustrated when they don’t achieve their goal. The latter will make exercise a habit because they know that besides losing weight, there are more benefits to it.