Thursday, 30 March 2017

Getting used to a new 'normal'

It's been eight and a half months since I received that terrifying letter and my world was turned upside down. Tonight, I'm at the hospital for an MRI scan which will hopefully come back with a 'no evidence of disease' result.

I've been on an emotional rollercoaster over the last eight and a half months (does that phrase remind anyone else of Ronan Keating?) and it's showing no signs of slowing down. I'll have days where I feel truly happy again, and others where I feel as if I want to hide in a corner and cry my heart out. Certain triggers can send my mind spinning out of control, even something as simple as an Instagram photo, a TV advert or an overheard conversation between two strangers. This can feel hugely frustrating, particularly if it happens during a week where I initially felt a lot better. I also have some niggling physical symptoms which serve as a daily reminder of the whole ordeal, and these tend to exacerbate my emotional turmoil during a bad week.

I had a scare a few weeks ago which meant I had to go back to the hospital for an urgent appointment. Although it thankfully wasn't anything to worry about, it catapulted me right back to square one and brought back haunting memories of that horrible six weeks in July/August last year where I was constantly thinking the worst and waiting for news. Living with the life-changing consequences of what's already happened is challenging enough, but living with the dreaded fear that 'it's back' is even worse. When I have a day/week that's hideously bad, even simple tasks can feel completely overwhelming and I feel as if I have to drag myself kicking and screaming back from the brink to function like a normal human being.

On that note, one of the things I've struggled with the most is the concept of 'getting back to normal', when 'normal' will never be the same for me again. I have major emotional swings from feeling as if no one understands what I've been through or what a big deal it is, to berating myself for making too big a deal of it myself because others are going through much worse.

I even debated with myself for weeks about publishing this post - what if people think I'm attention seeking? What if people think I need to forget about it, move on and just stop talking about it? What if I make people feel awkward? Actually, I need to learn to focus on my own feelings rather than (probably inaccurately) psycho-analysing everyone around me. I HAVE been through, and am still going through, a massively difficult time and I mustn't convince myself otherwise - to do so would be doing myself a disservice.

I also need to articulate these feelings to the people around me rather than internalising everything. People aren't mind readers, so how are they supposed to know I'm struggling if I put my brave face on and act as if everything is fine, even when it's not? I wouldn't hesitate to tell people if I had a headache or a bad leg, so I need to learn to be honest about my emotions too.

While we're on the subject of being brave, I need to be proud of how well I've handled the situation overall and how much I've achieved since being diagnosed and having major surgery. It's important for me to focus on getting back to a new 'normal' whenever I feel well enough to do so as I need to build up my bank of post-diagnosis positive experiences, and to do this I need to be kinder to myself. Although I often criticise myself for not getting better quicker, I've achieved all the following things since my operation:

  • I went back to work full time in January and got back into the swing of things straight away.
  • I'm going to the gym and going for long walks regularly, and I did my first post-op Spin class last week.
  • I've found the time and the motivation to blog once every week since December.
  • I've been on lots of mini breaks (London x2, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and Milton Keynes to name a few).
  • I had a really lovely Christmas and spent lots of time with some of my favourite people.
  • I've done lots of long drives in the car, including a five and a half hour drive up to North Wales.
  • We booked a holiday to Walt Disney World and we'll be there in just under 4 weeks.

That's a pretty impressive list and it feels good to see all those achievements written down. I should revisit this post a year on from my operation to see what else I can add to the list! Of course, I couldn't have got this far without the support of my amazing husband and parents, as well as all the other people in my life who have supported me, and I'm grateful for that support every day.

So, although I know I'll still have bad days, so-so days and better days for the foreseeable future, I hope that building up my positive experiences, being kinder to myself and talking about my feelings will ensure that I continue to move another step closer to my new 'normal'.

And, in the meantime (just to make sure this post isn't completely filled with seriousness), I'll continue to watch videos like this when I'm feeling a bit sad...

1 comment:

  1. Thank you and well done on sharing this. You have done so much recently, way more than many, and after having a big operation so definitely deserve to feel proud of yourself.
    Its a huge thing to go through what you did and even more so to share it with 'strangers' online. I had a best friend who went through similar circumstances and it always surprised me how much she did and how happy she was, really something to look up to.
    It's hard to comment on the situation without feeling that I'm either sounding patronising or something but you really are an inspiration.



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