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Monday, July 02, 2018

Professional Help

I've never given much thought to psychology, counseling, or therapy. Not until my oncologist suggested I might benefit from talking to a professional, that is. Maybe the fact that I stopped taking medication without permission and increasingly spent my time crying and feeling incredibly anxious were her first clues? She sent me to a psychologist who specializes in oncology.  I showed up to my first session with absolutely no expectations. I know very few people who have utilized counseling. I didn't have negative feelings; counseling was just a complete unknown. I walked away from that first 1-hour session with every single bit of my makeup cried off but feeling 100 pounds lighter.

I didn't realize how much I had been withdrawing from everyone around me, how much I was hiding from my family and my doctors, how many tears I was shedding. Riding the ups and downs of cancer has never been easy, but I've managed fairly well until recently. As Dr. PC walked through various coping mechanisms, I felt the proverbial lightbulb going off in my head. How had I forgotten? The truth is that nothing she said to me was new, but we all need reminders.

First on the list? Keeping a gratitude list. This one is pretty significant because I've often said that the way I survived the first year with cancer was documenting my list of 1,000 gifts. Next up was reconnecting with friends and hobbies. She asked me to pick up my camera, to put down my phone and read a book. To stop protecting my husband and confide in him. To trust myself and my doctors enough to know that when they prescribe medicine it's for my own good. That I'm smart enough to acknowledge the pain and side effects of both chemo and cancer are not imaginary. She reminded me that I don't have to be tough when I have doctor's visits and that they're professionals, not friends. Which means I don't have to protect them from how I feel, just be honest. It's their job to listen to my list of ailments. She encouraged me to pursue 8 hours of sleep, to walk, drink water, and eat healthy foods. 

She also encouraged me to drink less caffeine, but I'm ignoring that one.

I am lucky enough to have a strong support system, and the psychologist released me from her care after a month with the freedom to schedule a visit any time. As a believer, it's easy to say that trusting in God should be enough. But sometimes it's not. Sometimes you need a professional to give professional advice with practical solutions. The mild depression I found myself experiencing had nothing to do with how much time I was spending in prayer and reading the Bible. It was about needing to redirect my thoughts, to revisit practical ways of taking care of myself. 

The initial chemo break, followed by a more extended break is playing an important part in how I feel. But the house I spent with a psychologist trained to address the unique needs of someone living with cancer is just as important. So the next time someone suggests counseling, I'll be the first to say yes or to encourage you to say yes.

3 comments:

Ramsh said...

What a fantastic post. So honest, wise and insightful.

And you ignoring the advice re caffeine - ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚

Mayme McGowan said...

I think seeing a therapist is one of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves. That and massages๐Ÿ˜Š

Boots S said...

I am a long time reader of your blog, but I don't know that I've ever commented. I just wanted to say that I am glad you are going to counseling... more people should take advantage of it. In fact, there probably isn't a person alive who couldn't use it now and then. Good luck with everything!
Lori