Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Cancer Might Be Better

Last summer, when I was in a partial hospitalization program here in Pittsburgh, I befriended a woman who was, I believe, in her early eighties. She was severely depressed and not functioning well, barely making it to the hospital everyday. I remember something she said so many times- that she wished she had cancer because her husband and other family members would be more supportive and understanding of her pain. Instead, she felt pressured to provide dinner, keep the house, and basically resume the life of any other senior citizen, all the while, feeling weighed-down and burdened by intense anxiety and sorrow. Everyone around the table, in the room, with her, we knew....because people who've never walked in these shoes, these God-awful, chartreuse colored stilettos that cram your toes into a space meant for a toothpick, and remind you of your suffering every minute....people who've never even tried on a pair of these shoes have NO IDEA what it is like. Depression is not being sad or sullen about something bad that is going on in your life. It isn't those moments in adolescence where you yearn to be loved by some boy who doesn't even know your name and it really gets you down. Depression is like waking up in the morning in some sort of fog where your circumstances, good or bad, don't really matter, because you can't feel them or appreciate them for all of the weight that is sitting on your shoulders. It's like an invisible bubble that encapsulates you and forces you to move around in a daze of emotion- none of which is good. And no one, NO ONE, gets it unless they've been through it...and because you look like a normal person, you must go on with your day, and BE a normal person. And it sucks.

I have mentioned some women on this blog who are battling right now, with cancer. And with respect to them, I will say first that I don't know what it is like to face the uphill physiological strain of that terrible disease- my husband does- and he survived- and he reminds me all the time that my illness is like his and that I will get better and he'll still be hanging around, like I did in those days. I've never had cancer- but I do know what it is like to feel like you are dying a very slow death and that all the meds and the therapy just feel like temporary fixes, band-aids to your pain- which at some point, just peel-off and leave you still wounded and bleeding.

To ease my anxiety last summer, I often weeded the hillside in my backyard, so vigorously, that I'd be sweating and sliding everywhere, covered in mud and worms and muck....and sometimes Donna, my neighbor, would come out and help or just keep me company. She had been doing some research on post-partum depression, and she told me that one woman she'd read about had compared it to a roller-coaster. That you go up and down and around and healing does not come in some straight, pretty line like you expect and want it to. I hated hearing those words from her then...it was not the panacea that I had hoped for (I wanted to be told it would all be over in two days and then I'd be the "normal Judy" again). But now, nine months later, I know that she was right and that the rollercoaster is my reality. Some days I live like your average mommy- playing games, fixing meals, cleaning, eating, driving, listening, singing, playing...then other days I'm doing all of that and trying not to cry and fall apart and working to convince myself that it is all in my head and that everything is really okay and I'm not really teetering on the edge (all of which is a big fat lie, I know).

This week we are trying new doctors and specialists and more exercise, vitamins, and maybe, new meds. If the budget allows, we will order the therapy lights. I am a walking experiment and today I am pissed about it. But I have visions of my old self and I want her back really bad so I'm going to press on.


About Me

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Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States
Forty-three year-old, mother and staunch advocate of four young children, passionate warrior of truth and self, finding the soul in each day, sharing my struggles and triumphs as I live them. Mostly I do this for me, so my thoughts don't race as much at night as they used to. But I also give this to those of you who need to know, in any or every way, that you are not alone.

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