I have mentioned a few times recently that I had a rough summer.
The fog has now lifted. And I feel like “I’m back.” But it was a time.
It was one of the first times, for me, since having first heard the words, “it’s breast cancer. You have it.” that I would wake up in the mornings and think, “oh my goodness… what if it happens again?!”
And it rocked my mind, daily. For almost two months. I wasn’t “sad” or really “depressed”. I can’t wholly explain what I was except to say I wasn’t myself. My mind would run all day with thoughts that made me anxious. And while I could be free of it at points of the day when I was hanging with the boys or folding laundry, it was always kind of looming… what if it comes back?
I couldn’t figure it out. Why was this happening now? Of all the feelings I had throughout my diagnosis and after, I’d never had a time where I wasn’t able to manage the thoughts after more than a day or two. I just couldn’t shake the fear.
And I was two and a half years out from diagnosis. Why would this fear hop on board now?
Part of it? I’m human and I went through something very real. I went through trauma. And I am not going to be able to control when that trauma looms. I’m not going to be able to oust the reality of my circumstances every single day. At some point, I will have a bad day. A bad week. And as human as that is, as normal as that is, I refuse to let that become a bad life. Or a life of constant fear, anxiety, or pessimism. That’s just not how this girl is wired or wants to be wired.
So what could I do? What could I do to work through the heaviness? How could I go about lifting the fog if it wasn’t about to lift itself?
Well. I went back to my toolbox. I looked at what I’d changed, what I’d added, what I’d ditched.
It was my anxiety med. Well. I mean, at least part of it was. I’d ditched, very publicly, my Lexapro (a medication that is an SSRI and helps boost serotonin in our brains and is designed to treat depression and anxiety). I had been on 10 mg (a “baby dose”, they tell me) up until April of 2018 and then after having tapered down, I went off.
I was ready. My therapist agreed. My oncologist agreed. I partially went off to try to see if it would help me budge my weight a bit. And because I knew I hadn’t been on it before cancer… surely I didn’t need it now. I wanted to see if I could lessen my pill baggage. I wanted to know if I really needed to be putting extra stuff in my body every day.
And. I did.
I’m back on Lexapro. 10 mg every day.
I don’t share this to wear it like a public badge of honor. Or to make some huge stand about mental health (although I could get on a soapbox about this in another post someday…). I share this because I document my life and journey here and I always want to be transparent.
It didn’t work for me to be off of the med. Not yet. Maybe someday. And I will try again. Maybe when I reach my five-year point. Maybe when if I ever let estrogen be present in my body again and have actual “normal” female hormones. Maybe if I do very regular therapy and can really manage periods of anxiety like what just occurred through that. But not yet.
And the scale thing… the weight of my weight… I am not willing to sacrifice my contentment for a couple pounds. Not knowing just how finite life is. I’m not willing to let anxiety eat my precious moments. I’m not willing to focus on the what ifs when I want to be focusing on the right nows.
I have made a few other changes as well. I’ve managed my sleep better. I’m bringing yoga back after a summer hiatus due to kids not being terribly interested in the gym. I have reminded myself daily that I need to give myself grace while I’m still on Nerlynx. I pray, often. And I talk to God about where I am and when I felt pressed down. And I’ve taken major steps to change my social media habits and phone time because it has to be an extra in my life rather than a priority. While I want to support all women who are going through Breast Cancer, I needed to step back to regain the perspective that just like anything else in life, another person’s journey does not mean my journey will look like that, too.
I had a moment this summer when the anxiety was so dominating when I broke into tears. I cried a big sobby cry on my husband’s shoulder and I said, “I just… it’s the first time since my diagnosis that I’ve wondered where and what my life would be like today if I’d never had cancer.” And it was in saying that out loud that I was able to actually say back to myself, “but that will never be my reality.” It helped me to say the words out loud that were in my mind, give them a voice, and then, to acknowledge that while those feelings were valid, that idea would never be a reality. It just wouldn’t. It just won’t be. I will never be the girl I was before. And I will never have not gone through that. And while I fully have owned that and known that for the last almost three years, saying it out loud and recognizing that I’d thought it was a great chance for me to really reflect on that. And to drop it off there and move forward from it. Feeling free of any weight that had been having on my mind.
Of all the things I know to be true after treatment, it is that I have to “put my mask on first.” When something is weighing on me or I’m struggling to find footing, I have to peel back the artichoke leaves and say, “what’s that about? How can I move forward instead of spinning my wheels?” Because I don’t have time to spin my wheels.
I feel like me again. The anxiety has washed away. The fog has been lifted. I don’t know if it’s the pill. Or the reflection. I don’t know if it’s that I was in a valley and I’ve just driven out of it. Or if it was just the atmosphere’s will to lift the fog. But it’s better. And as I reflect on the foggy summer, I am not resentful of it because I know it helped me dig deeper, get under the artichoke a bit, and deal with very real feelings that hadn’t yet surfaced. And so, I’m glad to have met them head on, acknowledged them, and worked through it.
But I’m also happy to be through. The getting through is always a good feeling. The fog lifting is a freeing feeling. And a better place to sit.
I’ve got a life to be a part of.
We all do.
We have this one time here on earth.
We might as well try and try to get it right.
And at the very least, get it right for ourself.