PreBlog Note: I hesitated before posting this blog because as it turns out, the depression that I share was indeed a side effect of the chemotherapy. My doctor confirms that this is typical. And a few days after writing this, I’m happy to report that it has lifted. Also, although my sharing has been open and honest, this blog feels even more raw and revealing than previous blogs. I’m definitely outside my comfort zone here and I have fear that in this age of social media, this will come back to bite me. But ultimately, in service to the intention of my blog, I’ve decided to post. If I truly want to share what cancer is doing to me, complete transparency is the way to go. So as you read, please know that the intensity of feelings that I share in this blog are no longer present. And although I’m grateful for what this depression brought forward, I’ve managed to find some perspective and I’m certain these issues will be explored even further in subsequent blogs.
It’s very dark. And I feel myself slipping. Slipping farther down into the darkness and I just don’t see a way out.
It seems to me I have two choices. I have a vision of myself huddled in the corner of my bedroom, curled in a ball, unable to move, unwilling to participate.
Or I sit in this darkness and I feel it. Really feel it and allow all the judgments and sadness and anger to come forward. And trust that somehow, guidance will be provided that will lead me out of this very, very dark place.
As I write this, I’m unsure which choice I’m going to make. I’m tired. And although I can acknowledge the multitude of blessings I have in my life, the pull of the darkness is strong. I feel joy less. Embarrassment and shame begin to creep in. I am raw. Vulnerable. Scared.
Whether or not this depression is a side effect of the chemo, I don’t know. It kinda doesn’t matter. These feelings are not unfamiliar. Perhaps the cancer and chemo are just the catalyst to the inevitable experience.
In the past, my bouts with depression were provoked by specific experiences. The loss of our daughter. The fear of being so broke that we’d be homeless. You know, real things that I was able to work through.
But this one, this feels like the Mount Everest of depression. It’s circling around something that I’ve managed to avoid by keeping myself busy with the busyness of life. But I know it’s always there. It rears it’s ugly head every once in a while and I manage to side-skirt it with the activities I’ve created for myself.
And it’s all around my worth. I feel worthless. I feel empty. I feel embarrassed that I’m not more. I feel ashamed. And the affects of chemo on my body reflect all of that.
I am now a shadow of what I used to look like. I weigh around 120 pounds, about ten pounds less than what is healthy for me. I’ve lost the muscle tone I used to have, so I’m more skeletal looking. The hair that’s left on my head isn’t even peach fuzz any more. It’s more like very light, barely visible blonde patches. I look in the mirror and I’m reminded of images of people found during the Holocaust. My physical appearance is now a reflection of the emotional and psychological state I find myself in.
And here, dear reader, I will share my feelings of why I feel worthless. I’m at my most vulnerable, most shame-filled, most embarrassed low. So please be gentle with me.
I don’t know who I am if I’m not a mom. For the past fourteen years, my self worth has been provided by my boy’s accomplishments. There, I said it. Saying it out loud and sharing it, I am overwhelmed with with feelings of embarrassment, shame, sadness and anger. How has it gotten to this point? How have I lost so much of myself that it has come to this?
I have fallen into the trap of choosing to be a stay at home mom. I have become so enmeshed in my boy’s lives, that I have none of my own. I feel like I’m nothing.
I guess it’s not that different from those who work outside the home and find value in their accomplishments at work and lose themselves in their jobs. But for some reason, because the job I’ve chosen is the role of Mom, shame overtakes pride.
This is not new. The choice to stay home was wrought with guilt. And the consequences and sacrifices that have resulted in this choice have been substantial.
Some of this is just a cultural thing. We’ve been raised to validate ourselves by what we accomplish.
But I sense that so much of what we do to keep ourselves busy is really a distraction to avoid dealing with this core belief around worth. And when we strip it all away, when we can’t call ourselves a ‘this’ or ‘that’, do we hold ourselves valuable? Do we know our self-worth?
Well, I sure don’t.
I don’t like it. I want to change it. Or do I? Is it that I want to change what I’m doing or change the way I’m holding it?
My training teaches me to look towards our passion to find inspiration. When I was a kid, all I wanted to be was a mom. When I grew up, I wanted to be an actress and I was. Then a Casting Director, and I was. But everything was really just filler for what I knew I was put on this earth to do- to be a Mom.
But what happens when your life’s purpose has run its course?
I so admire people, particularly women, who have found a way to incorporate passion into their daily lives, through work or any other means. Do they have a sense of their self worth?
And I really have enjoyed my role as Mom. I’ve gotten to be part of every stage of their development and I’m so, so grateful. But now, as they get older and more independent, I’m feeling like I’ve been fooling myself.
Is that the depression speaking? Has my world become so small because of the health challenges I’m having right now that I can’t find perspective? Or is that just another rationalization for me to avoid the issue?
Yes, these are high class problems. Yes, my boys are healthy, they have a roof over their heads, they have meals, running water and luxuries. And they seem happy. But how much has my own stuff affected their choices?
And yes, I hear the judgments too. Ones I worry that are coming from you, but are more likely my own harsh criticisms. Most people HAVE to work. They don’t have the luxury of wallowing in their own sadness while they try to figure out their purpose. I know, I know! Those thoughts only add to my darkness.
I’ve asked these questions for so long now, but what happens when the examining produces no answers? What then?
I know I could just cover this all up by getting busy again. I could clean my house, get a puppy, numb out binge watching shows or do a variety of things to distract myself and allow me to go back to my old patterns. That would be easy. And maybe that’s a solution, at least until I’m healthy again.
Or I could huddle in a corner in my bedroom and just cry. Some more.
In the past, when I’ve faced this darkness, I’ve turned to my daily prayer, “Holy Father Mother God. I thank you for the blessing of this day and I ask that you continue to allow me to hear the gentle whispers that guide me to align with Your will so that I can best serve.”
Until I get clearer answers, maybe I just keep doing that. Keep my heart open. Be kind, compassionate and loving. Eventually I’ll be guided towards a new direction, right?