Full disclosure: Throughout the last decade I’ve been a vocal campaigner for, among other things, the destigmatisation of mental health conditions.
I figure a cancer diagnosis shouldn’t change that, so you should know that I deal with depression, anxiety, PTSD and, when things get really rough mentally, suicidal ideation. I’ve been on and off some lovely drugs (my favourite being Fluoxetine) and have been lucky enough to benefit massively from talking therapies and counselling. I’m doing really well, actually, and have set up a list of mental health/cancer resources here.
My personal relationship with mental health conditions was the main factor in why I immediately sought (and continue to seek) information regarding mental health support for cancer patients.
Not only was I worried about my own mental health, and the mental health of my loved ones, but on top of that I was wracked with guilt.
Because I do feel guilty about what I’m putting everyone through, even though logically I know it’s not my fault. I didn’t choose to have cancer. Of course I didn’t. But knowing that my diagnosis is having such an emotional toll on the people closest to me makes me feel like a terrible burden – a feeling I am still struggling with every day. It’s then compounded by the fact that I simply do not have the energy to support them through this as I would have in any other situation. I’m then left asking ‘who supports me, and who supports the supporters?‘
It all came to a head last week when I heard my Dad crying in the bathroom.
Now, side note about my Dad; he is one of the best role models I could ask for. He doesn’t shy away from his emotions because of some bullshit notion of masculinity. He is loving and strong and vulnerable and kind. He is a fiercely loyal and an all round kickass human being. He is one of the main influences of my feminism, and of my belief that gender norms are damaging. So the crying wasn’t a shock – in fact, I went to him and we sat and cried together, and I think we both felt much better for it.
It did make me realise, however, that we should probably get a support system in place ASAP, especially because my parents have uprooted their lives in Aberystwyth to come and be by my side through this. They’ve lost easy access to their strongest support networks (such as their church) and taken on a lot of extra stresses.
I turned to a few places for advice.
- Firstly, to the Trekstock Facebook Group (an amazing space for anyone under 40 with cancer), where I was pointed in the direction of the #TrekstockTalks resources.
- Secondly, to my local Macmillan Information Centre (which for me is at the RUH in Bath). I ended up having a great phone call with one of the Macmillan nurses, who has since sent me some information about local cancer support groups and helplines.
- Finally, a number of people recommended an organisation called We Hear You, which even has a specific ‘Supporters Therapy Group’. How amazing is that?!
I’ve yet to pursue these leads, as things have been so hectic, but am planning to follow them up today or tomorrow. I’ll update the blog about my experiences with each one as I have them.