There is no health without mental health

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Social distancing and isolation is not new to me. For almost two years I have had a lot of time alone as I battled breast cancer. Sometimes the isolation was because I was vulnerable to infections and “bugs” so I kept my distance from people. But a lot of the time I was alone because people didn’t reach out to me. Maybe it was because they “didn’t know what to say” to someone battling cancer, or maybe they just thought that if they waited long enough, it would all just go away. But being alone and disconnected with people is not only hard, it can leave permanent scars if not recognized and dealt with.

We are all dealing with the challenges of isolation. COVID-19 is dictating our every move presently. It has no boundaries, it can strike anyone at any age. It doesn’t care who you are, or where you live. It is a silent enemy that when contracted turns your world upside down. When I was diagnosed with cancer, I felt like I had been hit by a truck. The fear and anxiety of not knowing what lay ahead me; how long my battle would last and how it would affect my business, my friends and more importantly my family was devastating. I felt like I had no control over this disease. I could only do what the oncologists, surgeons and therapists told me to do. They knew what was best. They knew the protocols needed for optimal results. I had to trust them and dig deep to find the strength and focus to get through what lay ahead.

Many of you are feeling this loss of control too. It is hard to feel this vulnerable; to not be able to call the shots and to deal with the fear of “what if I get it too?!” It’s the unknown that is the hardest to deal with. The “what if’s” can consume you if you are not careful. That fear and anxiety can suck the energy out of you leaving you tired, sluggish, irritable, and generally in a fog.

Disassociation is a real thing. It affects how your mind processes information. You start to feel disconnected to your thoughts, feelings, memories and surroundings. It can affect your sense of identity and your perception of time.

Let’s face it, we have all felt this way recently. I mean this “lock down” is taking its toll on everyone. How many of us have joked that everyday feels like “Blursday”. It is vital that we take the time to recognize that our mental health is just as important as our physical health. We need to keep our minds stimulated and active as much as our bodies. We need to reach out to one another, to stay in touch, to communicate, connect and even comfort one another. Having human contact…even at a distance, is vital to our mental health. We need to feel that even though we may not be able to connect physically, that we are still connected to each other emotionally.

I felt that great void when I was home alone after all my surgeries. It was seldom that I had a visit or phone call from friends. Sometimes weeks would go by, so when I did, I became a master of disguise. I could slap a smile on my face faster than speeding bullet. I learned to hide my feelings so I appeared like I always had my sh#t together even though I was dying inside. I didn’t want to scare anyone off by letting them see how hard this battle was; how much pain I was in or the toll it was taking on me physically and mentally. I had to appear “up” and positive at all times. Pretending that all was well when it wasn’t, affected me deeply.  It still does!

Fear and anxiety are real. They may not have been in your day to day repertoire before but they have probably crept in to your life now. Not everyone will have the same feelings and not everyone will deal with them the same way. But it is important to recognize them in ourselves and in others. Don’t be afraid to tell someone that you are having a hard day. Don’t be afraid to reach out to a friend or colleague and ask how they are doing? There is no shame in being honest and showing some vulnerability. In fact, it will not only bring us closer together but it will heal us too.

We are all in this together and we will be better for it.

#COVID-19 #cancer #mentalhealth #bettertogether #selfisolation

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President of As You Like It Marketing & Communications Inc. Award winning speaker and author. Breast cancer fighter and blogger. I’m sharing my journey…the good, the bad and the ugly. Hoping to help anyone else that has been touched by breast cancer be it you or someone you know or love.

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