Yesterday I chose to see the psychologist for one last session. In the months after completing my treatment I had begun to find my own behaviour confusing. It was as if my life had become a puzzle.
I had repressed feelings about my cancer in various ways from diagnosis onwards. I realise that while grieving I experienced many different feelings but the over-riding emotion that permeated all the others was the feeling of guilt.
Guilt for having to tell my children I had cancer, guilt for what I might have passed on to them genetically or environmentally. Guilt while going through treatment for not being able to look after my children or be the mother that I wanted to be. Guilt that I might ultimately, despite everything die.
Now obviously I did not set out to get cancer and it’s only with a bit of distance from that experience that I can see how significant that feeling was. Once I’d completed treatment I channelled all that guilt into losing weight, here was the one thing I could do to improve my chances of preventing recurrence. Instead of that being a positive agent for change it became a rod for my own back. Something to berate myself with and something which if I slipped up or couldn’t control would lead to further feelings of guilt. These feelings were more intense too because I knew it was my responsibility and that made it worse.
I don’t know, and I will never know if my diet was a significant factor in developing cancer in my body. But I do know that I feel better physically and emotionally when I’m managing my diet better. That’s what I want to do and while it’s always a challenge for me it is not insurmountable.
I deserve to be happy. I deserve to be healthy and guilt really does not play a useful part in any of this.
So I will persist, I will make plans and I will do the work that is required to get my life back. This will require patience and self compassion. But this has to be my goal now and it is very important to me to achieve it. Nothing worth having comes easy and I know this won’t be easy but the way I am living right now is actually really hard anyway. It’s not a difficult choice to make even though sticking with it may well be.
I feel as if the pieces of the jigsaw have fallen into place and now the rest is up to me and that’s ok. It’s been hard and this time since completing treatment especially so because my expectations for myself were so unreasonably high.
I always joke that the real secret to happiness is low expectations but in all honestly I think that managing my expectations may well be instrumental to navigating my way through this next bit. So endurance rather than optimism the trait that got me through cancer may well be the trait that I’m going to rely on for the next phase.
I will try and I will do my best, knowing that sometimes my best will be not the best…because I’m human and susceptible to human temptations and human mistakes.
Any other interpretation is not helpful and counter-productive.
So what happens next is that I need to learn to treat myself with encouragement, kindness and compassion. Everyone deserves that and this is something that I can and should take responsibility for. Let’s begin.