Being an avid reader on all subjects, once I was diagnosed with Multi Myeloma (Bone Cancer), I researched everything possible to make me more aware of what I could do to prolong my life. My son Chuck whom I have featured many times in blog posts, has made mental health one of his top priorities. I found that cancer and mental health many times go hand in hand. My family has struggled with depression and anxiety for as long as I can remember, and while doing this self-study, I had to look back before moving forward.
It has been said that my mother never had a problem, she was tough, and depression and/or anxiety would never have been a part of her makeup. With that being said, I believe that she did suffer from both. She was very good at hiding it because she would have looked at it as a sign of weakness; she was one of the strongest people I had ever known. She was not a good parent by anyone’s standards. She was controlling, demanding and selfish. It would be hard for me to write those words had I not been the one person she seemed to take responsibility for making miserable, a commitment she took seriously. I have written about her topics, poems, and general annotations of my life with her as my mother.
Throughout the years, I have grown to understand many of her actions. Also, what drove her to the actions she thought appropriate. She came from well-off people; however, within time, her father squandered his inheritance on women, whiskey, and being too lazy to work. She eventually turned into his fieldhand, married outside her class or though she thought, and never lived the life she dreamed of having. These all make depression and anxiety a front runner for her problems. She, on the other hand, never felt she had one and openly called anyone who professed to have depression and anxiety weak. She tried to live vicariously through two of her three daughters; she tried and never succeeded in dying without ever reaching her younger goals of wealth and affluence. I believe she masks her depression with extreme toughness, no matter who she hurts. Mental health is a destroyer of dreams.
My daddy was textbook depressive, and I would be an adult before I recognized it. He was quiet, withdrawn, and never reached his dreams, either. A sharecropper and truck driver’s life was not what he envisioned as a young man. Before he married my mother, he lived a colorful life of riding the rails, moonshining, and whiskey runner in the early 1900s. His dream of becoming a baseball player died when he married my mother. Becoming something, he was not shown on his face and in his actions. He wore depression on his sleeve like a suit of armor. He died, never realizing his dream. Mental health is a destroyer of dreams.
My own life was being born to a woman who did not want me, living with relatives until I was three years old, then coming under the control of my mother, who no doubt decided that all of her problems were because of my being born. Living in an arranged marriage to an abuser, never knowing love, unable to break loose from the marriage. Battling health issues, many due to the life led, all could be caused by depression and anxiety. Cancer had to align with all the other issues; the body was ready to be broken. Mental health is a destroyer of dreams.
Depression is known to run in families, genetic influences impact one’s health, and there is a risk of developing this disease and anxiety. Little is known, but the history of some families indicates the possibility.
I have struggled with depression and anxiety all my life; it has gone untreated and undiagnosed until the last decade, with the previous five years leading up to cancer. Cancer does not just affect your body; it can also affect your mind. I have experienced considerable changes in my emotional health. This past year I have dealt with depression, anxiety, and fear; I am never confident I will win this battle. Yet, it is treatable. Unfortunately, I was not diagnosed until I entered the last stage of multi-Myeloma; there is no cure for this disease. Treatment to date has it in a holding pattern, not remission, holding!
It is difficult to say if cancer, depression, or anxiety are the problems; all carry the same symptoms, fatigue, insomnia, and decreased appetite, and they all go hand in hand. It is well known that people living with mental health conditions worsen the outcome of cancer. I have read that mental health treatment can change the course of cancer, and I believe that it could.
I have undergone mental health screening and have been diagnosed with depression and anxiety. This diagnosis helps me in making life-changing decisions for the better. I have been lucky to have a family supporting me; I continue to write, paint, and be active when my body allows me to do so.
It continues to be a stigma. I have lost friends and relatives due to being open about depression and anxiety. However, I find that there is a great need to keep the discussion going and speak out whenever possible. In today’s world, we are losing too many young people due to that stigma; suicide is rampant among those who are depressed or experience various anxiety levels. Being open and honest about one’s mental health may lose your friends and relatives who believe you are weak. But, if I can save one person, young or old, it is worth people thinking I am weak.
If you believe you need help, do not be afraid to reach out to your doctor, the life you save may be your own. This test is free and takes only a few minutes.
Thank you to all of you for reading this post. Being open and honest has saved me many times and continues to do so. Have a great day and “good health.” E.