My story of surviving cancer and physical and mental illnesses.
(Disclosure: The following material discusses mental health and suicide in detail and may be difficult for some readers. Children under the age of 18 should not read unless approved by a guardian. Precaution is advised. If you or someone you know needs medical attention, please contact your local physician or dial 911.)
Due to everything that was going on, I knew I needed more intense therapy. My hospital stay helped to clear my mind and regulate my medications so that I could be more rational overall. Fortunately, I ended up attending an intensive 21 day out-patient pain rehabilitation program. A very small group of women with severe and debilitating physical pain and psychological illnesses met with various professionals for 8 hours daily. Although I set out to give that program an honest effort, I still had a suicide date planned just in case the treatments didn’t work. My onset goal for my treatment was to simply “Want to live.”
The Whole Person
The treatment approach was multi-modal, meaning they treated the whole person by focusing on mind, body, and soul. Each day we met with a dietician, a physical therapist, a medical doctor, psychologists, clinical social workers, and a yoga instructor. There is no way you can truly heal unless you address the mind/body connection and all the facets of existing peacefully with one’s self. Each of us cried every single day we were there because we had to address pains we didn’t even know existed.
Hence, I learned that previous coping skills I acquired during my troubled childhood and teenage years were not working. My physical and emotional pain was constantly there and it wasn’t going away; I couldn’t run away from them. So, not having a clear mind or effective skills, I fell into the victim role and allowed myself to sit in a puddle of pity until I could no longer breathe. I hosted a pity party for a headcount of one…me! That all changed once I FULLY surrendered to my thoughts and feelings and started applying the coping techniques we were being taught. I stopped fighting myself and became vulnerable (like I am right now).
You know, everything we were taught in treatment was so simple; healing can be so simple. It all comes down to striping everything down to the basics. (Read My Top Ten Coping Skills for Managing Chronic Pain and Mental Illness.) Humans can tend to make things so much more complicated than what it all has to be. I accepted my physical state, my mental health issues, and the vulnerability that comes with being honest with myself. Most importantly, I learned I was worthy of living! Did you read that clearly? I AM WORTHY OF LIVING, and so are you!
So, now I work every single day at reminding myself of why I am still here and finding my purpose. I use the coping skills (e.g., crochet) I learned to push myself through the really difficult days. I’m no longer angry and hurt by my past or scared of the future. The pain is still there and is as real as ever, but it doesn’t keep me from the possibilities of life. I’ve been able to get off many medications and no longer see physicians who only wish to prescribe them. That first goal was met; I want to live!
Looking back, I’m so damn happy I was that girl who needed to be a psych patient in a mental hospital and an out-patient rehabilitation program. This is the first time the majority of my friends and family will know about last year’s struggles, but I am no longer ashamed or embarrassed. I’m here to share this with you because I don’t want anyone else to feel that way either. Our society is making huge gains in mental health awareness, but the stigmas still exist. It’s my responsibility as a professional and as a human to encourage everyone who needs therapy to seek it immediately. WE ARE ALL WORTH IT!
In the next section, I will explain how my crochet hobby turned into a business and how it keeps me going. Furthermore, I’ll tell you my “why” for wanting it to succeed.
As always, thanks for reading! I welcome any comments here or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org