Friday, 2 July 2010

Dealing with fear.

I've been blogging for three years now and have had three changes of name in that time.

I love blogging it is the place where I do my own therapy. Which may sound a little conceited, but I have worked as a therapist in doctors practises and privately for the last 25 years. I'm not a very normal therapist, I'm not nice and soft and gentle. I can be, but because of my own life experiences I tend not to be.

The people, who are sent to see me by the docs only have a limited number of free sessions, and I am of the opinion that the best thing I can do for them is to educate them as to why they are feeling a certain feeling, and giving them the tools to then change it.

So this is how I am as a person. I know how to do therapy. I know that when the stuff builds up inside me then I use writing it down as a way to crack open the walls, so I can cry or scream or swear, whatever it is that the internal experience inside me needs to let it go and move on.

I advise all my clients to do this, to keep a stress journal and tell it their secrets. I advise them to buy punch bags, to belt their anger out on, I expect them to swear like troopers in their sessions with me, as they let out their anger. I advice that when they need listening to, they need a friend,one who will listen endlessly and mop up their tears and return their hugs, I advise for this reason that they all need a teddy bear.

What matters is getting the words out of our heads, and it doesn't matter how we do it, as long as we don't take it out on other people. So whether beating hell out of a cushion, crying into a teddy or writing it down, it is all good.

So this is what I use my blog for. I don't have the support network most people have. I no longer have any parents or a partner. I do have a wonderful sister and fabulous friends, but as I've said before here it sometimes takes me a while to ask for help.

But here I write my heart out. I write when I'm sad or happy or anything in between. And always when I've finished writing I feel better if it's a negative feeling I have. It is the catalyst for helping me to let go.

I have a massive knowledge of what makes people tick. Knowing that if I feel it so do other people, although our stories will be different the emotions of sadness/fear/loneliness/ anger will all be the same. I haven't had to be abused to know how desperate an abusive victim is when they start their therapeutic journey to health.

What what I have had is breast cancer, and those few people who have been here for three years have seen the photograph I put up here of my body after having had a mastectomy.

Now I am quite okay with how my body is, it's what's kept me alive having my breast removed. Although I do have issues with the 14lbs I've put on as a result of taking Tamoxifen over the last few years. But I am on the home straight, in that come January I will have been in remission for five years and seen as cured and can come of the drugs.

If you wondering where this post is going I am getting slowly to the point....

I get referred anyone and everyone by the docs I work for and apart from drug or alcohol dependency issues I will see anyone for anything. I will work my magic and make everyone on the whole feel heard. And then help give them their own power back so that they can move on emotionally.

In the work I do I am more than capable of keeping ME out of someone elses therapy session. I may make use personal examples if I think it will help illustrate a point that someone is stuck on, without this impinging on my stuff.

BUT, and this is the point. I have been referred a woman who has had breast cancer, who has finished having Tamoxifen and therefore also finished with the regular follow on care from the oncologist as she is seen as cured. And she is not dealing with her fear of it coming back.

Yeah right, neither am I.

I do not think I will ever stop being frightened of cancer coming back. If not breast cancer then I tie myself up in knots with the idea of lung or bone cancer on a regular basis.

I know there is no logic to fear,and that fear can be crippling. So I work hard at keeping on top of my fear.

But how the fucking hell am I supposed to do therapy for a woman who is fearing what I fear. It just isn't going to happen. I cannot remain impassive and professional talking to this woman about how she deals with her fears. I cannot tell her that she is not being logical and there is no reason to believe that she will ever get cancer again. It's all bollocks.

So whether right or wrong I've decided when she comes to tell her about me. That I've had cancer, that I'm scared and that is the legacy of having to deal with the stronger than average chance of dying back then that will never leave me.

That every time I have a mammogram coming up I cry with fear. That I get hooked into all my other nonsensical fears.

She won't have come to hear that, she will be wanting a professional counselling service. But under these circumstances my need to protect myself is bigger than my giving unconditionally to a client.

I'm hoping that hearing another woman talk about her own fears will help her, so that she can share in this horrid uncertain place that cancers sufferers inhabit. I know this cause there are a total of four of us at work who've had breast cancer in the last six years of varying degrees and we talk to each other about it.

I'll even offer another support session, but I won't be offering her therapy under any circumstance, and will tell her referring doctor exactly why.


BenefitScroungingScum said...

Sometimes the only safe option is to acknowledge the fear and allow ourselves time to feel it. It's a rational, healthy response to an irrational situation.
Not sure that's much help though! Sending you hugs. BG Xx

AkasaWolfSong said...

Dear Byrd...I can think of nothing to say here that hasn't been said to you a million times over probably. I can't even imagine that kind of fear. I have my own fears too but nothing compared to this.

What I can do is send you a gentle cyber hug and say I think you are doing the absolute right thing. For You! And...For Her!

Wouldn't it be nice to kick some Fear Butt? :) Yeah, I think I need to do that from time to time too.

Blessings and Peace Byrd!

Carol said...

I am in awe! I think what your giving her is a real gift...the gift of being able to talk openly and honestly about how she's feeling and know that she's not alone! Fear is natural and I think it will be good for her to get that out in the open (I imagine that with her friends and family she is putting on a brave face). Your right, you are not the one to give her therapy but I think she'll be stronger for being able to talk to someone who completely understands.

I can't even begin to imagine what you have been through. *hugs*

C x

Wipso said...

What an amazing blog. Your strength comes over in your writing. A saying came to mind while I was reading it - 'A problem shared....'
It may well be enough for this lady just to share her fears with someone who REALLY know how she is feeling for her to gain strength. Good luck with this very difficult situation.
A x

Helen said...

As far as therapeutic writing goes, you are one of the very best. I envy all of the many people you have helped through the years. I have read some of your earlier posts and remember you wrote 'bear witness to my life' regarding blogging and getting your feelings and emotions out. Your fear is certainly to be understood, however five years is wonderful! I have friends who are now 15 years post surgery/drugs. They are thriving. I also have a niece who is just in the post surgery process, a kindergarten teacher and has 15 year old twins - a boy and a girl. She doesn't talk about the fear to us, but I know it's there. Keep writing, keep sharing ... there are so many nameless, faceless people who care so very much about YOU! You are doing the right thing ....

TALON said...

Knowing we're not alone in our fears (and having someone express the exact fears we have) can be so helpful that I think the woman will appreciate your honesty and also appreciate that you won't be able to continue seeing her professionally. I think you've made the right decision, Mandy.

Pam said...

I echo other comments here Mandy, and would like to add that I admire your strength in dealing with your fears and those of others. Even though it is your professional calling to do so,it is obvious to me that you are skilled and gifted at what you do.The difficult times that you share here as part of the process you know to be necessary for healing and release,only makes you even more qualified to help others in their own journey. Keep up the good work Mandy, and the excellent posts.xx

Merry ME said...

Sharing your own story, and listening to hers. Sounds like a great recipe for success, or the beginning of it.

I honor your strength and courage and keen insights.

I sometimes wonder if there is blog etiquette, like how much "truth" we should write. I have found that having a place to get stuff out of my head is very good for me.

Keep up the good work.

Mel said...

Yes. Yes. And yes.

Every mammogram appointment.
Every tender spot on the remaining breast.
Every 'wait' for the results.
Every blood test.
Every bruise that doesn't heal as quickly as I think it ought to.
Every time I wake up sweating (nightsweats or hotflash--please make it menapause....).

There's a list of 'every' for me, just as there is for you.
I figure other 'victims' of the disease(s) got put in my path for a reason. It forced me to deal squarely with the fears, it gave me opportunities to keep growing in ways I didn't necessarily think I wanted to grow.

The fear of cancer/leukemia returning isn't an illogical, 'not based on reality' fear. There's no dismissing what can be true at any given moment. I don't get to do that. The truth is, the further into remission I go, the closer I am to losing it. That's just my truth. ALL works that way. I have the fears--and there's moments that I cannot see past them until I'm past them. They're just moments and they do not rule my life and my decision making.
If they did, they'd own me and my life.
I know you know what I mean.

I love ya to bits, Byrdie--and I'm here to say it's okay to have those moments. We get to have them for reasons. And for me, they're generally wake up calls. I can take the day for granted.I can become complacent and forget how precious each and every day, each and every moment, each and ever interactions IS.

It's not a bad thing, really.
It is what it is. It's what you and I do with it (you said it here, babe!) that matters.

((((((( the Byrdie ))))))))

Von said...

The truth is your strength, none of us should ever take on what we know we can't handle and might damage someone else.Have to know our boundaries and good wishes for what's on the other side of yours.

Paula said...

I think it is courageous and incredibly fair to both of you. Besides it may help both of you. For myself I would feel when my t would share the same fear, well, I would feel some relief as on the end we all fear the same. It is encouraging that this fear is hard tio deal with, that in our society we are so much used to getting all fixed and live so far away from death, that it sometimes doesnt seem to be part of life anymore. having said all of that I never walked in your shoes. All I cvan offer is my love. Paula

Beatnheart said...

I have had scares being a DES daughter of getting weird and abnormal test results. And the fear that goes with those results. I just act as if I’m already dying...sounds weird, I know, but what’s the worse that can happen? You die. So if I accept that I’m already dying and what should I do about it, I say “well live my life each day with gusto as if it is the last”. What else can we do? Live in Fear all the time. You could get a test result and then they tell you “oop’s , sorry wrong result your ok, and then all that friggin worry for nothing.

miss*R said...

I had the same fear. I went to my cancer counsellor at the time [9yrs ago now] and she asked me what I was fearful of.. and I told her that the cancer would come back.. and her answer? 'I cannot give you a guarantee that it won't come back, but nor can I give you a guarantee that when you walk out the door of this building, that you won't be hit by a bus'.. kinda brought it home real quick.
there are no guarantees in life.

9yrs down the track dear Pix.. what I can say to you is.. the fear eventually does subside.. someone told me that once, when I was 5 yrs, I didn't believe them.. but here I am, saying the same thing to you.
[ps wish I had a counsellor like you!]
I Use my blog for the same thing.. therapy, to get the voices and thoughts out.. sometimes, I wish people understood that.

e said...

You are a wise and ethical person and sharing your experiences may be more helpful to this woman than you know. I wish you both peace.

LindyLouMac said...

It is amazing that you are able to share your fears with us all here in the virtual world of Blogging. My Mum is a breast cancer survivor and sharing your fears was something that she was taught to do with other survivors.

Marilyn said...

I agree with you that writing your feelings down help to clear your thoughts. Writing helps me see more clearly just what I am feeling and why.
I can understand the fear that cancer survivors feel - I don't know if first hand but as a mother of a cancer survivor I suffer from a form of this same fear. My daughter is a survivor of an aggressive form of osteosarcoma - which has left me fearful - for her,for myself, for all those I love!
I think accepting the fear and living with it is how my daughter copes.

awareness said...

As a counsellor and a human who uses blogging/writing as therapy and as a vehicle for self awareness, I completely understand the dilemma of trying to ethically and emotionally find a way to counsel someone who's issues are similar to my own. Though I have not had the same experience as you, there are certain life topics and feelings that go with them that I have to put my hand up and say..... "you know what? I'm working on my own resolutions on this...." If I have the chance to.
Your approach to therapy is similar to mine. It's not a quick fix thing..... it is a solutions based behavioural approach that also focuses on recognizing the feelings. Glasser's Choice theory often comes in handy.
I've also recently begun learning how to apply David Berceli's Tension Release Exercises.... just went through a workshop and was quite impressed and amazing at how much we physically absorb the trauma/pain in our lives and how we can release them. You may be interested in this therapy, which to me is a great tool to go along with talk therapy. It may help you release some of your own fear too.

Take good care......I'm glad I stumbled across your blog today.