Why Every Mesothelioma Patient Should Prioritize Their Mental Health
May 18, 2021
How are you doing? No, really. How are you doing?
I’m sure in your mind you’re saying, “Oh, I’m fine.” But are you really fine? As humans we have programmed ourselves to give certain responses to certain questions. It’s definitely become a habit.
It’s as if we don’t really want people to know how we truly feel.
One reason is because we want others to think we are OK and everything is going well. But what if you’re not OK? Listen, it’s OK to not be OK! Read it again: It’s OK to not be OK.
Mental health is one of those things that gets placed on the back burner when it really needs to be tackled just like any other health issue.
When I was diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma, to be honest, I was one of those people I just mentioned. I placed my mental health on the back burner, and when someone asked me how I was doing I responded with, “I’m OK.”
It was all a lie. I wasn’t OK. I was battling a cancer that I had never even heard of before. I wasn’t OK. Mesothelioma had a huge impact on my mental health.
Make Mental Health a Priority
Mental health can look different for everyone. I found that out while I was undergoing treatment for mesothelioma. I didn’t allow myself to truly feel the magnitude of what was going on. I checked out of the present and focused on a future of being cancer-free.
I had feelings of sadness, anger, anxiety, you name it – but I ignored them all. I suppressed them so much that it was as if I was in my own world. Yes, I had very high hopes. I just knew I was going to be healed, and that’s all I thought about.
What I didn’t know is that when you deal with something such as mesothelioma it’s important to be aware of your mental health throughout your journey. It’s important to be present with your feelings and thoughts and soak them in. This will give your emotions a time of release and allow you to come to grips with what’s going on and what you have to look forward to with your treatment.
Mental health may not be a patient’s top priority or concern after receiving a mesothelioma diagnosis, but it should be. Because I chose not to acknowledge my mental health at the beginning of my mesothelioma journey, 14 years later the things that I suppressed have resurfaced.
It’s like a sponge. You continue to pour, pour and pour, but when the sponge becomes full it can no longer hold any water and must be squeezed out.
Mental and Physical Health Go Hand in Hand
Your mind is a terrible thing to waste, and that’s where your mental health begins, in your mind. I’ve battled with anxiety, fear, panic attacks and PTSD. I’ve learned the importance of my mental health and the things I need to do to stay on track.
More patients should include mental health in their treatment plan because their emotional and mental stability will play an important role in their journey. Being able to share your true feelings, being present in the moment and knowing it’s OK to not be OK will all be a part of the battle you’re about to face.
Some vital things to remember when balancing your mental health with your physical health as a mesothelioma patient are:
- Mental and and physical health go hand in hand. When you treat one, you have to treat the other.
- Be present and allow yourself to “feel.” Be aware of your thoughts.
- Journaling can help. Carve out some time to brain dump and write down what’s on your mind.
- Talk to someone. Speak with your doctors and ask them to recommend a therapist.
- Know that it’s OK to not be OK. We’re all human, and we need to know that in the midst of our good days will be some not-so-good days, and that’s OK.
As a mesothelioma survivor I make my mental health a top priority. I’m not ashamed to say I see a therapist and I talk to my doctor on a regular basis about my feelings and mental health.
I’ve faced my anxiety challenges and have overcome the fears that were suppressed for so long. At times when I want to check out, I don’t. I feel my feelings and become present in the moment. These things have helped me balance my mental and physical health.
So the next time someone asks you, “How are you doing?” be honest and let them know how you’re really feeling. You never know – they may be the ones to give you the help you need.