Supporting Your Mental Health After a Mesothelioma Diagnosis
May 2, 2022
Mental health is one of those topics a lot of people avoid talking about. It’s like the elephant in the room.
There is a certain stigma society has placed on mental health overall. Talking about having mental health issues makes some people think they’ll be categorized as unstable or worse. Not so!
Over the years, and even through my battle with peritoneal mesothelioma, I’ve learned that mental health is just as important as physical health. My mesothelioma diagnosis impacted my mental health a lot and caused me to seek the help I needed.
Navigating a Cancer Roller Coaster
Being diagnosed with cancer 15 years ago felt as if I was on my own personal roller coaster ride. From the initial shock I was in when I found out I had mesothelioma to the acceptance stage, my mood morphed from sad and fearful to a “let’s do this” attitude. It was a faith-in-overdrive, eye-on-the-prize mental space. It took me over a decade to realize the impact this had on my mental health.
I found myself in this same pattern once again when my husband told me he had cancer. Bam! My mind immediately started the roller coaster ride again.
I noticed a pattern when this type of trauma happened. I went through the cycle of shock, sadness, fear, denial and faith in overdrive. While going through it I didn’t allow myself to sit in my thoughts long enough to take in what was really happening.
My eye was literally on the prize – being cancer-free – so whatever happened along the way sometimes seemed like a blur. By the time I got to the other side, that’s when the anxiety hit like a downpour in a thunderstorm. All the feelings, emotions etc. were now catching up to what I just went through.
Taking Steps Toward Good Mental Health
In order to get help with whatever you’re going through, you have to first admit there’s a problem. For years I was in denial about my mental state and talked myself out of even seeking help. It was my perception that if I spoke with my doctor or anyone else about how I was feeling I would be looked at differently and labeled.
That is, until the COVID-19 pandemic hit. It actually took my mind somewhere I’ve never been before and never want to go back to. That’s when I had a conversation with my doctor and explored my options.
This was two years ago, and I have been taking medication to keep my mental health in check ever since. Initially I was embarrassed sharing that I was taking medication for anxiety and depression. But I also noticed when this subject came up that people were suffering in silence. So I started to share my story and my experience with mental health issues. This has helped me as well as others.
Mental Health Tips for Mesothelioma Patients
I know you’re wondering about the things I did, and still do, to keep my mental health in check. Here are a few tips:
- Reach out. Talk to your primary care doctor about the problems you’re having.
- Keep an open mind. Be open to different treatment options. Accept the help and remember you can’t do it alone.
- Join a support group. Find a mesothelioma support group, which will allow you to share your experiences and learn from others who are going through the same journey.
- Monitor your mental health. Be aware of your thoughts and emotions and allow yourself time to comprehend what’s going on.
- Seek counseling. Your primary care physician may even refer you to a therapist. Note that you may need to try more than one before you find the right therapist for you.
- Advocate for yourself. Be intentional about your self-care.
Getting the mental health help I needed is something I wish I would have done from the very beginning of my mesothelioma diagnosis. I’m sure I would have been equipped with the tools I needed to support me as I went through my cancer journey.
So, it’s vital to seek help now, whether you’re a patient or caregiver. Don’t ignore your mental health. It is a vital part of all our lives and if we’re not mentally healthy, we’re doing ourselves a disservice.