The Truth About Depression

The truth about depression is that there is no one size fits all approach, it affects people in different ways; young or old, male or female, the experience differs for everyone. I have been experiencing depression in some form for a number of years and I can say with 100% certainty that cancer is the major reason why I feel the way I do.

As a society we tend to define happiness by some key factors; health, work, location and relationships. The idea is that if a person has all of these plates spinning at the same time, they will be content and happy, however if one falls that person becomes unbalanced.

I feel I live in a constant state of flux, only having stability in some areas means I’m loosing focus on what is good in my life, and small changes can feel like the icing on top of the cake, like all my spinning plates are crashing down and breaking into pieces all at once. On social media I keep reading the phrase “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade”. Turns out I didn’t get any lemons, but instead got given a pile of shit, and what do I make with that…a shit sandwich?!?!

As a cancer patient I need options, and I need hope that things will get better, and living with terminal illness has meant I’ve been frequently deprived of these, halting my ability to try and move forward with my life. I feel I am frozen in time, like I’ve heard there is huge storm coming but there isn’t anywhere I can run and hide for shelter. I am not asking for the world, just some hope that my life will get easier. I don’t aspire to look like the Instagram influencers I’ve never met online, likewise I don’t want to be paid a lot of money to travel from country to country documenting my life. I only want a life to live in the first place. I just want to be happier, I don’t think that is asking a lot.

Depression isn’t about feeling down for a few hours when I wake up in the morning, It’s the constant cycle of highs and lows and it becomes more obvious when I start having more bad days than good ones. A lot of changes recently have made me feel I am going through a particularly dark stage and last week I burst into tears because the warning light came on in my car and I only had an MOT and service a couple of months ago. Out of the blue something small acts as a trigger and I fall apart over and over again, but each time I put myself back together I am missing another piece. Of course, it’s not really about the car, however it becomes another issue that has to be sorted out, another reason why I feel I am failing. Depression is one extreme to another, I’m either high with happiness or feel like I am falling down and no one will be able to catch me. I believe the voice in my head telling me negative thoughts and leaving me feeling hopeless for days at a time.

Some days are better – for a split second I feel that maybe, just maybe I will start to feel human again one day. Depression is serious and ugly and affects so many people from all backgrounds and walks of life, it doesn’t just disappear when you’ve had enough, but manifests over time. I am not going to wake up tomorrow morning and decide not to feel hopeless because that isn’t how it works.

I’ve read books where people have said they have a new appreciation for life since they were diagnosed with a serious illness, that the small things in life become more significant. I don’t jump out of bed every day grateful to be alive singing happy tunes at the top of my lungs, and no one else does it either! I am constantly told I’ve been lucky so far, so feel I should be eternally grateful. It goes without saying that of course I know it could be much worse, but I don’t see others celebrating in some special way just for being alive. I’d be fine with my lifestyle and accept the all things I can’t have if I felt I had some element of control, and could potentially live a long and healthy life. It’s not easy to believe everything will work itself out when I’ve been fighting fires for the last eight years.

Currently It’s not one particular thing that makes me emotional, it’s the whole process of being a terminally ill patient. It feels like everything and nothing at the same time. I am an outsider in a world full of insiders and It’s no coincidence that cancer has affected the way my life has panned out thus far, and I’ve failed because of it and I’m constantly trying to look for answers in a world where they don’t exist. It has changed every single aspect of my life and each day there are multiple reminders thrust in my face which only serve to highlight exactly why I am depressed. It could be seeing my scars in the mirror, using my Freedom Pass or Please Offer Me A Seat badge to travel, my constant blood tests, GP visits, the struggle it takes to get myself out of bed and go to work, and the antidepressants I take when I wake up each day. I have been having what I like to call ‘mini-breakdowns’ over the last 4 weeks so I feel an adjustment of my medication is needed.

I am now at an age where 85% of my peers are getting married, having children and buying houses. Cancer aside, when I was in my twenties I felt I had a lot of close friends and allies doing similar things to me, but now I am the odd one out. It doesn’t feel so bad being in a group, but nowadays It can feel isolating. It’s so difficult not to compare myself to other people when I’m surrounded by what I am missing out on every single day, and I feel like I am a failure in comparison.

I feel like the chance at a future has been taken away from me, which is a major issue when in comes to relationships. How do I find ‘The One’ when I feel there won’t ever be anyone for me? Nobody could take on the burden of my illness, I don’t want someone to care for me, just about me, I want someone that can help pick me up when I am down. Having not settled down with someone in my early 20s I can’t give a man the future they deserve because I believe I wouldn’t be enough, and quite frankly feel I don’t deserve it. In reality my life is far from the disney fairytales everyone seems to hope for. The thought will always in the back of my mind that If I take a turn for the worst, would someone want to be there with me side by side until the bitter end? Not exactly the opening line of a dating profile. What I do know is how precious life is. It is fragile and uncertain, I know what it’s like to be told that cancer is in multiple organs and what it’s like to spend hours attached to a chemotherapy drug pump fighting for my life. I can’t bring someone in to that life.

I’m not angry at friends for being settled and having children, but am I sad for myself I can’t do that? yes 100%. I am only human after all, and although I don’t blame anyone for my sorry excuse at adulting it is extremely hard and unsettling right now. However, I don’t think of other peoples problems as insignificant to mine; I know people have awful times too which I could never relate to, and they aren’t less valid because they don’t have stage 4 cancer.

Being upset doesn’t mean I don’t want to see people and their children. However I have to acknowledge it is a challenge because my options are non-existent in comparison. I feel like an outcast when I compare myself to others, and I often need to do some self preservation, but I know it’s not other people’s fault. It would be easier to try and blame someone, however my life a series of unique and entirely unfair circumstances that I cannot control. Right now I am emotionally, mentally and physically exhausted and feel I can only pick myself back up again so many times before I collapse into a heap on the floor.

Cancer has a lot to answer for and sometimes I feel worthless, as though I’m running around in circles trying to catch up with my friends; but we are not even in the same race! My path is going on a different route to that of my peers who all seem like they are running alongside each other. For years I’ve been held back because of my diagnosis, so I guess It no coincidence that I don’t fit in. I only want a fraction of what other people have, just some stability and options in life. I don’t feel like I am asking for much. It is unsettling and frightening standing in my shoes without options, like being given a series of multiple choice quiz questions with no answers to pick from. 

16 thoughts on “The Truth About Depression

  1. Oh Jolene it’s heartbreaking to read your blog. I wish with all my heart I could help & a cure can be found. You never cease to amaze me you are a truly wonderful young woman. You work & do so many things when others would have given up. I hope something good happens for you, life is so unfair. Tina x x ❤️

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  2. Jolene, l think Tina has summed up how we all feel after reading your blog. I just wished that we could do something to make it better for you.As always, love and support. Bob xx

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  3. Thank you for posting this. For being real, raw, exposing your feelings in a vulnerable way… that takes real courage and strength. My wife has stage 4 Melanoma and us also fighting for her life. I know she is feeling these similar emotions and it helps me, her husband and sole care partner, to read these emotions laid out plainly as you have done. I am also experiencing some of these emotions as I try to process what my wife is going through and the batal we will face for the rest of her life. I just want you to know that you are not alone in what you feel and what you are experiencing. I know, unfortunately, there are thousands of people dealing with the same thing. I appreciate you and your candid thoughts / feelings. It’s ok to not be ok. F Cancer! I wish you peace and strength.

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    • Thank you Randy! I just wish there were a magic cure for us all! It’s awful when things are going badly, been still awful when things appear to be going well as there is an overwhelming fear of everything falling apart in an instant! Thanks for reading and getting in touch! Wishing you and your wife well! Jolene x

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  4. I understand. I am stage 4 metastatic melanoma for the past year. I am 59. I have 4 children. I know I am extremely blessed that this happened now instead of years earlier.
    A few days ago I was able to sum up my feelings about who I was and who I am now.
    I am a woman who died over a year ago and now I am a woman who exsists waiting. Waiting for what? I don’t even know because there are no clear answers.
    So We the People of Cancer just wait and watch and wonder and fight for that little piece of normal if we can remember what normal is. I don’t really know and truthfully I don’t care anymore.
    You become to afraid to get back up on that horse again because you think, surely I will be knocked off again. But you try because people will tell you that you are negative if you don’t. So to keep the peace and in order to not become family and friendless you pretend you are try. You would really like to tell them to go to hell. But you can’t.
    Thank goodness for support group and blogs. At least they provide us the non-jugdemental support we crave. Hugs and prayers to you. Cry if you want to.

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    • Hi Virginia, thanks for your message! It struck a chord with me. I completely hear what you are saying about watching and waiting. Are you in any treatment at the moment?

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  5. Jo, who am I to say anything to you? You have the right to be angry, frustrated, scared, the right to be desperate and to be honest about it all. At the risk of telling you anything you know in spades, would some more attention to your psychological health be a little bit useful? However bleak it is ,any support for this would be better than just feeling so alone with it all. I hope you don’t mind me posting this Jolene as you are so exhausted with it all and rightly so.

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  6. Hi Jo! Thank you for sharing this, you’re very brave.
    I’ve been following your blog since I, myself was diagnosed with metatastatic melanoma of the brain in June this year.
    You’re not in this alone, we’re in this fight together.
    You are truly an inspiration.
    Keep going,
    Rob xx

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  7. Thank you for sharing, very brave of you, I had a mini depression when my hormones went haywire in first three months of pregnancy. I couldn’t even write or paint but I saw kindness in everyday interactions and went on a daily joy hunt. Five months in things are great again, hold faith x

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    • Thanks so much for reading Taran! Ans reminding me I am not alone. I need to write a daily list of things I am grateful for. I find it’s always good to talk to others.

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