Living with PTSD
When you go through life being strong on the outside and for everyone around you, it soon becomes a mental game. When I got cancer, my entire life got put on pause just so I could fight this disease. I didn’t have time to think about anything else, sure there were times that got really tough and fighting for my life was too much but I never gave up. I continued to fight with every ounce I had left in me and when I finally defeated the demon known as cancer, I felt victorious.
There were a few months that I couldn’t stop smiling, I loved being healthy. I loved going back to a normal schedule, I didn’t have to worry about going to the hospital for chemo or radiation, I didn’t have to worry about getting blood work done, but instead I could go to school, go to work and be around the kids again. I was happy and for the first time in a long time; my heart felt full. Until the relapse scare happened.
In June, I had to get a Pet Scan, it was my final Pet Scan after all of my treatments and as confident as I was going into that scan, and the last time I could hope for superpowers, I was nervous. What if all that chemo and radiation didn’t work? What if the cancer is still there? Could I really do more chemo treatments despite all the hardships I endured the first time. I sat in that chair for forty-five minutes thinking of the worse instead of hoping for the best. When it was time for the scan, I got into the machine and started the scan, when it was over I sneaked a peak at the scan and saw nothing, which after seeing my previous scan, I knew that was a good thing. It was a relief and that moment of negativity disappeared for a couple of days.
Going into the appointment with the radiation oncologist, I was nervous. He came in and immediately started talking about a spot they had found on my left lung and they weren’t sure if it was just an infection or if the cancer had spread to the other side of my body. Now, imagine being me, someone who had just fought for her life and had finally got a break hearing that the cancer might’ve spread. All that happiness was gone in a flash. I was livid, I remember sitting there with my dad; speechless, clenching my fists and steam coming out of my ears. My thoughts were “Are you f**king kidding me? I am not going through this sh*t again, the cancer can spread for all I care. I am done.” My dad saw how upset I was and tried to calm me down but at that point I was gone. I mean, we later came to find out that the spot on my lung was just an infection but having an almost relapse scare, really gets to you.
I think that was the moment, I didn’t know what to do anymore. I started getting in a funk where nothing I did brought happiness. I shut out my family and their support never stopped. I isolated myself from my coworkers and friends, I couldn’t explain to them why but in my head it seemed like everyone was against me. There were days when I didn’t get out of bed, most days I would go to class, come home and go to bed. I stopped going to work because it just felt like a negative environment and I didn’t feel safe for whatever reason. I stopped blogging for a while because I had been preaching for so long how happy I was and how strong I stayed throughout the entire process and now I felt like nothing, really just something taking up air.
Negative thoughts began overpowering the positive and eventually, I let the darkness take me. I was so empty and alone. I had such horrible nightmares that most nights I would just lay in bed, forcing myself not to fall asleep. I would stay up until 3 or 4 in the morning before sleep would take over and even then it was only for a few hours. I was exhausted and irritable, I snapped at my sister and my dad so bad that even I didn’t like myself, I hated feeling this way but had not idea what to do. The thoughts in my head were so bad that I had to pinch myself to come back to reality, I almost quit my job and was getting ready to withdraw from school until one positive thought leaked through my head and stopped me.
Instead of giving up on everything I had worked for, I turned to my parents. They suggested telling my oncologist about what I was feeling and when I did, she told me that it was normal. I had just spent the last nine months fighting for my life, of course it was normal to have these negative thoughts, to not know what you want out of life anymore. Going through a traumatic event, at any age, but at my age was life changing. Not only did I just battle cancer but before that a lot of bad things happened leading up to the cancer. But that was all I needed; I wasn’t going crazy, I just needed to let my thoughts out instead of keeping them bottled up inside.
After seeing a psychiatrist, I was diagnosed with PTSD, I have a severe case of depression caused by traumatic events and it was going to take time to heal entirely fro everything I have been through. I won’t even lie, I love talking to my therapist. I don’t like talking about me but when someone, who is willing to listen and not get scared away from the thoughts in my head wants to help me, I feel no shame in saying that I go to therapy. For so long, I have had to be strong for myself and for everyone around me, I was bound to break and when I did, I got right back on my feet.
I think of PTSD as a mental injury, my mind and heart hurt after being strong for so long and those traumatic events were just the boxer in the other corner. They beat me and beat me but I continued to fight back, and I still do. Eventually, those punches will stop and I fight back, I will get the KO in the end and conquer just like everything else. My PTSD, is just another chapter in my long book. The chapters keep building and are creating a beautiful story. I just need to know that there are people that are rooting for me and they won’t give up on me so I shouldn’t give up either.
I share my story because I want others to know that they aren’t alone, the saying that everyone needs a hero, is true but I chose to be my own hero, I can’t fight all the battles by myself, I have a my own league of Avengers in my corner and that is all that matters. Yes, I have PTSD but it doesn’t define me. I am much more than the cancer, than the PTSD, I am much more than all the negative thoughts in my head and slowly but surely I am fighting back. Everyone fights their own battles, sometimes you may feel alone but just know that you have an entire sideline of supporters. The all believe in you and so do I, the only thing left is to take that step forward, take that leap, “shoot for the moon and even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars”.