Friday, July 12, 2013

THE ROAD FROM ANXIETY TO RESILIENCY

© theBigCandMe.blogspot.com
Lately, every click I make leads me to more bad news. Storm clouds seem to be everywhere I turn. I need a buffer between me and life. 

I need to become more resilient. 

By definition, resiliency is being able to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditionsUm, that would be my life this week. A tale of too much. Allow me to explain...

  • My friend L.'s father died this morning. He was a man of great style and humor. He had a good long life. He was lucky to find true love not once, but twice. He did not go gently into that good night; oh no. He fought it all the way. Now he is at peace.
  • This afternoon my friend J. was told that an artery in his neck is 99% blocked. He is having additional surgery tomorrow. J. has been through more than his share of health problems — including contracting polio as a child — yet he is one of the most upbeat people I have ever known. Whatever the challenge, he doesn't let it take him down. He is the definition of resilient.
  • My friend K. (NED despite Stage IV breast cancer, yay!) recently learned she has uterine cancer. WTF??? This news is fresh; she is still putting together her treatment plan. On top of BC and now UC, she must also tread the mine field of widowhood. This seems too much to bear. And yet, she is resilient: "I feel deeply there is so much I want to explore, to learn, to have time to assimilate all the $#@% stuff we've gone through and make it work for me, and to have the chance to re-wire myself to be able to focus myself outward and see where it takes me." K. is resilience personified!
  • A few days ago I was reading the newspaper (albeit a few days old). I turned to the obituary page (I'm a genealogy nut and find them fascinating) and staring back at me was a familiar face. But I couldn't place it. I looked at the name — this, too, was familiar. Finally, it clicked; I knew her from Facebook. My friend A.'s friend, she would often comment on A.'s many Facebook postings. She and I were not FB friends, yet she was a familiar (and very witty) writer. I felt like I knew her. Seeing her obituary stopped me cold in my tracks. What the hell happened? She went to sleep one night and never woke up. Her husband found her in the morning. She was 50 years old. 
  • This news dovetailed with the recent death of H., a former co-worker of mine. H. was a beloved presence in our office, and we were always trying to guess her age. She kept her hair colored dark and though her step had slowed over the years, she was sharp as a tack well into her 80s — which is when she finally stopped working. She was absolutely resilient. Her obituary painted a life full of great interests, including the fact that she was a painter, and a singer, and a recording artist in the 1950s. One more reason I love obituaries.
  • In the midst of all this, I squeezed in a chat with L., a bubbly blogging & twitter buddy who is volunteering for an awesome breast cancer organization (I will be writing more about that soon). L. and I discussed various volunteer opportunities for which I might be a good fit; most required a commitment from me. As I was taking notes, I recognized a familiar feeling. While working in my former high-pressure career, I used to look at looming deadlines as exciting; I realize now it wasn't excitement I was feeling — it was anxiety. Why did it take me so long to figure that one out? I thought I was in a profession for the excitement, but I was really addicted to anxiety. I walked away from my career 4 years ago; 18 months later, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I've since learned to embrace the calm — not the storm. The more I think about making a commitment to volunteer with L., the more filled with fear I become. Am I biting off more than I can chew? Is this a brewing storm? What is really going on here? I tell L. I will think about it. I am feeling anything but resilient.
  • Then I read about my friend Shannon (aka Green Monkey) who is in treatment for rectal cancer. I've written about dear Shannon before; she's been through the breast cancer and recon ringer, and is now receiving High-Dose Endorectal Brachytherapy — and it's every bit as awful as it sounds. Yet she is clawing her way through it. "I have not cried that hard since the day my son [Kerry] died. Only this time, I knew he was with me... comforting me, assuring me that I was loved and appreciated," she says. "No matter which way this cancer battle goes, I win." Now that is resilience. I am rallying the troops behind her (she would so love that pun!), and asking all of YOU out there to please stop by Shannon's blog and show her some bloggy love.
  • On to Mainely Hopeful's latest post. This is a breast cancer blog I only recently started to follow. Mainely Hopeful doesn't post often, so I notice when she does. I was shocked to read that her husband died suddenly last month and she too is now navigating the rocky waters of widowhood. She closed her last post with this: "A friend asked me the other day if I was mad at God. I said I don't dare be mad at him, I would be afraid of what He had in store for me next. I wasn't kidding." That is resilency in action.
  • Did I mention that I was also asked to road-test a new blogging site for cancer info and write a few posts for it? I was excited to be selected, but find myself retreating from that commitment too. I have been racking my brain trying to figure out what my problem is. Why am I so stuck? Why can't I commit? What's with all this anxiety? Then it hit me. (It took writing this post and stringing together the events of the past week — which also included a 3-day vacation with old friends — for me to realize it's really very simple: I'm on emotional overload. And being in touch with lots of people going through lots of problems (as I do through this blog) means that emotions often run high. I need to recognize the signs of this. That's why writing is such a great outlet for me. I don't see the forest for the trees without my keyboard.
A wise friend told me that all events cause anxiety — not just the bad ones, but the good ones, too. Our bodies can't tell the difference. It's all just a big wave of stress. If we can learn to be a wee more resilient, life can feel less like the eye of the storm and more like the calming waters of the beach. Let's face it: Life ain't gettin' any easier. Life's a beach and a bitch. And it's all a work in progress.




14 comments:

  1. Whew, I hear you on the resilience factor. It's a muscle I need to flex more and more often. Life is indeed a beach and a bitch - and the good times and hard times seem to clump together in waves. My thoughts are going out to all those you mentioned and those in treatment. One of these days I'll post something really happy and send you the link. That way, it might start a wave of good-result clicks for you :)

    Take care, Renn,
    Catherine

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    1. Catherine, you're right about the clumping! And about likening resilience to a muscle flexing. Great analogy.

      I look forward to the happy click! Be well. ;-)

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  2. Hi Renn,
    Sometimes the bad stuff comes in what seems like never ending wave doesn't it? Might this be true with good stuff? That'd be nice... I hear you about the hesitancy to commit... I deal with that too quite often.

    I'm sorry about all the things you've been dealing with - it does take a toll on a person and emotional overload is very real. You're a very caring soul and that's exactly why you feel these things deeply. Be kind and gentle with yourself. Hugs.

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  3. Nancy, it's definitely true with the good stuff! Thanks for the reminder that life is merely a series of waves. Sometimes you ride them, sometimes they ride you.

    Here's to some sunny surfing days ahead!

    -Renn

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  4. I find that it seems like there is just one bad thing after another and then finally it breaks and life seems to get better for a while. Part of it is trying to decipher what the bad is trying to teach us.... Life is a process of learning, it isn't always fair, that is for sure. I have missed your blog posts Renn:)

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    1. Hi Launna! I am already feeling the other side of it. Sigh! For me, the essential thing to remember is that life is like an ocean. Some days (weeks, months!) come at us forcibly like waves, others like ripples — good times, bad times. But it never stays the same. Like the weather, life can change on a dime. But it always pops back up again! Thanks for being such a faithful reader! ;-)

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  5. Renn...when I feel the way you are describing, I stop (literally) and just focus on my breath. Somehow that allows me to regroup a bit and carry on. Sending you love!

    -Holly

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    1. Breathe, regroup — and carry on. Love it!

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  6. I think you hear about bad news more often because we are in a community which is prone to it. I too am trying to keep from overloading..

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  7. You're right! Being part of the BC community (or any disease-related community) connects us to people who are experiencing adversity. And that exposes us to more bad news that people not connected in that way. That's where the resiliency factor comes in. (I feel another blog post bubbling!) Thanks for stopping by.

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  8. What an outstanding post. I LOVE the "embrace the calm"....LOVE LOVE LOVE.

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  9. Renn, what a timely post! I am right there with you thinking I loved the excitement, deadlines, pressure, but now I realize my life is riddled with anxiety. Something has changed in my brain since the BLM and recon. I tire more easily and can't take the stress like before. Looking back, I think my life has always been exciting (chaotic), I just now am learning the difference! I hear what Holly is saying to stop and focus on the breath, but my bigger issue is exhaling!!! I catch myself holding my breath--all the time. Thank you for putting this all in perspective! Thanks for sending me over to Shannon. Bloggy support is so great! Best, Lindsey

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    1. Lindsey! Long time no see! I'm sorry you are dealing with such anxiety, but glad you stopped by and found a kindred spirit — it was kismet! Anxiety is such a prevalent state and it masquerades as many different things to different people. I'm working on another blog post about it... Stay tuned!
      PS Bloggy support is the best!

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  10. Renn,

    Wow! So many bad things happening at once. You know, you are more resilient than you think. It takes guts to blog about all this. I totally understand your fear of committing to some sort of volunteer position. I can't commit either. Partly I'm afraid. For example, I couldn't be on a help support phone line for people diagnosed with breast cancer. I have too many demons for me to help others in that way. Instead, I write.

    I admire your candor. Anxiety is familiar to me, as well.

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Your comments are encouraging — and encouraged!