Tag Archives: wellness

Living with cancer

I have lived with cancer for as long as I can remember. I was eight years old when it finally took my mother from me completely.

Cancer continued to pick away at my wider family, laying an aunt low to treatment here, killing an uncle there. It left my widowed father struggling to raise 3 daughters on his own and with an unhealthy paranoia over every lump and bump and skin discolouration that should rear its ugly head on his body.

Cancer also buried itself deep into my consciousness. It became part of my story. Perhaps the biggest part. A motherless little girl attracts a certain kind of pitying attention from friends and adults alike. I could never bear pity.

I remember one particular lunchtime at school – it must have been soon after my mother died, because I was still at my first school and I was only there for 6 more months – and my classmates were testing my grief. Some bright spark had come up with the theory that I welled up whenever the word ‘mother’ or ‘mum’ was mentioned. So our time in the dinner queue was spent with my 8 year old tormenters getting me to spin around to face them as they hurled the words at me repeatedly and inspected my face closely for signs of impending tears.

I bit those tears down and spun on my heels with a grin as wide and bright as a showgirl. Now my heart breaks for that little girl but back then my only thought was suppression for survival.

Being treated to such a masterclass in cruelty so early on made me learn quickly and really well. I became a world-class represser of untidy emotions. By the time I was an adult I had become so skilled at beating them into submission that even I didn’t really know what I was feeling any more. On the upside, no-one else did either and so no-one could hurt me. Or so the unexpressed but deeply-felt theory went.

Having had cancer shove its big, scary face right up and close into mine at such a young and formative age also made me react in a way opposite to my father. While he dogged his doctor with requests for ever-more checks, tests, scans and biopsies, I developed a deep distrust of the medical profession and a desire never to look cancer in the eyes again. So I retreated from their orbit.

Ask no questions and you’ll hear no bad news went this second, unexpressed mantra to live by.

Only it turns out that’s not actually true. It just means that you’ll hear the news later and that it will inevitably be worse.

Let’s just hope that I have copped on to myself in time and raised my questions before it was too late.

Results day minus 6.

 

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Anger Management

I can be a *tad* moody sometimes. (Read: I have been known to scream in a Basil Fawlty-esque manner and kick inanimate objects over what might seem minor irritations to more zen-like beings.) Not all the time, but some times. And it’s never nice. Not for me or for those around me.

The problem is that once you find yourself in that wound up state it’s very hard to get yourself out of it. At least that’s my experience. And the truth is that the kicking and screaming doesn’t help. You think it will be a release, and it may be for a micro-second, but then the anger bounces back and winds you even tighter.

Tonight I found myself escalating into one such mood. I caught myself tossing toys into their boxes with increasing force as I tidied up the play room. I was snappy and belligerent with my other half. I made more noise doing the dishes than a jumbo jet on take off.

Luckily for me my other half isn’t one to let me get away with it. He challenged me to explain my mood. I couldn’t at first. I really didn’t know why I was feeling so goddamned grumpy but I was. As he probed further and I got rattier, eventually it sprang to the surface. I was actually feeling hurt and left out by a friend. I blurted out my grievances in a rush, surprising even myself with the source. I cried a little. (Well, quite a lot actually.)

I got it off my chest. And then I felt better.

The key is finding the source. Generally speaking it’s not actually the thing at which we are throwing the shoe and mostly it’s not even the person at whom we are snapping. More often than not it’s some hurt within ourselves. Looking in and asking the question can really take the wind out of the gale of anger that is blowing.

Once my brave other half had helped me to identify the source he went so far as to propose a solution. If I’m feeling left out then I need to make the effort to reach out. Instead of feeling angry with people for not calling me or including me in their plans I need to be the one making the calls and the plans. Taking control of my life and my moods.

Simples eh? Like all the best things in life, it’s magnificent simplicity and profound complexity all rolled into one. Now there’s something to meditate on.

 

One Simple Technique That Will Change Your Life

It’s true. Slightly hyperbolic but true nonetheless. And, what’s better, it’s not even a technique that you need to learn. It’s something we all do, all of the time. You just need to become aware of it and choose to focus it positively.

Visualization.

It’s as simple as that. Visualizing a positive outcome. Picturing what you want to happen. Keeping your eye on the prize.

It really works. You do move towards what you focus on. It’s like riding a bike. Look where you want to go. Don’t look down, or you’ll have a wobble. Don’t look back or you may take a tumble – you’ll certainly slow down.

I don’t know about you but sometimes I can be pretty good at catastrophizing. Particularly on those nights when I wake in the wee small hours, mind churning with work undone, bills unpaid, forms unfilled. I can quickly work myself up into a sitting-bolt-upright state of sleeplessness. That’s me scuppered. It’s entirely counter-productive.

Keeping my eyes on the prize....climbing onwards and upwards

Keeping my eyes on the prize….climbing onwards and upwards

So, recently I have decided to stop it. Now I know from bitter experience that when you’re lying awake in the dark busily catastrophizing it can be far from simple to just stop. The secret is not aiming to just quiet and still the anxieties that are pressing in but instead to replace them. By visualizing positive outcomes I leave no space in my head for the niggling anxieties. I busy my mind with lovely stuff, with dreams and fantasies and ideals. With what I want to happen.

And soon enough, I fall asleep with a smile on my face and wake the next morning to face the day refreshed and raring to go, ready to make those dreams a reality.

Try it – you might just surprise yourself with how easy it is and what a big difference it can make to your life! And if you do, please come by and tell me how it worked out for you.

 

Putting the Internet in Its Place

This may sound a little odd coming from a blogger, direct from my keyboard tapping fingers to your flashing screen, but I’ve been considering the negative effects of too much screen time recently. I know, I know. ‘Stop press!’ I’m not the first to be concerned by this but I never claimed to be unique. We’re all unique and we’re all Every(wo)man, in my humble opinion.

The internet has transformed my life. And mostly in a good way. It facilitates my entire lifestyle. I literally could not live where I do now (in a remote mountain village in northern Spain) were it not for the internet. My partner and I both work remotely, online. That’s how we can live here and still support ourselves. Socially, it means we can stay in touch with friends and family despite our geographical distance. Skype (whilst endlessly frustrating!) is a godsend. Recreationally, the internet lets us watch films and television in our own language and from our culture and allows us to buy English language books and have them delivered in an instant to our devices.

Quite simply the internet rocks.

But. The flip side is that I spend an awful lot of time sat in front of a computer screen. And when I’m not doing that I’m often clutching a smartphone or an ipad in my hand. The first thing I do in the morning is reach for my phone. In fairness, that’s actually so I can switch the alarm off. But then the very next thing I do is check my email and Facebook. Like there can be something there that I need to know right then, before I’ve even woken up, had a sip of tea, or got my son up and ready for school. It’s not like I’m going to be able to do anything about anything right in that moment. Other than worry or be distracted by them. The reason I check them can only be a delaying tactic, yet another procrastinating tool in my already extensive armoury. It cannot serve a positive end.

So, maybe I should just stop here. I have clearly identified one area where my use of the internet is unhealthy and unhelpful. Here is one simple change I can make to regain control of my internet use and to shove it firmly further back into the ‘purely positive’ section of my life.

The challenge: don’t check my social media and email first thing in the morning. Make it wait till I’m back from the school run and ready to start work proper. Simples. Let’s see how that goes for a week and then review. At which point I may be able to identify some other area where I have allowed my use of the internet to tip over into a negative force and I can add a new challenge.

How about you? Are you in control of your internet use? Anyone fancy joining me in my early morning ban on the internet?