Last March I wrote a blog post about my experience of overcoming cancer in 2011 and my feelings towards it now when I look back. Well, recently I’ve been thinking even more about it.
However, this time I’ve been trying to remember the true reality of my situation. I can’t help but think that time somehow filters the truth, the harder aspects of an experience. Hindsight sugarcoats what was a truly terrifying time of my life.
I can only liken it to how we look back on our days with our first newborn. We remember all the love, sleepy cuddles and (in my case) the box sets, maybe over time we filter out the memories from the nights where we just couldn’t get that little baby to stop crying and settle. The 3am’s when we’d have a wee cry ourselves – purely from exhaustion… Time is basically like Instagram’s Valencia filter.
Do we do this in all aspects of our lives? Maybe it’s ultimately for the best? It enables us to move on, retain our fond memories and maintain a positive outlook. What is it they say? – what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger? However, I wonder if it’s sometimes worth reminding ourselves of the hard days to give ourselves some perspective, and after all, we survived them, didn’t we?
The Good, The Bad & The Ugly
I’ve been thinking about how we help people that are currently in the throws of those hard days. As my friend so eloquently put it the other day – “those that are wading through treacle” – whether it be parenthood or something else – and thinking about the advice I offer them.
I have talked about the positive outlook I tried to adopt throughout my cancer treatment (I’d say “journey”, but I still kinda hate that word), but it’s not completely realistic, is it? Of course now, years down the line, I say things like “the whole experience really changed me for the better” but, in reality, life would have been a hell of a lot easier if it hadn’t happened. At the time, that positive outlook wasn’t always sustainable – it didn’t stop me worrying and feeling truly terrified of what lay ahead, whether it be weeks, months or years down the line… or in the darkest times, wondering if I’d even have years.
The people around you in your time of need always mean well, but let’s face it, there ain’t a manual. No-one knows what to say, and most of the time I didn’t know what I wanted them to say anyway. It was the blind leading the blind and unchartered territory for everyone involved.
And so, everyone meant well when they gave positive affirmations like –
“you just have to stay positive”
“knowledge is power, now you know what you’re facing, you’ll beat it”
“you’re going to be ok”
… And 90% of the time that’s exactly what I needed to hear, to reinforce some positivity. However, it was not always what I needed.
Sharing The Burden
Sometimes we need to just be sad and allow those scary feelings to creep in – and share them. Let someone else pick up even just a small piece of that burden, after all, you’re living with that as a reality. It’s the least they can do!
Same in parenthood, isn’t it? You know when things are tough that they’ll get better – “this too shall pass” and all that – but sometimes you just want to have a moan and a cry about it, and it doesn’t make you less than the next mother. Doesn’t make you less of a parent or a Negative Nancy. We’re all human.
It’s just made me think – Next time someone shares with me the experience that’s getting them down, or a struggle that they face, I will bite my tongue and fight the urge to offer a positive affirmation in the first instance. Instead, I’ll encourage them to offload some of their mental burden onto me. Tell them it’s ok not to be ok. I truly believe in the power of a positive mental attitude. I know it helped me to deal with my situation and brought me through the other side knowing that I can deal with most things life might throw at me in the future… BUT, no one can harness that positivity 24 hours a day, 100% of the time. And that’s ok.