In my previous column, I talked about the day I received my diagnosis. I got through the following weeks by telling myself that nothing in my life had changed, and that I had no choice but to move forward. I knew time was not going to stop even if I did, and, besides, I had too much to do.
To keep functioning, I packed my schedule. I’m not great at dealing with free time on a good day, but when I’m sad, I can’t stop moving. If I’m too busy to think about whatever is wrong, I don’t have to deal with it. Occasionally, I’d slow down and consider the things I was upset about. I would cry for a while before pulling myself together and returning to my day. This allowed me to compartmentalize my feelings and deal with it at my own pace.
During this time, my friends and family marveled at my strength with handling the news. While technically my avoidance coping worked for me, I don’t think my method of coping is one anyone should emulate.
Every time someone called me “strong,” I thought that my ability to avoid breaking down didn’t make me strong. I disagreed with the implication that if I had broken down, I would have been weak. To me, strength would be the ability to face my diagnosis and my mother’s. But I had no desire to try.
I have trouble allowing myself to feel sadness when I’m happy, or things are going well. However, if I watch a sad movie or TV show, I start to think about all the things in my life that I haven’t fully processed. Eventually, through confronting sadness incrementally, I come out the other side feeling … not happy, but at least at peace with my situation.
I am inclined to concede that writing about my diagnosis requires strength. However, I still don’t think that I’ve adequately dealt with my feelings about my mother’s diagnosis. I am probably going to continue to defer that one for now. I don’t believe that my lack of strength with this issue is a failure or a bad thing. I am simply a person, trying to live my life in a way that works best for me. Eventually, I will find the strength to process that fully. Just not today.
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