Okay. So I’d be totally lying if I said I’m losing my mind solely over COVID19. As you may or may not know, I am also scheduled for surgery to remove an ovarian tumor in May. If it wasn’t scary enough to know that there’s a tumor (which trust me, IT IS), Corona had to go and further compound it. Seriously?
Last week after multiple calls with the Surgeon’s staff, we finally got a chance to speak with him ourselves. This is especially important because I had spoken with his Nurses and Surgical Coordinator multiple times, who told me no surgeries were taking place. Ahm……what? Like none?
Those calls and follow up calls left my mind scattered and racing (to say the least), trying to figure out what we would/could do if the Surgeon said no surgery, period. Instead, he told us, my situation is potentially too serious to cancel surgery and as it stands now, is not canceled.
Instead, I had to go for an MRI. Now, typically, an MRI is no big deal. However, in the middle of the pandemic, going to the hospital and remaining there for an MRI was a super harrowing proposal. The need for the MRI was this: did the tumor grow? If so, he’s moving surgery up and going forward. Or can they tell from a new MRI what they may be dealing with and therefore better know if it’s safe to delay? One of the big concerns is that once operated on, it would be much more difficult to fight off Corona, or once I got it, trying to survive it after major surgery.
He ordered the MRI immediately and we went on Friday. I should say, I went…….as for the first time ever, Bri couldn’t come in with me. I spent Friday vacillating between panic attacks and full on emotional breakdowns; half over the prospect of cancer and half over the fear of Corona. Friday was a long, exhausting day and while I got through it; it was no easy feat.
So, here we are Monday and I’m waiting again. You would think after hearing “it could be cancer” or “we found a mass” SIX times, it would get less scary. It isn’t. It’s just as terrifying as the last five times. It hardly seems fair that all this terror, speculation and not knowing is ALSO contending with Coronavirus. I was only so sane to begin with. Really?
Now, here’s a little tidbit about me. Besides suffering from anxiety and PTSD, I also have OCD. While I don’t want to too deeply delve into what OCD is and what it’s like to have it, I’ll just quickly give you a blip. OCD stands for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. It can be genetic or can develop as a result of childhood trauma. For me, it’s both. As a child of trauma, one develops “checks” or behaviors or balances…….because we cannot control the things/situations around us, we create constructs that we can control.
When I worked and owned my own business, the OCD was like a super power. I was a perfectionist, crazily detail oriented, followed directions to the line and held myself to an incredibly high standard. After getting sick, those perfectionist standards became much harder (if not impossible) to achieve and the OCD crippled me for a time. Now, seeing dog hair on the floor & couch gives me anxiety. I can’t go to bed with dishes in the sink. I can’t have a snack without immediately putting away the box and plates. The beds must always be made. My clothes (down to socks & undergarments) always coordinate. All of the control mechanisms I’ve always had in place to bring me comfort and security, can now no longer easily be attained. But despite their difficulty in attainment, they’re the very thing that bring me comfort.
Add in the fears of cancer or Coronavirus and the obsessive, compulsive thoughts only intensify with very little to squash them.
After finally being formally diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder three years ago, I’ve come to learn alot about it and multiple tools to live with it. In doing so, I’ve come to find those same tools help with my sometimes crippling anxiety.
Given that we’re all in rather similar shoes right now, I wanted to share some of the ways I keep my sanity:
- Know/understand the facts. Try to differentiate what is factual and what is created in your poor little head. Get the correct information, not assumptions and make sure you’re getting it from reliable sources.
- Once you’ve gotten enough facts or information, enough is enough. Constantly reading the internet or watching the news is not helpful and has alot of gloom and doom sensationalism. Unplug from it and give your mind a rest.
- Try staying busy. Now I know this isn’t always easy when you totally feel awful. But, when you’re up to it, try reading a book (may just not one of those end of world kinds), do a puzzle, paint by number. Work on house projects. Whatever it is that successfully distracts you.
- If that doesn’t work, try shutting down. TV works wonders for me when I just can’t cope. It leaves me not thinking.
- Give in to the OCD. One of the reasons OCD manifests as a result of trauma is to give a child a way to control something. If they cannot control their life or their circumstances, they can control if their room is clean or their toys are perfectly lined up. So if for right now, giving in to the OCD contrives comfort, then that’s okay. Just make sure it doesn’t end up swallowing you.
- Keep your routine. Staying in bed all day won’t help. Dog walks will. Try to keep some semblance of normalcy.
- Practice gratitude. No…..I promise I’m not kidding……I’m absolutely beyond heartsick I could be looking at cancer. I’m terrified to have (or not have) surgery amidst the Coronavirus pandemic. We canceled my Daughter’s wedding and I haven’t seen my kids or Parents in six weeks. BUT…..today, this minute, we’re okay. I have many Blessings to be grateful for. Instead of focusing on all that sucks, look within yourself for all that’s good.
- Stay in touch. Yesterday was my first Easter, ever, away from my kids and it was awful. We missed the huge Easter Egg Hunt we have every year (Bri hides upwards of 150 eggs every year for our kids). So, instead, we video called them or spoke on the phone. I text with and call friends. I make sure to check in with my Aunt and Parents. It’s the human connection we’re missing and it helps distract you or them.
- If you’re in therapy, like me. Stay in therapy. Amelia and I now use Telehealth so that I can still work with her, especially when I’m struggling this hard.
- Prayer and Reiki. I can’t say I follow or belong to any religion, but I pray to God and Jesus daily and believe I have Angels that watch over me. I am also a Reiki Master. One of the things I love most about Reiki is that it’s flexible enough that it allows me to intertwine my faith with my Reiki. If you’re unfamiliar with Reiki, it is an Ancient Japanese healing therapy. It uses the body’s Chi (life force) to activate the natural healing processes of a person’s body. My favorite use of Reiki is in the symbols. The symbols encourage everything from peace, unconditional love, DNA repair and restoration to profound healing. For me, Reiki is my meditation. And if you’re thinking it sounds hokey, they offer Reiki at Dana Farber, Boston Children’s Hospital and John’s Hopkins as integrative & complimentary medicine.
- Last but not least. Sometimes, enough is just enough. And last Friday was exactly that. Terrified of spending hours in a hospital (right now), coupled with my intense fear of this tumor being cancerous just did me in. Two panic attacks and an ugly sobbing breakdown later and I decided to text my Therapist. Her response, she’d be terrified right now too and that it’s not only normal, but totally okay to be panicking and balling. And I realized she was right. I don’t sit in a rocking, sobbing ball 24/7. But when I do reach that point, I’ve decided it’s okay to be there. Being there enables me to get to the other side, to regain my strength and to go through with getting to the hospital and taking the necessary next steps.
Overall point, guys, whatever you’re doing right now to get through, it’s okay. It’s normal. So if you’re crying, cry. Yelling, yell. Angry, be angry. Just whatever you do, I hope it gets you to the other side. We may live with ALOT, but we have alot to live for.
I pray you stay healthy and well. Much Love, Stace